Race, Reproduction, Reparations (The 3 Rs)

One of the things I love about blogging is that it gives you a chance to use this experience/practice/process of writing to get closer to what you think and what is important to you.  Granted, I am a writing teacher, so I may be biased, but sometimes you just gotta write it out to ride it out.  That said, I get inundated with the academic school year and all I am writing are project guidelines and comments to student writing, rather than tracing the path of my thinking.  Despite the avalanche of things I need to do, I just gotta stop and pause to reflect on one of the many things I have been following lately: Jennifer Cramblett’s lawsuit.

jennifer-cramblettBy now, everyone has heard of Cramblett’s lawsuit. As a recap, here is the basic gist. Cramblett and her partner are suing a Chicago-area sperm bank after she became pregnant with sperm donated by a black man instead of a white man she had picked. I can’t help but be curious to see how this case will go. Race, reproduction, and the law have always been intimately linked. As early feminists have always told us, the family (the nuclear family) is always a kind of surrogate for the nation-state and all of its attending politics and values about which race, gender, class is most worthy and most human— and therefore, legitimately replicable. I have so many questions because the outcome of this lawsuit will mean so many things. Here are just a few of these questions:

  • The complexity of raising healthy black children is being rolled out everywhere so can we just go all the way and really take it there? The argument Cramblett is trying to make is that she and her partner face undue hardship and mental anguish trying to protect their black child from covert racism and unintentionally racist white folk. Furthermore, there is a degree of uncertainty about the child’s future that causes more psychological tension.  If the courts side with this argument and award them the $50,000 they are asking for, then do all black parents across the nation get that same 50K? I mean, after all, we WOULD BE saying that raising a black child in America is more difficult, requires more resources, and exacts more psychological and social pressures.  If the courts agree with Cramblet that she is experiencing a kind of psychological trauma in not knowing she can ensure her child’s wellness and opportunity given the context of racism, then we have to see ALL black parents’ trauma as very real too. You can’t even backpedal and say, well black folk chose this lot when they have kids, because black folk who get with white people won’t be able to protect their children either. Can everyone get all these resources? And how far back in history can we take it? Back to the black women who delivered on slave ships? Like I said, if we gon go there and say black parenting requires more resources and anguish and should be, thus, REWARDED something, then we should really go there.
  • And what about all of these cultural conversations that are happening? There is even the good, ole hair argument thrown up in here. You know the one: where white women don’t know what to do with black hair so you need a community of black folk to offer examples of self-care and cultural models.   Can we get some of that in schools then? In after-school programs? After all, aren’t we conceding that centuries-old cultural models are what black children need to sustain themselves? So are we going to finally give it to them then?
  • And, daYUM, ain’t there some complex— and by that I mean STICKY AS HELL— issues of intersectionality going on here? Cramblett is forthright that her midwestern/Ohio, white family has never fully accepted her as a lesbian and so, rightly so, is pained to think of what her daughter might feel who won’t be able to pass at all in this white family. This has deep political ramifications to me. You have a better chance of being marginally accepted by mainstream white America as a white lesbian than as a black child. In the words of Thelonius Monk: ain’t that some shit? If two white lesbian mothers are saying they have not been accepted for who they are and that a mixed-race child will be worst off, well now, that little black sheep is about to have some serious problems.
  • Can we talk a little more about this child and her non-acceptance in the white family, which I take to be the nation-state?  Does same-sex parenting challenge the sanctity of the white family and the sanctity of American white motherhood if embedded with the problematic, capital-based, middle-class affordability of fertility clinics and treatments?  Here, Blackness still remains THE MAIN problem. Will the courts rule in favor of Cramblett’s pain and, thereby, create a cultural model where racially untainted white motherhood (as in the reproduction of white children and/or children who pass for white) must be upheld at all costs… and literally so, since we are, after all, talking about the costs of sperm and insemination methods.
  • And, last but not least can we ask some questions about the ways that eugenics, genes, and black masculinity are constructed here? Cramblett and her partner have tried really hard to create a political platform and discourse that do not seep with a kind of eugenics framework where white genes are better than black genes.   Tried, yes. Achieved, no. I wonder how black men are responding, especially the brothers who I have met who have told me, in so many words, that white women desperately want their seed. That does not seem to be the case here. So what do black men think when white women label them as so genetically defective that they cannot reproduce anything but an anguish that threatens the good, social standing of their whiteness?

Ahh, so many questions. This case— the precedent it sets and the everyday discourse it unleashes— will be one that I am watching out for…and hopefully finding some time to keep thinking/writing my way through too.