Prejudiced Attitudes Don’t Entitle You to Compensation

I’ve had kids on the brain lately: I have a friend who’s newly pregnant, I have a couple of friends who are about to have their first children, and the start of a new school year always makes me miss the kiddos I used to work with at an elementary/preschool childcare program. My boyfriend and I are going to be moving in together soon, and while we’re both 100% resolved that we’re not ready for marriage or kids yet, I can’t help thinking about what the future might hold, and another thing on my mind is that if Jeremy and I have biological kids someday, they won’t be white. (I’m white, he’s black and Puerto Rican.) I would really like to have at least one biological child, but I’ve been thinking more and more seriously over the past couple of years about possibly adopting as well, and I know that’s something Jeremy has thought about too, and I have a feeling race would be pretty low on our list of priorities when adopting.

The thing is, as much as the skin color of my potential future children is pretty much an entirely negligible concern inside the insular group of my family and friends, it’s a pretty big freaking deal to much of the rest of the world. And that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, and I started thinking about it even more after I read this article earlier this week.

In summary, Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon, a white, lesbian couple from Uniontown, Ohio, selected the sperm of a white man from a Chicago-area sperm bank so they could have a baby. The sperm bank made a mistake, and Cramblett was inseminated with a black man’s sperm. The sperm bank issued an apology and a refund for the mistaken vials, Cramblett gave birth to a healthy biracial baby girl, and then Cramblett sued the sperm bank for wrongful birth and breach of warranty. The suit was thrown out, because “wrongful birth” only applies to cases when children are born with congenital or hereditary disorders, but Cramblett was told she could refile her lawsuit as a negligence claim. So now she’s suing again for over $150,000, because raising a mixed-race baby is so much more difficult and distressing than raising an all-white baby. That’s her actual reasoning for the suit.

Cramblett claims that she and Zinkon love their daughter and think she’s beautiful, but she was brought up surrounded by racist attitudes, and they live near a lot of racist people, including family members, and therefore they deserve compensation for their situation. The suit specifically cites the so-called problem of having to take their daughter to a black neighborhood to get a “decent” hair cut, and apparently they don’t feel welcome there. Well, no duh — in my experience, people don’t take to kindly to you if you’re openly contemptuous toward them, which I feel like anyone who’s crafted such a ridiculous suit must be. In my opinion, this lawsuit and everything that’s in it is an utter disgrace.

These women are themselves, as non-straight people, part of a minority group that often gets treated really poorly — one would hope they would use their own experiences and the experiences they have with their now-three-year-old daughter to educate her about the importance of social justice and acceptance. But no, rather than just grabbing life by the horns, rolling with the punches, and showing their daughter unconditional love and acceptance even though she looks different than they thought she would, they have to be whiny, litigious, and basically racism apologists. (From all that I’ve read about this situation, it seems that the suits have only been filed in Cramblett’s name and not in Zinkon’s. But one has to assume that Zinkon must approve of her partner’s actions since they’re still together. I’m all for working out relationship issues, but racism, especially where my theoretically daughter is concerned, is something I could not abide.)

And let’s think about the fact that this beautiful child is now three years old…she’s old enough to start understanding that her parents see her as a burden. And that’s really what they’re saying with this suit: their daughter is a burden. They claim the burden is her race, but her race is part of what makes her who she is. You can’t separate out race from things like age, gender, and the other elements that make a person who they are. This poor girl is going to grow up with seriously damaged self-esteem, and I feel so sorry for her. I truly hope that child protective services will step in and place this child with a family that will show her true love and acceptance.

When I first read about this story, I kept thinking about all the families who have a child born with an unexpected disability. I’m sure there are a few terrible cases where such a child is emotionally or physically rejected, but by and large, those families just take the hand they were dealt and run with it, doing everything they can to give their kids the best possible lives regardless of the challenges they have to overcome in the process. The same evening that I read about Jennifer Cramblett’s disgusting lawsuit, I read this story, about a woman named Freia David, who has Down syndrome and just retired after 32 years of working the french fry station at a Massachusetts McDonald’s. Freia’s mother, Annelise, who’s still going strong at age 90, worried about what her daughter’s adult life would be like, but in 1984 she got Freia involved in a trial program that placed adults with disabilities in jobs with major companies. Freia loved the work, and her co-workers adored her. Over 100 people showed up for her recent retirement party, where she was given many cards and gifts, including a silver necklace with a fry carton pendant and a proclamation from the state House of Representatives.

Annelise David had no idea what she was in for when her daughter was born, and the staff at the Needham McDonald’s had no idea what they were in for when Freia came to work for them, but they accepted Freia for who she was, and their lives are so much richer for that acceptance. I only wish Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon could take the same attitude toward their daughter.

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