This article was originally published on MyBrownBaby.com.
This foolishness right here: a white woman from Ohio who birthed a Black baby is suing a Chicago-area sperm bank for mistakenly giving her vials from an African-American donor instead of the white one she and her partner chose.
In the lawsuit, Jennifer Cramblett says she and her partner, Amanda Zinkon, chose donor No. 380, who is white, but instead, was sent sperm for donor No. 330, who is Black. Cramblett and Zinkon realized the mistake when they ordered additional vials to make more babies and noticed that the initial donor’s number didn’t match the number on the vials they were sent the second time around. By then, Cramblett was pregnant with the baby of the Black donor.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Cramblett is suing the sperm bank for “wrongful birth and breach of warranty,” which is fair. I mean, if you spend all that time flipping through binders of dudes, checking out their backgrounds, education, height, cuteness and whatever else women are looking for when they’re trying to decide whose sperm they’re going to squirt into their bodies to make the kid of their dreams, you should get what you paid for. Simple as that. I get it.
What I can’t wrap my mind around, though, is that Cramblett is claiming the mix-up caused “emotional and economic losses” brought on when she was forced to birth and raise a Black kid in her virtually lily-white town, amongst her racist, intolerant white family, in her all-the-way white home. In the lawsuit, she says she loves her “obviously mixed-race” daughter, Payton, but she “lives each day with fears, anxieties, and uncertainty” about both her and her kid’s future because:
1. She was raised in a community with “racially intolerant beliefs about Black people.”
2. She didn’t even meet an African American until she attended college, and she has a “steep learning curve” when it comes to “cultural competency relative to African Americans,” which is a fancy way of saying she knows nothing—as in zip zero—about Negroes.
3. The town she and her partner live in isn’t too keen on Negroes, either, so raising their very Black daughter in their very white town is going to be a problem with a capital “P.”
4. Chances are it’s going to get really thick for Payton when her lesbian mamas bring their Blackety Black baby around Cramblett’s “all white and unconsciously insensitive family,” because, well… Black people. The lawsuit adds that though the mother is “compelled to repress her individuality amongst family members”—read: pretend she’s not a lesbian—Payton can’t hide all that Black at the Thanksgiving dinner table and she’s worried the kid will “feel stigmatized or unrecognized due simply to the circumstances of her birth.”
5. Cramblett’s massive freak-out about being a mom of a Black kid intensifies when she pictures her Black kid in an all-white school or has to drive around all those Black people when she has to take her Black kid to get her hair styled.
So basically what they’re admitting here, out loud, in public, for the entirety of the world—and, eventually, their baby girl—to see is that they think they should get oodles of cash money dollar bills y’all to deal with the filthy work of raising a Black child. Because really, who wants to drive to the Black side of town to get this kid’s nappy hair done? Who’s trying to pack up the entire house and move somewhere around Black people so the baby can feel like she belongs? Who’s gonna even begin to check grandpa at the dinner table when he goes on his anti-Obama rants and gets all red-faced talking about how niggers are ruining the goddamn country? Who signs up for that shit?
Cramblett didn’t. So pay her.
Of course, Crambeltt and her partner are asking for checks. Historically, white American women caught out there with Black babies were far more sinister. My friend, child advocate Dr. Stacey Patton, called me yesterday to gab about Cramblett’s lawsuit and ended up schooling me on the sordid history of maternity, race, parenting and “passing” in this country, a history in which the medical establishment, state governments and the white community colluded to hide the products of interracial sexual relationships. In her research, Stacey found all manner of excuses—some of which were considered medically legit—for why white women were having Black babies: looking at a Black man or even the color Black while pregnant could turn a white fetus Black; being sad or depressed or being scared by lightening on a dark night could cause the same, and so forth.
Stacey also found all kinds of evidence of white women killing the Black babies they birthed, or leaning on Black midwives to help them either determine whether the baby could pass or whether it would be more prudent to give them away to Black families so that the white moms could relieve themselves of the racial backlash they’d endure trying to explain why their babies looked like the Black man across the tracks, rather than the white husbands in their beds. So common was the collusion in the 20s that the state of Virginia actually passed a law requiring midwives to list definitively a baby’s race on the birth certificate and face up to five years in prison if she lied.
I share these things to put context behind Cramblett’s sorry excuse of a lawsuit. Her demands are rooted in fear. They are stuck in the muck and mire of racism and the purity of white lineage. They are ignorant and every bit as lazy as an old, dusty dog laying on a wraparound porch on a hot Southern afternoon. She’s a white woman who had a Black baby and she simply cannot fathom dealing with what it means to, in essence, be a Black mom, having to navigate and negotiate a racist world on behalf of a human she bore, in an environment of which she is a product.
What’s curious to me as a mother, a Black woman and the lover of two Black daughters of my own, is why, in 2014, Cramblett was apparently A-OK with living in a homogenous white world where, no doubt, the “N” word and stereotypes of Black people are on their friends’, neighbors’ and families’ lips like likka. I can’t help but to wonder, too, if she participated in the rampant prejudice against and the willful ignorance of the plights of humans, races and cultures that do not look like her own. This kind of environment would have been okay had her daughter been born white?
Being lesbians in that kind of homogenous, intolerant environment is totally workable, but bringing a Black baby into the mix throws off the couple’s identity so much that they simply cannot deal?
Throw that white privilege card, honey. Get yo’ cash, money. But while you’re fighting the good fight, Ms. Cramblett, perhaps you might consider really digging in to what it means to raise a Black child in America, not from a place of ignorance and fear, but from a place of love—a perspective that demands you parent thoughtfully, intelligently and shrewdly, for the sake of your baby. And all those who will shape her destiny.
I worry this won’t happen, though. And I’m scared for little Payton.
Denene Millner is the New York Times best-selling author of 22 books, and the founder and editor of the critically-acclaimed Black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.com, where this post first appeared. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at @MyBrownBaby.