CAN WHITES WHO ADOPT BLACK CHILDREN BE RACIST?: THE CASE OF AMY CONEY BARRETT VS. IBRAHIM X KENDI
It is frightening to consider how one’s words, thoughts, and ideas can be misconstrued. At the present moment, there is ample evidence that many people who oppose your political stance or perspective on substantive matters are engaged in a fanatical search to find something, anything, to “cancel” a profound voice articulating a truth that makes them uncomfortable.
Ibrahim X. Kendi is the latest figure to come under such an attack. Just in case you missed it, Kendi recently came under fire for issuing the following commentary aimed at Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Some White colonizers ‘adopted’ Black children. They ‘civilized’ these ‘savage’ children in the ‘superior’ ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.
To truly understand this intellectual skirmish, it is important that one understands that Barrett adopted two Haitian children. An action that many have attempted to use as ample evidence that the Supreme Court nominee can not be biased regarding racial matters. Kendi has rightfully questioned the logic of those who have used the adoption as a springboard that hurls them past this nation’s significant racial problems.
Although the attacks on Kendi are born of political opportunism by unreasonable people who oppose his political stance and cultural views. More important than the relatively pedestrian attacks hurled at Ibrahim X Kendi are what they reveal about the presence of what can be best termed historical illiteracy. I believe that it is historical illiteracy that guarantees America’s inability to destroy racial bias.
If those who rushed forward to issue an attack against Kendi were conversant in this nation’s history of racial conflict, they would have censored themselves. Anyone who has ever studied domestic race relations in even a passing manner will tell you that there is nothing scandalous about the comments that sparked this unnecessary battle between Kendi and droves of whites.
Ironically, the most efficient path to explaining Kendi’s point that the mere adoption of a child of color does not mean a white person cannot be racist is by examining the catalyst that motivated white abolitionists in their struggle to abolish chattel slavery.
If only I had a dollar for each time, I have explained to audiences and students that opposition to slavery is not the same as believing in racial equality. Most are shocked to hear that it is not only possible but predictable that white abolitionists found the psychological space necessary to oppose slavery while maintaining the deplorable belief that Blacks were intellectually inferior, if not an entirely different species. One needs to look no further than the following quip made by an abolitionist who revealed in the public arena that his fight to end slavery had very little to do with the plight of blacks.
If God is just!!!! And I believe that he is!!!!!! We will burn in hell for this shit!!!!!
The above assertion highlights the reality that the motivations behind a person’s actions are not always obvious.
Hence, it should not be difficult to understand the validity of Kendi’s questioning the simpleton logic that Amy Coney Barrett’s laudable decision to adopt two Haitian children does not mean that she immune from viewing the world through lenses that vacillate between white privilege and white supremacy.
The act of inter-racial adoption does not remove the racially biased socialization that all Americans, including blacks, have experienced in this nation. There is no reasonable argument that explains how any American could have been socialized by mainstream society and not been impacted by a biased school curriculum, entertainment industry, and media. We have all been impacted by these pernicious evils. I long ago settled on the fact that it is nearly impossible to be socialized in America and not be infected by some form of racial bias regardless of one’s racial identity.
So, I must stand on the side of Ibrahim X Kendi and cast a side-eye gaze at all who believe that the adoption of a child of color removes racial bias from their mental state. After-all, racial bias has been a fixture in this nation longer than baseball and mom’s Apple Pie.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2020.