My husband and I – and consequently, my children – live a little bit in the public eye. As a writer and memoirist, I’ve chronicled funny and poignant stories from our family’s lives in two books, and as a conservative activist I’ve taken my children to various political events across the Southeast. In 2006 at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, a reporter for Newsweek interviewed my son and discovered he was skipping kindergarten for the conference. “Mitt Romney, however, is pro-education,” I made sure to note. In 2008, my kids heard speeches by all of the GOP Presidential candidates – they were so young then, I had to distract them when the candidates talked about hot button cultural issues like abortion and gay rights. (We hadn’t had those talks yet.) Now, four years later, they’re far more aware of the issues and are frequently the only school aged children at these conferences.
(It’s not that I necessarily want my kids to live and breathe politics, rather I simply would prefer to have them with me than with a babysitter.)
This Presidential campaign cycle is very different for our family than the one in 2008. This time around, we have a four-year-old daughter we adopted from Ethiopia two years ago. Now that she’s a part of our family, she too has been to political gatherings with a big bag of crayons and coloring books to get her through the speeches. For example here is her CSPAN debut when my husband won the Ronald Reagan Award at CPAC, here she got to meet Gov. Romney, and she’s attended book signings with the Palins.
Because we’ve had the audacity to appear in public with our family, we’ve been getting hate mail from liberals who are deeply offended that a white family would raise a black child (the Huffington Post posted a video of Naomi and me at CPAC and it generated more than 1,000 comments, many of them utterly vile). Usually, I laugh at baseless criticism and it inspires me to work even harder at artfully annoying my critics. But when I get accused of actually harming my daughter by daring to raise her, it infuriates me. See, for example, an excerpt from tonight’s Facebook message:
“I feel so sorry for your little girl! She has a hard complex life ahead of her! She should not be raised by people who vote against her best interests.”
(It was longer and much more offensive.)
What is that, dear reader? You don’t understand how my family traveling to a poverty stricken African tribal area to take a starving, abandoned girl into our American family and loving her as fiercely and deeply as we love our biological children could be considered a bad thing? Well, see, you don’t realize that my family is…. how can I put this politely…. Republican. We are white conservatives, and the little girl we got from Africa is black. While most won’t come out and say they wish we’d left her in Africa to starve rather than be exposed to conservatism, I’m not sure what other conclusion to draw.
As Christians, we believe we should take care of orphans, to give fathers to the fatherless. We didn’t adopt to save the world, or to politically clone ourselves, or to annoy Democrats. We did it because children need loving parents, a warm bed, and good food (and, yes, a Happy Meal counts). We did it because as a two-year-old she weighed only 14 pounds. (Of course, as is frequently the case with adoption, we got her thinking we were preserving her life, we soon discovered that we’re the ones who are blessed by her presence.)
Are my husband and I Republicans? Yes. And we also love our little black child. I’m learning, for example, how to braid hair with colorful beads, I’m learning which colors look good against her chocolate colored skin tone, and I’ll teach her about her country of origin right after she learns her ABCs.
But to all of you liberals who are concerned I’m going to indoctrinate our children with conservative ideas? Rest assured I’m doing everything within my power to make sure all three of our kids grow up in the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
You can’t limit or dictate her political options or her cultural values just because of her skin color, and your constant criticism shows that you are less concerned about the truly poor and more concerned about propagating your narrow and destructive identity politics.
So, yes, I’m a white Christian conservative Republican raising a black child whom I love with my whole heart.
Deal with it.
UPDATE: David’s been reading my article, the comments, and the other online discussions it’s spawned and has weighed in with his own thoughts. Check out Race, Politics, and Adoption — Following Up.