Race, Politics, and Adoption — Following Up

Naomi and Austin hanging out at CPAC 2012.

Nancy wrote her post last week in part because she was angry.  We’re not important in the world of politics, but — as she mentioned — we are “out there” in the public eye on occasion.  We have the privilege of writing for widely-read websites, have publicly supported Mitt Romney for more than six years, and I’ve been involved in numerous legal battles over the First Amendment and abortion while Nancy has worked closely with Bristol Palin.  So we’re pretty darn familiar with the wild and wooly world of Internet hate — where there is no comment too vile, no statement too outrageous, and no conspiracy theory too wild . . . so long as it’s directed at your political opponents.

And believe me when I say that we’ve gotten hate from more than one side. During our years supporting Mitt Romney as “Evangelicals for Mitt,” we’ve had our Christianity questioned, our conservatism mocked, and my job threatened.  On one occasion we even received a telephoned physical threat.

My experience with hate from the Left goes back further.  In 1991 — as a first-year law student at Harvard — I wrote a letter to my fellow students describing how they could get a refund of a portion of their health services fee if they had a conscientious objection to abortion.  In response, a few fellow students wrote delightful comments like, “Die, you f**king fascist!” or “Why don’t you go die!”  Keep in mind these comments came from students at (arguably) America’s most “elite” law school.

To top all those stories, I even received a direct threat from al Qaeda.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I was in Iraq during my deployment, and I stupidly forgot to take off my name tape while working with detainees.  We released the detainees because of insufficient evidence.  Two nights later I was Skyping with Nancy, and I got a direct Skype message in Arabic.  I took it to our intel shop, and they translated it as a threat to behead me for supporting the “Sons of Iraq” (local friendly militias that helped turn the tide during the Surge).  It was a chilling moment, but not all that frightening since a lot would have to go wrong (like the total defeat of our armored cavalry squadron) for al Qaeda to actually capture me.

That’s a long (very long) way of saying that we’re used to hate.  In fact, while it hurt initially (especially the “friendly fire” from other Christians), we’ve grown quite thick-skinned.  In hindsight, perhaps too thick-skinned.  Perhaps we left too much pass without a response.

Then we adopted Naomi.  For those who have not adopted, it’s difficult to fully communicate the immediate intensity of the connection.  I remember looking at her sleeping in her crib the night we arrived back in America and feeling indescribably blessed — the same feeling I had with our older, biological kids (just with more jet lag).  And she is one incredible, joy-filled little girl.  Healthy (one cold in two years), growing like a weed (six inches last year!), and in love with every member of her family, I grow more thankful for Naomi every day.  She is a light of our lives, and we pray every night for the strength and wisdom to be the parents God intends for us to be.

When Nancy and I travel together, the kids are usually by our sides.  Six years ago we organized a pro-Mitt Romney effort at the Memphis Southern Republican Leadership Conference.  We intended for our (then) two kids to stay home, but Austin got pink eye, and it would have been rude for him to stay with his friend.  So we took him and we took Camille, and they had the time of their lives.  They wore Romney t-shirts, handed out Romney buttons, and posed for media pictures.  They got to hear speeches from leading national figures and experienced a great triumph and “big surprise” as Mitt beat all expectations and finished second in the straw poll.  It was a wonderful time, and that clinched it — when we go to political events, so do the kids.

They went with us to “Values Voters” in 2007 and to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference again in 2010 (two months before we brought Naomi home), and then we brought all three kids to CPAC 2012.  That’s where the Huffington Post briefly interviewed Nancy, and she showed off Naomi’s funny (at least I thought it was funny) little t-shirt.  By now all three kids have heard me speak so many times they can almost recite my lines by heart.

But while our kids had always been involved in our lives — and Nancy had written about them extensively in blog posts (she’s a memoirist and editor of Patheos’s faith and family portal) — we began to experience a different kid of hate after we adopted.  In her post, Nancy pointed out the Huffpo story only because it’s one-stop shopping for examples of the kinds of comments we’ve gotten elsewhere.  But we largely ignored those comments (the Huffpo piece was several months ago, after all) when they were on internet comment boards.  After all, we try to follow the internet conventional wisdom of “don’t feed the troll.”

Then the personal messages started to arrive.  Nancy’s post was motivated not by the Huffington Post but by a Facebook message aggressively questioning her ability as a white conservative to raise a black child.  The personal messages were more intrusive, more disturbing, and — ultimately — enraging.  The personal messages weren’t mere venting at a political opponent but also came from a mindset, a hateful dangerous mindset, that not only dehumanizes political opponents but also exemplifies a thoroughly unbiblical identity group-based world view that is in its own way as vile and race-based as its skinhead alternative — only it gets a respectful hearing in the academy and other leftist bastions.

That’s when the calculus of response changed.  It no longer seemed right to ignore the hate, to pretend that it doesn’t exist, and go about our lives.  Sometimes you just have to push back, to expose the intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of vile ideas, and impose at least some small cost on those who would question a mother’s bond with her child based merely on race and politics.

Here are the bottom-line facts: During years of activism prior to adoption, no one questioned our suitability to raise our biological children.  But we treat Naomi exactly the way we treat Camille and Austin and we get hateful messages claiming that we can’t raise her, threatening to call child protective services, and accusing us of actually adopting her as some kind of perverse trophy or symbol.  Why do they single out Naomi?  On reason: her race.  You’re asking too much of a mother if you’re asking her to ignore that kind of hate.  So Nancy was angry, she wrote an angry post, and I agree with every syllable.

From the foundations of the Earth, a sovereign God ordained his people, gave us our very lives, and established our family.  Naomi is our daughter through an act of God’s immeasurable grace, and no amount of racism will break a bond that God has forged.
Read more on the Faith and Family Channel

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The Joy of Pretty Things

What It Was Like to Co-Write Bristol Palin’s Memoir

A Military Wife’s Letter to her Local Church

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  • Charly

    Haters are going to hate.

    • David French

      Truth, Charly :)

  • http://www.patheos.com/About-Patheos/Tim-Muldoon.html Tim Muldoon

    “We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.” –ML King, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

    International adoption exposes tensions among those who don’t understand it. Real love explodes the fictions that give rise to those tensions. We’re praying for you!

  • Greg Henderson

    I am truly sorry David that you and Nancy have to put up with that kind of behavior. God bless!!

  • JohnL

    Let me first say that I applaud you taking care of an adopted child.
    Let me also identify myself. I’m a liberal democrat. I’m also white.
    I think that there are questions relating to anyone taking a child of another culture and raising them. The answers are the important part.
    Adoption of American Indian children is an example I’ll use. The U.S. Government made every attempt to convert these children from their home culture to a kind of generic American one. If you talk to Native Americans about it you’ll encounter a fair amount of anger, no matter how good the people were to them. That’s an extreme example.
    From what you and your wife have written, I can only assume you’re trying to do the best possible job with your adopted child, who from now on I will just call, your child.
    I’m sure your child is very blessed to have you care for her. I can only say that your very public exposure has brought out the crazies and I’m sorry you have had to go through this for performing an act of love and charity.
    One of my early jobs was working with the deaf. I spent 2 years learning to be fluent in American Sign Language. I became more sensitive to the number of things that are we hearing people take for granted, but that are useless for the deaf. Places that give out important information in spoken word leaving the deaf unaware of a warning or a change. They were very big in those days on things that scrolled words so that they would know if the train had been cancelled. I could see their point and I was at least aware of it. Then I discovered a real controversy in the Deaf Community over surgical restoration of hearing. My first reaction was, “How good that doctors can do that.” Then I discovered that to some Deaf who’d learned to cope this was an attack on their society. There were all kinds of questions they raised. They’d learned to cope and to them Deafness was no different than hair color; not a disability, but a trait. The idea of surgically changing it was very threatening to them.
    If I had a deaf child who could be helped by surgery, I’d still have it done, but at least I’d have a sense of it not being a simple decision in everyone’s minds.
    I think that in 20 years, your child will remain loving and grateful to you for what you’ve done, even if they find that some black people have a very different life experience than they do. They may think they missed something, but they will have gained a great deal at the same time.
    I probably disagree with 75% of your politics, but I have no doubt you’re helping your child. You absolutely do not deserve to take grief from people who’ve read about it.
    And in 20 years, we should get together and see who your child (and each of us for that matter) is backing in the next presidential contest.
    That will be interesting.


  • AMR

    We are a white husband and wife who could not have biological children. We had so much love we wanted to share it with children. Over the years two birth mothers choose us out of many, many other couples to adopt their children. Our oldest is of Latin American decent and our youngest decends from the peoples of the Horn of Africa. Their birth mothers could have choosen another Hispanic or African-American couple, but they chose us — a white, conservative couple. They understood that love and family can florish no matter the genetic backgrounds and God’s hand is involved in our family coming together. Those who don’t understand interracial adoption or marriage may not understand love.
    Because we have been blessed to be part of a communty that has been very supportive, our hearts go out to you as you receive those unkind emails. It’s hard when others attack our own person, but intolerable when others attack one’s children. May God bless you in this process.

  • Holly

    Every child has the right to a home, regardless of the family’s political or ethnic persuasion. I am truly sorry for the angst your family has been experiencing.

    Politics today are extremely divisive and flat-out ugly. You can see the hate coming from the right and the left (check out the Yahoo News comments and you will see the most vile right-wing hate imaginable), and I don’t believe one side, politically-speaking, throws more stones than the other. Each side is guilty of hate. When anybody takes a hard-line on a political matter, there will be fallout. You put yourself out there when you choose sides in a political hot button issue.

    Adoption/inter-racial adoption is generally accepted by loving humans on both sides of the aisle! This is why the adoption tax credit is often extended despite the leaning of the current congress who passes the extensions.

    As an inter-racial adoptive parent, I hope the best for your family and commend you for choosing adoption no matter how much melatonin your child has :-).

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  • http://www.traveladies.com Lisa Campbell

    I am so sorry to hear about the hate you are experiencing. You have a beautiful family!

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  • http://www.transracialeyes.com/ Daniel Ibn Zayd

    The problem here is not so much the response you are receiving, ignorantly dismissed as “hate”, but the inability of those responding to frame what they are saying outside of a framework that your class—white, Republican, dominant (as you state it)—imposes on them. The fact is that international adoption maps onto every ignoble concept (and this whether you agree or not) of racism, Orientalism, classism, and imperialism, all equally masked by so-called charitable missionary “outreach”. That this escapes you only reveals your hand all the more.

    The last word will belong to those of us (at Transracial Eyes, for example) who have returned to our lands of birth, have experienced the excruciatingly impossible journey back, and who are standing up in the face of the great violence and injustice that adoption represents. There is no other way to describe it, and there is no way to justify it. The political and economic systems of a given class of people that create “orphans” can in no way be seen as valid when they come in to “rescue” said children. This is the pyromaniac firefighter revealed; stinking of gasoline; holding a burnt-out match.

  • http://danielibnzayd.wordpress.com/ Daniel Ibn Zayd

    Your occupying army, its imperial government going back five administrations, their wars, sanctions, and impositions have killed hundreds of thousands more children than you have “saved”, yet you wonder why the world reacts against you. You are the arrogant, the oppressor, the imperator, the censor, the dominant voice representing your class in all of its sense of entitlement, yet you wonder why those who are the children of those who have been on the exploited side of your 500 years of extravagance might find themselves expressing what you refer to as “hatred” toward you. This is so Orwellian as to be unfathomable. You do not get to cry “victim” here; you are the arrogant, the Pharisees, comdemned in the Bible; the منافق, the مستكبر, condemned in the Qur’an. And your day is coming.

    JOB 24:9 They pluck the fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge of the poor.

    Have you no shame?

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  • Notjack

    Liberal progressives are going to hate. It is all they have.