The Guardian comes out for Jim Crow on inter-racial adoption
The Guardian bestowed its blessing on a giddying U-turn this week on the subject of inter-racial addoption. It's as if the progressive rulebook has been turned on its head
He then asks whether Mr Cameron’s objective – faster adoption of vulnerable children to reduce the amount of time spent in the care system – is a ‘sleight of hand’, as if there were some more nefarious purpose at work. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Before that, he decides to straw-man fast-track adoption. Mr Sissay recounts that, in the Sixties and Seventies, fast-track adoption was based on society’s abhorrence of single mothers. Women were carted off to isolated ‘mother and baby’ homes run by nuns, then coerced into signing adoption papers and carted back to their communities in shame.
To reinforce how evil this was, he describes it in capitalist (eek!) terms: “Those mother and baby homes were like child farms: the nuns the farmers, the social workers the landowners and prospective parents the consumers.”
It all sounds pretty awful. Thing is, no attempt is made to connect this previous instance of fast-track adoption to the Coalition’s attempt. None at all. The description of half-century-old social prejudices and the slightly tortured farming metaphor are left to stand as the entire case against the new policy. The reader is left with the suggestion that the Coalition policy might be based on intolerance without being provided with any supporting evidence whatsoever.
The government’s motives are never explicitly tackled or even referenced in detail, and so jarring is the non sequitur between this paragraph and the next that somebody charitably inclined towards Mr Sissay might conclude that the Guardian’s subs had deleted a section by accident.
Despite this we press on. I’m not sure how many acres of farmland the author had to raid to assemble sufficient straw men for his argument, but he must be commended for the effort for we find another almost at once. He recounts that a mixed-race woman (who has been in care) contacted him last week to complain that she’d encountered two gollywogs in Wigan market and, when asked, the stallholder refused to remove them.
Mr Sissay’s efforts to link this to government policy are worth transcribing in full:
“It seems the users of Wigan market and the council owners don't mind. Cameron is setting out his adoption policy stall in the equivalent of Wigan market, where he knows the majority of consumers will not complain about the policy of fast-tracking black children to be adopted by white families because most of his customers are in fact white. And what's wrong with a gollywog anyway?”
Further down, Mr Sissay describes a gollywog as an ‘aggressive statement’. By this explicit comparison we can conclude that he feels that mixed-race adoption is similarly an aggressive, racialist act. I mean, what could possibly be more racist than a policy based on the idea that the love between parent and childcan transcend skin colour? According to Sissay, getting black children out of care and into loving homes with good roles models is the policy equivalent of the Black & White Minstrel Show.
In his author’s eyes, it appears that the good old-fashioned racists were right all along, at least in one very important respect: racial differences really are fundamentally insuperable. In the words of men we must now retrospectively hail as progressive visionaries, like George Wallace, the adoption system must treat blacks and whites as separate but equal.
Mr Sissay concludes his argument with two claims: first, that the government should be putting a lot more energy into finding black (and by extension, an ethnically matching pool of) adopters; second, that the idea that family life is what children in care need may well be wrong when many of these children are fleeing abusive homes in the first place.
There are good answers to each of these. To the first, there is a great shortage of people willing to adopt in this country and the government is simply trying to maximise the number of vetted potential parents. Pouring scarce resources into finding parents of certain ethnic origins only makes sense if you share Mr Sissay’s racialist pre-occupations, which thankfully this government does not.
Second, there is a world of difference between the abusive family a child is rescued from and the carefully vetted, loving parents that might adopt them. The second is the result of careful placement and a real desire to care for a child, the first is simply bad luck on the part of a child born to natural parents who neglected or abused it.
Natural parents, moreover, who shared that child’s skin colour.
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