Thursday, December 18, 2008

Campbell Brown let me down.

Recently I had written about the custody case of Talon Larson. (Yesterday?) But I need to bring it up again for two reasons.

First was that I had run across a Newsweek article about Obama and the reaction to his multiracial background. It offered some good points about race and social identity.

But the main thing was what I'm seeing as a double-standard by CNN's Campbell Brown. The first thing I read about Talon Larson was a CNN commentary by Brown published on Tuesday. And then today I read another Brown commentary published on Wednesday that deals with a custody case where a Chinese girl was raised in the U.S. by an American couple for years before the final rulings sent her back to her biological parents in China. What struck me the most was that when discussing the difficult custody situation of the second story she wrote about how, "[Not] every story has a hero and a villain and that right and wrong are always easy to tell apart."

It is great that she realizes this, but I think she realized it a little too late. She seems more than willing to overlook some of the hurt caused to an American couple who raised the Chinese girl for over eight years due to what I assume are the more culturally legitimate seeming issues of non-mixed race, relations with a foreign country (on foreign soil), and the fact that the girl's biological mother is now raising her (as a single mother of three). Yet the day previously, she seemed to have no problem villainizing the Ojibwe Tribe for attempting to carry out its own cultural practices. The main difference? The Talon Larson case is more convoluted for reasons of race, the generally unrecognizable/unrecognized sovereign status of the Tribe, and the fact that the Tribe is acting in an effort to maintain its own cultural sustainability.

I still don't really know whether I would side with the Larsons or the Ojibwe Tribe as to who should have custody of Talon. But I do strongly disagree with the bias shown against the Tribe by Campbell Brown and others. They may not understand or agree with the Tribe's actions and reasoning, but they could certainly show a little more respect instead of implicitly stating that the best possible future for Talon Larson involves being raised in a white family. I'm a little saddened that the prospect of moving a six month-old infant into tribal foster care is such a monstrous prospect compared to the Chinese girl who found herself, at age eight, living with virtual strangers in a foreign country. Oh, and did I mention that she doesn't even speak Chinese?

(As a sidenote, I just read that the Larson's attorney was contacted by the tribe regarding an emergency hearing taking place tomorrow.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Chinese custody case you are referring to is Anna Mae He. She was put into short-term foster care by her Chinese parents when her father had financial problems. The American family then fought the parents for nine years, claiming abandonment. The parents were not allowed by the foster family to visit with their daughter and the Americans actually called the police on the parents to keep them away. A judge in Kentucky initially ruled that the American couple could adopt the child, but the parents kept fighting until the state Supreme Court finally gave custody back to the parents. The parents, after 9 years of fighting for their daughter, never gave up. Unfortunately, the stress of the struggle caused them to break up. In addition, the American couple actually told Anna she was Mexican and instilled so much fear into her about her Chinese heritage that the transition was difficult. Anna was never allowed to learn Chinese also, which has made it difficult for her in China. But she's doing fine, from what I've seen. She speaks Chinese now and is with her extended family. In particular, she has gotten very close with her mother and younger sister. Most importantly, she is not among people who lie to her, tell her she's Mexican, and that her own people are evil.

I support the ICWA most times. White parents are so hungry for white or almost-white babies and Indian babies were adopted by whites by huge numbers before the act came into being. The Tribes are also sovereign nations. You can't adopt foreign children without agreement of that country's government. This is no different. Talon in my opinion is better off knowing his own tribe, family, religion and language, rather than being raised white and ignorant, like Anna He. There are Indian families who can raise Talon just as well as the Larsons, with the added bonus that he will know he is among his own people.