What Does It Say to Your Child When You Sue Over the Color of Her Skin?


The story has taken over the Internet: A white woman who chose a white sperm donor got a half-black child as the result of a donor mix-up at the sperm bank — and now she’s suing for pain and suffering and medical malpractice.

In a lawsuit filed against Midwest Sperm Bank, mom Jennifer Cramblett said that two years ago she ordered vials from a white donor, but was impregnated with sperm from a black man instead. She and her partner only learned of the mistake when, after learning they were pregnant, they asked the sperm bank to set aside the same sperm for a possible sibling for their child. Now that their daughter, Payton, is two years old the women have decided to sue because they say they live in a “racially intolerant town and culturally insensitive family” which makes raising their daughter hard. (But being a gay couple in the same town is fine?)

Cramblett goes on to describe how she lives daily with the “fears, anxieties and uncertainty” about her child’s future in their all-white Ohio town. She acknowledges that she wasn’t raised with a high degree of cultural competence about African-American people. She now complains about having to travel to a black neighborhood to get her daughter a decent haircut (where she’s “not overtly welcome”) because Payton has “hair typical of an African-American girl.” But Cramblett maintains that race is not an issue, insisting the main goal of the lawsuit is ensuring the sperm bank doesn’t mix up anyone else’s vials in the future. (Midwest Sperm Bank has repeatedly refused to comment on the allegations.)

This lawsuit has created such heated discussion because it has so many layers to it, but the first thing that occurs to me is that the lawsuit is two years after the child’s birth. So if it’s really about not wanting other people to go through the same thing, why not sue when the mix-up was discovered during pregnancy? Or even within the first year?

Secondly, for all the talk about it not being about race, the race issue sure takes up a whole lot of the lawsuit. The filings, to me, showcase a white couple’s difficulty coming to terms with the race of their child as well as the “steep learning curve” that comes with parenting a biracial daughter. In other words, having a black child is too hard. But guess what? So is having a child with anything that surprises you (special needs, a birth defect, speech problems, the list of possible outcomes you cannot predict is endless) but you know what good parents do? They learn about it and deal with it because that’s what people who chose to have children, do. That’s what you do when you love your child unconditionally.

On Identities.Mic, Derrick Clifton isn’t mincing words. He says, “Dealing with blackness has become burdensome and inconvenient for these two white mothers — because the biracial baby completely upended their decades of enjoying the spoils of white privilege.”

I don’t begrudge the women their lawsuit over the sperm mistake, although I do question how they’ll explain to their daughter why they sued over the circumstances of her birth. I’m trying to walk in their shoes, but all I keep thinking is that if I have a two-year-old daughter whom I love and adore — as the women claim to do — there is absolutely no way I’m filing a lawsuit expressing my great distress over the “wrongfulness” of her birth. If anything, I’m praising the great creator that he/she/whomever brought that special being into my life. Thank heavens for that switch-up or else I wouldn’t have my sweet baby, is what I’d be saying.  

I certainly wouldn’t be lamenting her skin color, hair color, eye color, or any other thing she was born with. Sure, the women paid a lot of money for something and ended up getting something else. But it’s a baby who is part of you who is now a toddler who you claim to love with all your heart. So, yes, draw attention to the mix-up so the negligent clinic gets its act together but is all the race stuff in the lawsuit really necessary? Would they have still filed a lawsuit over the mix-up if it had occurred with another white donor?

Something else that really bothers me? The women acknowledge that their town is racist. So had their daughter been born with the “correct” donor sperm, and been born white, they would have had no problem raising her in a racist environment? Learning that behavior? Racism is only a problem when you or your child is the target? You’re a gay couple, for crying out loud! Are you not familiar with bigotry? That said, Jennifer Cramblett claims she wants to use the money she’s seeking to move to a location that would be a better environment for her daughter. If that’s the case, I’m all for the malpractice lawsuit (leave the race issue out of it) and use the money to move to a more diverse community where both lesbians and black children are welcome.

What do you think? Is the lawsuit warranted? Do the moms have a point or is what they’re doing ultimately going to harm their child?


Image courtesy of The Associated Press via ABC News 

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