Bucking Black Mediocrity: At Least I have a Drop to GIVE


A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my hope to adopt one day. It was a blog that was well received, and we discovered that there are a great many men and women among us who harbor a desire to either adopt or foster a child, depending on what their financial/marital/biological/social circumstances would allow. There is no one reason to pursue adoption; no “right” or “wrong” reason (unless those reasons are unscrupulous and meant to inflict harm on the child) and I would never question why anyone would want to adopt a child if they had it in their hear to do so. This is why the call I received from a relative today was so puzzling, and quite frankly, fucking annoying.

Let me preface this rant by making this statement: I take great exception to anyone questioning my intelligence, and I am even further miffed when folks judge my abilities by their own failures or tendency towards inadequacy. The call I received today reminded me of two previous scenarios I had suffered at the hand of individuals who had my “best interest at heart”. The first was from a certain best friend of mine who sniffed when I told her I was pregnant with my third child in 2008.

“Why would you get pregnant in this economy?” she asked, not bothering to hide her mortification. “It’s like the worse time to grow a family!”

I just looked at the phone and resisted the urge to vomit morning sickness on it, resisting the need to utter the words burning on my tongue:

“Because, you imbecile, as ANY student of economics can tell you, economies are ever expanding and contracting. They exist in cycles. The fact that we’re in a slump now only bodes well for my unborn child in 4-5 years!”


And guess what? 5 years later, the economy IS on the mend and I have a job and one final installment of my student loans to show for it. Unlike this particular single, unmarried, childless friend who finds herself $xx,000 in credit card debt with $xxx,000 in student loans that she has yet to pay off.

The second scenario came in the form of our thwarted move to South Africa by a particular influential church member who insisted that our Bishop forbid (or strongly discourage us) from moving because “we did not have a place to live” upon arrival in the country. What kind of a lunatic did this person take me and my husband for, to assume and proclaim that we would not have sorted out accommodations for our 4 children and ourselves in a foreign country? Thousands of dollars wasted and no reimbursement was the initial legacy of that venture. You all read that blog; I won’t rehash it.

But so you see what I mean when I say how it chafes the senses when people judge you by 1) their limited information and 2) the assumption that you would do things the way THEY would do them if they were in your situation?


It was with great surprise that  found myself locked in the most unlikely conversation with a relative whom I will not identify out of respect. She called because someone else in the family had read my blog about adoption and was alarmed, to say the least.

“So what makes you want to adopt?” she asked in measured tones.

I told her that I have always wanted to adopt (ever since I was a child myself), that my father insisted I have my own kids before I care for someone else’s, that I felt I had a social duty to a young black boy as they are often left to age out of the system never having the benefit of a family and that my husband wants to adopt as well. Besides, Stone could do with a brother.

“Well, adoption is a big responsibility. How are you going to adopt living where you do?” she pressed.

I laughed and replied that this was not something we would be pursuing tomorrow. We just don’t have the room for it. No adoption agency worth their salt would let us adopt a child in our current situation.

“Maybe in about 4-5 years when we’re resituated,” I mused.

“So you’re going to adopt a child and then move to South Africa?” she continued. “That’s a huge financial burden.”

“Maybe we’ll adopt from South Africa, who knows?” But where was all this coming from? I was suddenly suspicious. “Why do you ask?”

Her tone turned somewhat condescending; that timbre that an adult takes when (s)he is explaining to a child that too much candy will result in a belly ache. “I just want to make sure you are not taking away from your OWN children and their future before you take on somebody else’s kid. You have to think of your OWN children and their college education…how will you pay for it if you spend all this money on an adoption?”

How indeed? I wanted to ask her how she managed to pay for her kids’ college education, but then I remember that she DIDN’T: her kids were in the same boat me and millions of Americans are in, i.e. saddled with nearly two decades of student loan debt!

I cut her off. She was talking nonsense, as far as I was concerned. “Okay,” I countered. “What if I got pregnant today? What if I suddenly ended up with 5 kids because Marshall and I conceived again? Would that take from my other kids’ futures?”

“Yes…I guess…but that would be YOUR child.”

“If I adopt, that’s still going to be my child!”

My voice must’ve taken on a quality that betrayed my irritation and disgust, because she suddenly turned defensive. There was no denying that I was utterly disgusted.

The conclusion of the conversation was that she and the rest of the family would support us and welcome our child as “one of their own”. How kind of her, especially since, as I pointed out, one of our most successful cousins –who just passed the bar – happens to be adopted and a number of our “biological cousins” are doing well to figure out where to put the toilet paper after they’ve wiped their backsides. What did she have to say about that?

“Oh don’t get me wrong! I’m not against adoption…it’s just good to look at if from all angles.”

Uh huh.

We discussed a few other pleasantries before hanging up the phone, but the fires had been lit. Ohhhh! There was just so much I wanted to say and couldn’t because of my damn African upbringing that demands I treat my elders with respect!

This particular relative, like 99.9% of my relatives, are liberal. She supports abortion, mainly on the grounds that it is more “humane” to abort a child than to bring one into the world that nobody wants. Well guess what? I AND MY HUSBAND want that child, and we are working diligently to provide a good home for him when the time is right and God says “yes”. We are not the only two people in the world who want to adopt, so spare me the false sanctimonious BS about the kindness of killing a baby in utero because “nobody will want him/her.”

Secondly, Black folk are constantly deriding White people for coming in and trying to “save us”. Well you know what, niggros? If ya tried to save yourselves, wouldn’t nobody feel de need to come in and rescue your community! Here my husband and I are, just thinking about giving a child what we hope would be a good or better life, and you want to discourage that? Why? Because you think it’s taking food out of my biological kids’ mouths? Do you know how much food goes to waste in American refrigerators and pantries every day? In the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. Think about your own fridge. How much food are you going to throw out this week?

Ah ah. And as for college, what then is she saying about my kids? What if all four of my kids gets a scholarship? What if my adopted son is gifted and gets a scholarship? What if they 5 of them form a music band and he is the missing piece of talent they needed for success? Why are you putting limitations on my kids’ potential based on what you see NOW??? What is this fucking lack mentality that plagues that Black community at large??!?!?

And that’s the crux of the matter of it for me: this insistence that Black folk of previous generations have that there is not enough. They are SO afraid that if you give to others, you’re not going to have enough for yourself. And then sit up there in church humming hymns in fancy hats as if God didn’t say it is more blessed to give than to receive and that unless a seed goes into the ground and die, it cannot bear fruit. That’s agriculture 101. You can eat your tomato and its seeds, or you can separate the flesh and produce an orchard. Sure, you can take care of YOUR family, but impact are you having your communities?

We had another cousin who had the audacity to question our work in South Africa. He told my husband that the work we were doing was “only a drop in the bucket” and that our resources would be “better spent” if we helped inner city kids in Springfield. He said this while he stood under the shadow of his 42” flat screen TV and the numerous trophies his daughters had won for their extracurricular activities. How Marshall didn’t throw the same missive that his money would have been “better spent” doing the same for inner city kids instead of diverting those funds to his own children as he saw fit is beyond me. Sure, our work may be a drop in the bucket, but combined with the hundreds of other drops working in tandem with ours, it getting full rather quickly!

Where’s your drop going? Do you have one to give, or are you stuck in the typical middle class Black American debt bracket borne from buying a house and car you can’t afford to impress people who don’t really give a crap? You’re life has no impact on the world other than making Cadillac and Wells Fargo rich!


What people don’t seem to get is that if we want to adopt, it’s OUR choice. We live by simple means so that we can give our kids opportunities. Yes, we live in a two bedroom house, but our mortgage is less than most people pay in rent for an apartment, our cars were paid for in cash, we have no credit card debt, and my kids have been to three countries abroad while most children in our extended family are doing well if they get out of the state before they turn 18.

I am SO sick of this mediocrity mentality that plagues my extended family, my community, and my race at large. We’re SO afraid to give to somebody else, to bless somebody else, to dream bigger than what our experience informs us of.

You know what would have been more meaningful to me? If my relative had called and said

“Hey! I heard you were planning to adopt. I know that’s a huge financial burden. The family and I have gotten together and would like to support you guys by scouting out affordable real estate in your area/would like to contribute towards legal fees/help you guys in any way we can. I think it’s great you’re thinking of someone else beyond your immediate circle.”

But to call me because you think my kids are going to miss out on a meal or an education? Man…miss me with that. I didn’t graduate Magna Cum Laude for nothing.