Several weeks ago, I saw “The Blind Side” which is, as lots of people have already pointed out, yet another addition to that long list of white savior movies. If you’re not familiar with this particular movie trope, you should read Hernan and Gordon’s Screen Saviors: Hollywood Fictions of Whiteness. The film also trades in the “magical Negro” meme, in which black people perform various miracles for white people (see also, “The Green Mile”). This particular theme is deeply embedded in American culture and for more about this you can read the classic Langston Hughes’ Black Magic: A Pictorial History of the Negro in American Entertainment or the more recent Brannon Costello’s Plantation Airs.
This is all well-trod ground for examining race in this, and other, films. I agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates that the sort of one-note discussion of this film that asks “is it racist or is it not racist?” suggests that:
“if you’re not a racist, if a movie isn’t racist, then presumably it’s all good. Arguing over the contents of people’s hearts, or the admittedly myriad interpretations of modern movie, prevent us from getting at all those beautiful and ugly elements which we have yet to name.”
In that spirit, I want to take a slightly less well-worn path to discussing this film and talk a little about some of those ‘beautiful and ugly’ elements we have yet to name.
As Mark Blankenship notes, the movie is based on a true story. A rich white family really did adopt Michael Oher, a homeless black teenager, and eventually, he became an NFL star. In the real world, that’s very moving. In parts, I found the story compelling. It is sometimes the reality that white families adopt and raise, even “save,” black children from sometimes dire conditions. While I’m well-aware of the vehement critique of this practice by the National Association of Black Social Workers (and others), that’s still a story that I’m interested in knowing more about in its particulars, as Coates would have it, “getting at all those beautiful and ugly elements.” For example, how does a white mother raising a black son teach her son to deal with racism? How does she confront her own racism in that copmlex mother-son relationship? And, given that this story is set in an affluent, Southern, Christian, all-white community, I wanted to know the particulars of how this boy became a man in this world.
There was one scene in the movie that almost tapped this rich potential for storytelling, and it was when Sandra Bullock’s character, Leigh Anne Touhy, confronts her ladies-who-lunch friends about their own racism in their comments about her newly-adopted son. She stops them cold and says to them, “Shame on you.” It’s a remarkable filmic moment in many ways. First, it clearly depicts whites – in this case, white women – engaging in the kind of back stage behavior we’ve talked about so often here on the blog. It’s rare to see the whites talking about race in explicit ways portrayed in a film. Bullock’s confrontation of them is refreshing, too, but it’s underplayed and comes out of nowhere for her character. We know nothing about how her character has dealt with her own internalized racism – or, even if she has – to get to the point of confronting her lunch-friends. Is she conflicted? Has she always wanted to confront them about their racism? Or, does she secretly agree with them, but just prefer them to engage in the “polite silence” around matters of race that has come to prevail in many social settings? Does she continue to be friends with these women? Does she lose their friendship because of this confrontation? If so, is that painful? And how does that pain factor into her feelings about her son?
We will never know. This is not a film with much nuance (the predominant metaphor is about football). While it’s a moment worth noting in the film, (I can even see using the clip of that lunch-table confrontation to foster discussion in a class or workshop), the moment is a lost opportunity for anything more multifaceted, or artful even, about transracial adoption, about race, or about the journey away from individual racism. All of which is too bad, because that’s a film I’d really like to see.
Ultimately, the film’s screenplay and Sandra Bullock’s performance (one many are saying is the best of her career) misses the opportunity to connect with the tradition of the few white women who have stood against racism like Mary White Ovington, Lillian Smith, or Viola Gregg Luizzo, and instead draws on the much broader tradition of white women perpetrating paternalistic racism, set in stark contrast to portrayals of black women as unfit mothers. This kind of storytelling, repeated again and again throughout the culture, is just not that interesting and it certainly doesn’t rise to the level of ‘art’ in my view. It does, however, seem to draw a crowd. “The Blind Side”is this season’s “surprise hit” at the box office.
After reading the above, I wanted to look up the statement made by the National Association of Black Social Workers regarding whites adopting black children. Here it is:
The National Association of Black Social Workers has taken a vehement stand against the placement of black children in white homes for any reason. We affirm the inviolable position of black children in black families where they belong physically, psychologically and culturally in order that they receive the total sense of themselves and develop a sound projection of their future.
Ethnicity is a way of life in these United States, and the world at large; a viable, sensitive, meaningful and legitimate societal construct. This is no less true nor legitimate for black people than for other ethnic groups.
The socialization process for every child begins at birth and includes his cultural heritage as an important segment of the process. In our society, the developmental needs of Black children are significantly different from those of white children. Black children are taught, from an early age, highly sophisticated coping techniques to deal with racist practices perpetrated by individuals and institutions. These coping techniques become successfully integrated into ego functions and can be incorporated only through the process of developing positive identification with significant black others. Only a black family can transmit the emotional and sensitive subtleties of perception and reaction essential for a black child’s survival in a racist society. Our society is distinctly black or white and characterized by white racism at every level. We repudiate the fallacious and fantasied reasoning of some that whites adopting black children will alter that basic character.
We fully recognize the phenomenon of transracial adoption as an expedient for white folk, not as an altruistic humane concern for black children. The supply of white children for adoption has all but vanished and adoption agencies, having always catered to middle class whites developed an answer to their desire for parenthood by motivating them to consider black children. This has brought about a re-definition of some black children. Those born of black-white alliances are no longer black as decreed by immutable law and social custom for centuries. They are now black-white, inter-racial, bi-racial, emphasizing the whiteness as the adoptable quality; a further subtle, but vicious design to further diminish black and accentuate white. We resent this high-handed arrogance and are insulted by this further assignment of chattel status to black people.
This would certainly make for an interesting discussion. I personally think it would be preferable if black parents adopted black children, but I don’t think the fact that white parents are offering black kids a comfortable home means that whites are treating black kids “as chattel” as suggested above. These white families really want a child to love and if they have sub-conscious racism, I would think it would disappear fairly quickly if they raised a black child. Any thoughts on this? I think it raises alot of interesting angles.
As for the White Savior movies, I agree that there should be more Black Savior movies. I think it is indeed kind of demeaning to other races that the white person comes out the hero.
Maranda, a major problem with whites adopting children of color is that very very few whites have any serious understanding of how their own racism works and how systemic racism works, and most esp. for the adopted child. Without that, they usually end up doing much damage to the adopted child, who ends up (among other things) often being very confused about who he or she is — and with having to learn on one’s own how to deal with societal racism that no one can protect them from. In a home of color, no matter how poor and under-resourced, one has a much better chance to learn those life strategies that work against racism. All white adoptive parents of children of color should have six months, at least, of mandatory Racism 101 instruction, plus lots of contact with people of color who can mentor them. Just to start.
Joe, you dont need to be raised in an interracial adoption setting to grow up with confusion about who you are. I know many people who were not adopted who feel that way, and I know people who were adopted by people of their own “rave” who feel that way as well. And, I disagree with you vehemently that you learn strategies to deal with racism only by being raised by people of your own ethnicity. I grew up in a very racist place, and I as a foster child, was in many homes of people NOT of my own skin color, and I learned strategies for dealing with racism just fine. More importantly, I learned that people are individuals, and that skin color isnt a “team” sport. You could be harmed by someone the same skin color as you, or you could find a friend, or, you could be harmed by someone of a different skin color, or you could find a friend.
The thing that matters most to children is that they are loved and protected. If they have love, protection, and good care, they can, like all of us must, figure out how to negotiate the challenges the world presents us with. I am not speaking from a theory here, but experience. Everyone has to “figure out who they are” on their own, even if they grow up in their two parent family of origin. You are assuming that “whites” have no experience with discrimination of their own. So, a “white” mother who has to deal with sexism in her daily life has no source to draw from when her adopted or foster child of another skin color faces discrimination? Or should we refuse to let single fathers raise daughters because they have no experience of sexism to share with their girls?
Face it, growing up is tough in America. Especially if you are a child separated from your family. (Even if your family of origin was too damaging for you to remain in.) Placing a child in a home based on skin color rather than on the ability to love, nurture, and care for that child as a human being is a crime. And, it perpetuates racism by implying that there is some real difference between peoples and enforcing a divide.
Some of my foster parents harbored negative feelings about the “race” I am from too, and some of it wasnt so subtle. But I didnt find it particularly confusing, nor damaging. No more so than being in my same “race” family of origin. It was what it was, and it was part of the whole process of my life, and in retrospect, I think it was beneficial to me, not harmful overall. Should Barack Obama have been pulled from his family because his skin color differed from the rest? And put into a poor under resourced home with people whose melanin more closely matched his own? Or has he managed just fine, and figured out on his own how to deal with racism, and benefited quite a bit from being in a family that had the resources to ensure he got a good education?
The whole idea of matching children to parents based on “race” is racist itself, and I am horrified that people would honestly argue, when there are so many children in need of placement into good homes, that “race” not ability to care for should be the criteria.
Well, you should know I really have a tendency to agree with you on alot of stuff. This blog is fascinating to me actually, but I don’t know everything there is to know about racism, so I need to listen sometimes instead of merely offering opinions.
My personal experience matches what you are saying: that love and security mean much more to a child than being raised in a family of his own race, who cannot or will not support him for whatever reason. I have several friends who are in mixed marriages, and their kids seem very content Because their birth was anticipated and wanted. That said, I know they’ll be confused [if they’re not already] regarding where they fit in our society.
As far as adoption goes, it’s the Lesser of Two Evils [in my opinion] to be raised by parents who are not your race than by parents who Are Indeed your race but have made the choice not to raise you.
I do appreciate Joe’s opinions though. Again, race is extremely complex.
Ultimately, Illusions,there must be a balance. This balance must not contain vindictive behavior on Either Side of the Color Line.
The comment below by the National Association of Black Social Workers does not exactly strike me as neutral toward white people. It’s based on anger. Anger that has seethed for centuries, but if it doesn’t cease and turn into common sense, nothing will ever be accomplished. When a family yearns to adopt a child, given that it takes thousands of dollars, and thousands of hours of love and caring involved, there is nothing Arrogant or Vicious [as stated below] about this commitment. These comments have little to do with the welfare of children, and much more to do with giving white people a slap in the face. As in,”That felt good!”
I know it felt good. But what’s the larger issue? When will the rancor stop? Racism will Never totally cease to exist. We can make headway and this site does that. However, many whites want to reach out a hand in peace.
It’s tempting, though, for many black people to use this olive branch as a chance to castigate whites because they see this as an opportunity for a pay-back situation. All too human, but ultimately non-productive. It gets back to the meme I stated before, whites are damned if they help black people [that’s arrogant to think we need your help] and damned if they don’t [you put us here, you get us out] Everybody needs to bury these hatchets in order to move Forward.
“They are now black-white, inter-racial, bi-racial, emphasizing the whiteness as the adoptable quality; a further subtle, but vicious design to further diminish black and accentuate white. We resent this high-handed arrogance and are insulted by this further assignment of chattel status to black people.”
@Maranda I agree that the comment by the National Association of Black Social Workers is anger based. In my opinion it is racist as well as angry. In regard to anger that has seethed for centuries, I wonder about that, philosophically. What gives us as individuals the right to claim injustices done to others of our “kind” (however one defines “my kind”) as our own? There is a huge inconsistency in the way this “right” to co-opt past injustice into our own experience of injustice as individuals is applied as well.
As a female, am I a victim of sexism because of my own personal experiences? Or, regardless of my own experiences, is my victimhood related to the thousands of years of male socio-economic dominance? In other words, do I have a right to be righteously indignant about injustices done to others of my “kind” regardless of my own personal suffering or lack thereof? Or is any claim to victimhood justified only by my own personal experience?
It seems to me that it is clear that we are only victimized as individuals by our own personal experiences. Thus it seems to me that no individual should feel entitled to claim justification from “centuries” of anything, since most humans expire well before their own life spans “centuries.”
As an individual human being, I am affected by the racism, classism, or sexism I encounter in my present life. To argue that I as an individual would have started off this life in a better position had none of my ancestors experienced exploitation and oppression may be true, but it may be equally untrue. I have no idea what choices my ancestors may or may not have made had they NOT been discriminated against as Scots and Irish, or as women for my female ancestors. It could have placed me in a better position at my birth, or maybe not. It is equally possible that I may not be here at all had they had more opportunity to pursue other ventures. Again, this leads me to feel that the only injustices we can reasonably presume to feel victimized by are our own personal ones.
And even our own personal “victimizations” dont force us to wear the role of “victim” as a banner, and give us carte blanche to victimize others who happen to remind us of those who victimized us. I know many an individual person, of many different “kinds” (male, female, various ethnicities) who have allowed the mistreatments they legitimately experienced as children to poison the whole of their lives, when they did not have to. They may be “justified” in their hurt and anger, but they often aggress against people who have done nothing to them, and invariably, they pay a personal price for their inability to move forward. The role of victim does come with some twisted kind of power, but it exacts a horrible price.
In this case, the social workers in question are creating a new group of victims, the children in question, who are simply pawns in a game not of their own making, and potential parents, who are being denied the opportunity to adopt a child. There are an awful lot of real and present problems in the foster care system that transcend race lines. Children across the board are placed in homes where they are “farmed” for income, (housed in crowded rooms and almost ignored aside from being fed and clothed) or used as labor in the house, like servants, or molested by family members, etc. There are a lot of present dangers to these children, and getting them into a good loving adoptive homes, regardless of “race” would be an enormous benefit to them. It angers me that their needs and what is best for them is ignored so that a political point, or, as you say, the satisfaction of slapping someone in the face, can be had. Like I said before, in my opinion, it is a crime.
Are all white families good potential adopters of non-white children? Of course not. Families absolutely should be screened to ensure they are competent parents. But that is true of all adoptive and foster parents, not just “white” ones. Ruling people out of the pool of potential adoptive parents based on race just means that a child may bounce around in foster care longer, and be displaced over and over and over, or, be placed in a sub-par home because there are simply fewer to choose from, and the foster care system when overburdened tends to overlook small things out of desperation.
It simply doesnt serve the children whose interests are being used as the vehicle to argue for a racist policy.
Illusions said: “In other words, do I have a right to be righteously indignant about injustices done to others of my “kind” regardless of my own personal suffering or lack thereof? Or is any claim to victimhood justified only by my own personal experience?”
If you did have this right, as it were, you would indeed lead a life of agonizing suffering merely comemorating past injustices inflicted on your kind. What a Waste, huh?
I agree, we should measure our pain or feelings of injustice on what was Inflicted On Us within our personal life times.John McWhorter, a black linguist, wrote a book Losing the Race addressing this very issue. He claims blacks are their own worst enemy at this juncture in history due to 3 philosophies they have embraced: victimology, anti-intellectualism, and separatism.
He claims,”Victimology is seductive because there is an ironic and addictive contentment in underdoggism. However, it also inherently gives failure, lack of effort, and even criminality a tacit stamp of approval. In reality, it is a ball and chain restraining any movement ahead. Separatism promises the balm of a sense of roots, and offers an escape from the vicissitudes of making our way into realms so recently closed to us.But the wary social remove that Separatism encourages blacks to maintain from whites Regardless of Actual Experience [Caps are Mine] is a much more powerful factor than white racism in making blacks less likely to be hired, or especially promoted.
“Black anti-intellectualism can often seem like a jolly and even healthy alternative to sterile nerdishness, but it is also, as I have noted, the main reason blacks underperform in school. Learning for learning’s sake is not highly valued in the black community.”
In the Asian community, if we might use the word Culture, intellectualism is Assiduously valued and promoted. However, if we hint that within the black community, intellectualism is not a priority, we are called racists.
Asians value education more than Most Whites. That does not mean I am demeaning whites. By my own observations and by the available stats, this happens to be a fact. White kids are watching the latest movie at the mall and chumping popcorn, while Asian kids are reviewing physics. White kids are texting on their new cell phones while Asian kids are taking violin lessons. Why? Cause Mom will kick their ass if they don’t!
This is why it’s so Vital black kids stay in school and criticizing Obama for suggesting this and Not Adopting the Victimology meme is merely prolonging the disadvantages blacks face in our labor market. Pity never ultimately helped anyone. Understanding and empathy is admirable, but what happens after that folks? Just more pity forever? When does it translate into, “Ok, enough with the helpless meme. Let’s show these freakin’ whites we can get into Yale too!” Now that would garner RESPECT!
How is it that you have such great insight into Mrs. Touhy’s heart? You know that she has “racism” to deal with, despite any outward evidence to the contrary (e.g., she adopted a giant black boy and raised him alongside her teenage daughter). It sounds like “racism” by your definition must just be hard-wired into every white person. Huh. Well, I guess there’s nothing to be done about it then…
By the way, how is it not racist to assume the worst about Mrs. Touhy and every other white person on the basis on race only? Or are you only making a statistical inference — white people *tend* to be racists, so it’s safe to assume this one is, too? Are you as comfortable applying this same technique to other traits? Perhaps racism is only present in whites as a definitional matter. Decent society objects to racism on the grounds that we should be color blind. If the secret got out that what you’re after is something else, I wonder what would happen. Any ideas? I have one idea: commercials like the “I guess I’m a racist” one.
The suggestion that Oher would have been better off with his own kind is striking, considering your sterling diversity credentials. Didn’t Oher have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to be exposed to another culture, to see how others live and expand his horizons? Or is that only for white people? Didn’t he benefit from eating tuna salad and watching Saved By the Bell?
Mrs. Touhy has class, dignity, and compassion, so I think if she read your post she’d try to see it from your point of view and she might even feel bad that she couldn’t give Oher an “authentic” upbringing. On the other hand, maybe she’d have the good sense to tell you to shove it.
@DJohnson ~ So nice to see you here again, Darin, especially given that you’ve come back to tell me to “shove it,” albeit through the hypothetical of Leigh Anne Touhy.
You ask, and answer your own question, disingenuously: How is it that you have such great insight into Mrs. Touhy’s heart? You know that she has “racism” to deal with, despite any outward evidence to the contrary (e.g., she adopted a giant black boy and raised him alongside her teenage daughter). It sounds like “racism” by your definition must just be hard-wired into every white person. Huh. Well, I guess there’s nothing to be done about it then…
Although I suspect that you don’t really want an answer from me, but rather just want to pose-and-answer your own questions, I’ll respond anyway.
First of all, I assume Leigh Anne Touhy has racism to deal with because she’s a white woman raised in the U.S. It’s an experience I share. I do not know anyone with that background that doesn’t need to deal with the racism we all inherited from our culture. Add to that the special cultural baggage attached with being the emblem of the South, a White Woman, with all the tropes around racial purity, and there’s some baggage to deal with. Even if, to grant at least part of your premise, she didn’t grow up *believing* these myths, we didn’t get to learn this part of her story in the film (as I said in the original post). I wanted to know how Leigh Anne Touhy – as a white, Southern-raised, woman – came to this rather unusual act of kindness of adopting this black child.
Your parenthetical aside (“(e.g., she adopted a giant black boy and raised him alongside her teenage daughter)”) reveals more about your own assumptions regarding the supposed threat of black-male-violence and pure-white-teenaged-womanhood than I think you intended, but it’s worth noting. I disagree that this act, in and of itself, “proves” that she’s free of racism. It may be that her own internal need to “have a project” or “break from tradition” or a million other reasons, could have prompted this act. But, it doesn’t – in and of itself – absolve her from racism than watching the movie (or voting for Obama or listening to Michael Jackson or liking Michael Jordan) absolves anyone else.
Finally, you suggest that according to my definition “racism “must just be hard-wired into every white person. Huh. Well, I guess there’s nothing to be done about it then…” Uhm, no on both counts. I don’t think it’s “hard-wired.” I think it’s a deeply ingrained fact of our culture. And, no, I don’t agree that there’s “nothing to be done about it.” I do, in fact, think there are things to be done about it – chiefly, working for equality – as you may have gleaned from this blog.
Seriously, look up the definition of “paternalism.” Just because some white person “means well” doesn’t mean it’s not racism.
Hi, Jessie. I hope you had a nice Christmas.
Your last statement is interesting. You are not simply saying that Mrs. Touhy is racist — she *must* be because of her culture, despite anything you actually know about her specifically — you are in fact saying that the very act of taking Oher into her home is racist. In other words, because Oher was worse off than she and she decided to help him, she’s behaving as a paternalist and thus a racist.
It’s really a no-win situation, isn’t it. Whether whites try to help blacks or leave them alone, either way is evidence of racism.
Let me see if I’ve got this next part straight. You accuse Mrs. Touhy of racism, so I point out that she had a teenage daughter as evidence that she is *not* a racist, at which point you accuse me of being a racist. Whew! Of course, you don’t know what my race is, so it’s possible that you’ve actually revealed your own assumptions about white vs. black attitudes. Maybe *you’re* the racist!
When you say racism is hard wired into culture, I wonder what culture you mean. The culture of southern white women who go to lunch? All white people? White Americans? All Americans? All conservatives? Everyone except blacks, gays, and college professors?
Look, I’m being obtuse to make a point. The problem with your definition of “racist” is that it’s more or less coterminous with “white.” It’s useless. Whether by culture or genes or something else, all whites are guilty of racism — unless they “deal” with it, I suppose. For me, I’ll take someone like Mrs. Touhy, who actually does something to help a black kid, over some guilt-ridden bleeding-heart who is “working for equality” any day of the week. Which do you think Michael Oher would prefer?
Darin–how is your point that Mrs. Touhy “had a teenage daughter evidence that she is *not* a racist?” How does having a teenage daughter become proof one isn’t racist? I thought your point was that her choice to permit a black male to come live with her (and her teenaged daughter) was evidence that she wasn’t a racist. Is this what you meant?
Adia, yes, of course that’s what I meant. Why would the mere fact that she has a daughter be important?
I suppose you are correct. I just thought if there were more inter-racial families in America, it would help whites get over their own racism. I don’t believe there’s anything more complex in this country than racism. It seems that every angle just leads to five more angles.
Again, I can’t argue with your logic. Being white, I myself have no clue as to how black children arm themselves against the racism they will surely face throughout life. Thanks for the informative response.
MarandaNJ, I think you should take the time to talk to people who have grown up in multi-ethnic homes, rather than just takes Joe’s theoretical position as gospel here. I know a lot of people who grew up in foster care, having grown up that way myself, and, I also know a fair amount of adoptees. In general you will find that the ethnicity of the person raising them is totally secondary to the quality of care and love they received, (or lacked) and that anyone pulled from their family of origin has some soul searching to do in terms of “who am I and where do I belong?” regardless whether they were raised in a home of the same ethnicity or not. As another observation, it doesnt seem all that different from many children NOT pulled from their family of origin.
To piggyback off Joe . . . that’s not to mention that racism in our child protective services. Mothers of color are more likely to have children taken from them; and have a much harder time getting the children back, including not receiving the resources from social services they’re entitled to.
On another note, Michael Oher has disputed his portrayal in the book and hence the movie.
I just read an article published April of 2009 in USA today before the NFL draft. Oher was bothered by how unintelligent he was painted. Apparently, the author of the book made up that his IQ was 80. Here’s an excerpt:
“The part about me not being smart, that’s the only thing that got to me,” said Oher, who made the honor roll in 2006 and maintains that he is 15 credits shy of earning a degree in criminal justice. [He finished the degree] “He’s got to sell books. But reading that, I went back and talked to him. I mean, how can anybody like that do the things I’ve done?”
Link to the article: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/2009-04-23-michael-oher-cover_N.htm
You have to be incredibly intelligent to perform well in the NFL. You have to memorize not only your teams complex offense, but also, all of your opponents defensive schemes. This portrayal of Oher as a dumb, gentle giant seems quite similar to how sports commentators often refer to the white athletes as intelligent and masterful and black athletes as naturally gifted animals.
I agree and remember the ESPN show I was watching mentioning that quote, too.
So, it kinda bothers me that people are loving the movie so much, especially the lady Bullock’s playing.
Rosalind makes a good point: football players are no dummies, although “incredibly intelligent” may be stretching things a bit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonderlic_Test
Oher’s Wonderlic score was 19, which translates to an IQ of about 98 — nearly a standard deviation above the mean. The question is what to make of the IQ score of 80 recorded by the high school in Memphis. Given Oher’s situation (living on the street, not enrolled in school) it seems reasonable that his tested IQ at the time was misleadingly low.
And you posted that comment in a reply to me because . . . ?
The man had a GPA of 3.7 after 3 years of college. Clearly he’s no dummy.
And the whole idea that jocks can’t be bright is relatively recent. In the past, being smart and a jock was common.
Now. It seems as though you haven’t noticed, but just so we’re both clear, I’m intentially avoiding engaging you. Please do the same.
I hope you had a nice Christmas and a Happy New Year’s day, No1KState.
And you’re right, I haven’t noticed.
@Rosalind I am glad you posted a link to that article. It was good. Obviously he is intelligent. But the real secret to his being a successful human being is his emotional intelligence, as demonstrated by this quote from the article;
“Says Oher: “I don’t dwell on anything. I’m not going to feel sorry for myself because I didn’t have a place to stay a lot of time. It is what it is. We’ve got to go through some things in life. Take it and run with it.”
Oher can never forget what he’s endured. He says he can’t pass a homeless person on the street without digging into his pocket and offering money. “I know how hard it is,” he says.”
He took his experience of adversity and rather than letting it ruin him, he allowed it to make him compassionate for others who have it rough. Not judgmental, ie; “Well if I did it, anyone can do it…” just compassionate. I dont know much about football, so I dont know how his career is going, but in my mind, he is already great. Just for having that degree of grace and wisdom.
How might this film have been different if it were directed by Antwon Fuqua or Malcolm Lee, rather than John Lee Hancock? I think the basic narrative of the story is obviously very admirable, but it seemed to me that the “white savior” meme was enhanced in ways that it didn’t necessarily have to be. Some examples include the exaggeration of Oher’s low IQ (as Rosalind cited above), his own assertion that he was more adept and knowledgeable about football prior to his adoption than the film let on, and the erasure of his will and determination to escape his horrible circumstances. These serve to play up Oher’s character as someone who is so in need and disadvantaged that the Tuohys’ act of generosity and kindness is established as the foil. This is one way of telling this story, but not the only one. (I personally think that the greatest show ever, The Wire, presents a story of a white teacher who helps a terribly downtrodden black youth in a way that doesn’t evoke white savior themes. See Season 4, relationship between Prez & Duquon. :))
Here’s the dirty little secret about the adoption of black children that the National Assn of Black Social Workers failed to mention. Research clearly points to the following facts;
over 90% of black children adoted by whites are brought into an intact family with both a husband and a wife. These adoptions typically take place when the child is under 3 years of age – in other words during their formative years when it’s most important. These families pay for the adoption themselves and also pay for the expenses to raise this child.
In stark contrast, the vast majority of black children adopted by blacks – typically a single mother or aunt or grandmother –
are not adopted until the child is over 10 years old. The reason for this is simple economics. Once the child turns 10,
the adoptive parent can enter into the nationally/state funded program called The Adotion Assistance Program, where all the rules change. The over 10 kids in this program are deemed
“special needs children” which emtitles the adoptive parent to a number of perks. Namely, (1) no up front cost for the adoption, (2) free counseling and medical care, and most importantly,(3) a monthly stipend (tax free) of up to $2,000
per month for each child. This money continues to rollin whether or not the child is incarcerated in a detention or state corrections facility or not – which is why many single moms choose kids who have had a juvenile delinquency problem.
I have seen this scenario played out countless times in my own community and through my work with kids from the inner city.
In the majority of cases, these kids are not adopted out of love and concern but rather, as an income proposition. This money is guarateed until the child turns 18. After which time,
they are typically abandoned to fend for themselves. And if you think these adoptive mothers are setting aside a portion of this income for their “son’s” education or transitional expenses, think again. It’s not long after these kids enter the homes of these opportunist parents that they begin to understand that they are a meal ticket, begin to rebel, and must leave the home for their poor behavior. For this type of sleazy adoptive parent, it is indeed the perfect storm
Thanks for posting that. Having grown up in foster care, I knew there were families that “farmed” us for income, and like you said, kick you out cold as soon as you turn 18 with no money, no support system, etc., to fend for yourself. I did not know there was a way that adopting children could work the same way.
It breaks my heart. Yet another reason to remove racist barriers to adoption and fostering, and, equally importantly, to screen families thoroughly.
Adopting or fostering kids for the money is abominable. No question.
But most adoptive parents regardless of race are married. Many black single mothers live with family, so that there is more than one adult in the house. And black children are taken from their parents for infractions that are overlooked when the parents are white. Black parents have a harder time getting their children back even after meeting requirements that are always necessarily enforced when dealing with white parents. And black parents are less likely to receive the resources they’re entitled to. The whole situation is more complex than just that so many black children are born to unwed mothers.
“The whole situation is more complex than just that so many black children are born to unwed mothers. ”
I agree with your statement here, but I am unable to see where that was Harvey’s argument. He seemed to be arguing that often times a percentage of these kids were being adopted by dingle mothers solely for financial gain, not because the single mother really had an interest in caring for a child.
And, I want to make clear that in my research since discovering the financial incentives for adoption that are offered for hard to place children, I have discovered a married white couple who seem to have rather famously been farming the children too.
So clearly it is not just a matter of removing racial boundaries to adoption, it is a matter of both removing racial boundaries to adoption, and also, screening families thoroughly. This couple should not have been allowed to adopt children period.
“The Gravelles–who had history of sexual abuse–were allowed to adopt eleven children, many of whom had special needs. The couple reportedly received over $100,000 per year for the multiple adoptions. The older plaintiff, now 18, is reported to be in college and the younger plaintiff, 17, is said to have been transferred to another adoptive family.”
The sentence they received, 2 years, was a joke.
Obviously, any racial bias regarding what criteria are used to determine when children are or are not taken from parents and returned also need to be brought to an end. I am just not completely sure the solution would be to raise the standards you argue black families deal with up to white ones, it may well be that if it is indeed the case that whites are holding onto their children longer, and getting them back easier, that the standard there should be lowered to the level black families currently face. However that is determined, race should not be the issue. The well being of the children should be the issue.
It is my opinion that as a class, children are often victimized by a system that recognizes parental rights over the human rights of the child to a certain standard of treatment. I have seen children of many ethnicities returned to homes that are not good for them, or not removed in time to prevent serious permanent harm from befalling them, both physical and psychological.
Face it, the entire system is broken, and in desperate need of a fix. Children as a class are being victimized by people of all colors, and helped by people of all colors. There should be no racial barrier that prevents a person or family who is functional and genuinely wants to care for a child from doing so. Whether it is a childs natural parents, in the case of children being removed from sufficient homes because of discrimination by social workers as No1 brings up, or because racial barriers are put up to adoption.
You confused me about whether standards should be lowered or raised or whatever. I think you’re suggesting that the standards should be the same and in the best interests of the child? With that I agree.
Great critical analysis of “The Blind Side” in February 2010 issue of Texas Monthly: