Two final quick thoughts about the Mitt Romney Melissa Harris-Perry joking about black adopted children kerfuffle.
In reading the comments at the Daily Kos and Alternet in response to my essay on this whole faux drama, I was moved to ask some additional questions.
Allowing for the trolls and white racists who populate those spaces, there seemed to be some legitimate hurt and confusion over the very basic puzzle that I offered--one which Salon's Britney Cooper and the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates also picked up on as well.
As demonstrated by his use of white racial appeals in the 2012 election, Mitt Romney traffics in white identity politics and white racism. Mitt Romney was also the presidential nominee of a political party that is the United States' largest white identity organization, as well as being the present day heir to the Confederate States of America. Mitt Romney also practices a religion that until several weeks ago overtly discriminated against black people because they are "stained", and thus their souls are not equal to those of white people.
How does one reconcile such beliefs and habits with the Romney family's choice to adopt a black child? A broader question: will having a black child in his family cause Mitt Romney to reevaluate his own personal politics and negative attitudes about the African-American community?
To my eyes, these are basic and fundamental questions. They are not complicated. For some, either because of political naivete, a deep investment in the white racial frame, or just white privilege fueled ignorance, such questions are impossible to conceive...never mind to answer.
When a parent discovers that their child or grandchild is gay or lesbian for example, this can personalize an issue and cause a transformation in thinking. Am I hoping too much that Mitt Romney, a person who I still believe is sociopathic, will be able to triangulate his love for his grandchild with being a member of a political party that has racist contempt for black Americans? Will Mitt Romney evolve into a voice of reason that challenges the conservative movement's embrace of white racism?
Here is a final random factoid to consider. Mitt Romney's adopted black grandchild's name is "Kieran". This could be the child's birth name--which I hope is the case. Or Kieran could be the name chosen by the Romney family. The child's name is Celtic. Apparently, the name is an homage to an Irish Saint. Interestingly, Kieran also translates as "small dark one".
I do not believe that the Romney family--assuming they did--intentionally named a black child "small dark one". They were more likely compelled by the religious overtones of the name Kieran. However, such a coincidence is a signal to the type of racial myopia that white privilege can often bring, where there is often no sit down or conversation about the social meaning and power of Whiteness, and the particular challenges that come with adopting and raising a young black or brown child in a racist society.
Ultimately, the "controversy" about Melissa Harris-Perry and Mitt Romney's black grandchild is channeling questions and insecurities about "transracial" adoption in a country that has still not resolved basic issues about the relationship between the colorline, white supremacy, and life chances.