A Case of Mistaken Identity

Jennifer Cramblett, a woman from Ohio, plans to sue a sperm bank after erroneously being given sperm from a Black man. This has led to a torrent of charges of racism, particularly after the lawsuit alleged that the mother has “limited cultural competency relative to African-Americans and steep learning curve, particularly in small, homogeneous Uniontown, which she regards as too racially intolerant.”

As both the mother of biracial children, and as an adoptee, I have mixed (pun intended) feelings about the criticism of Cramblett’s actions. I find it odd that Black community continually tells the world how much harder it is to raise a Black child, and yet seems offended when someone from outside the community makes a similar assertion. 

At least Black parents are on notice beforehand that there will be issues regarding race that they will need to discuss with their children. While I support a program of cultural literacy as part of a broad educational system, I doubt that it would be pragmatic to give all of us enough of a background in every race and ethnicity to be able to successfully pass along an entire heritage if we were accidently given a baby of a different race. At this point, if I were by some miracle to become pregnant with a baby by a Japanese man, I would be able to tell them about Akira (the movie), Akira (the director), Pokemon, and sushi. And the sushi wouldn’t even be that great, since I keep kosher.

This discussion touches upon another heated topic: are White parents capable of raising Black children, even when they have been properly prepared to do so? I remember the episode of Webster, when Webster’s uncle tried to take him away from George and Ma’am, despite the obvious bond that had been established between the three. One of his arguments was that the Papadapolises, despite their good intentions, didn’t have the background necessary to raise a Black son. This viewpoint has been repeated by some Black social workers as well.

As an adult, I have been friends with White couples who have adopted Black children, and generally speaking, they have all done an excellent job of stressing the positive aspects of Black culture. The children are aware and proud of their lineage, without it become something distancing. As an adoptee, I feel that while a shared culture is perhaps something to look for when assessing prospective parents, it should certainly not be used to screen out potential candidates, especially if the only other option is a state run facility or an unstable foster care arrangement.

Finally, when it comes to service industries, sometimes the problem is not one of “quality”, but merely that you did not get the services that you paid for. The mother had specified a sperm donor, and had probably agonized for days to find the perfect eye color and height. With artificial insemination, I imagine that buyer’s remorse must large, as you don’t have a long-term relationship to mitigate the fact that your child got “his” overbite or astigmatism. So, to go through all that effort, to have it all undone by sloppy accounting, would frustrate anyone, race aside. In fact, if Cramblett had received sperm from a different White donor, I would support her claim to recompense.

Regardless of the ultimate rationale behind the lawsuit, merely saying that she should be glad to have a baby, any baby, doesn’t change that the world is often a more difficult place for those of African descent, even under the best of circumstances. It may be more useful to focus our attention on fixing the actual circumstances which contribute to these issues, instead of heaping anger and scorn on innocent victims who merely point out that this is true.


Malynnda Littky moved to Israel from the Detroit area in 2007, and lives with her family in Hadera, halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. She currently works as a Content Manager for a software company.

Header image courtesy of Pixabay.

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