Friday, July 3, 2009

Sperm meets Egg

When does parenthood begin? Does it begin at the moment of conception? When you give birth to a child? Sign a birth certificate? I was all prepared NOT post about Michael Jackson (figured two was enough) when I read my 88th post in the blogosphere on the paternity of his children. There has been a shitload of snark directed at the biological beginnings Michael Jackson's children.

I could write a long winded post about phenotypes, race as a social construct as opposed to a biological one, or how racially mixed, bi-racial, multi-ethnic individuals may vary in appearance. h/t UBM. I could point out how several of my family members are like the old saying "light, bright and damned near white" with two black parents.
And after I've set forth data culled from Google, The Encyclopedia Britannica, H-NET, Jstor, and posted pics of my little cousin - we could exchange some ideas on what the hell was really going on with Mr. Jackson. We could discuss his father's alleged verbal abuse that is reported to have involved tearing down Michael's African-American features. We would perhaps attempt to dissect the possible layers of generational internalized racism and self-hatred that led him to want to look like a white woman.

We could. You can. I won't.

Michael Jackson is dead. There are three children who just lost the only parent they have ever known. Does it matter who the biological parents were? Even when it comes to custody and the state's favoring of bio-parents, (especially if they are recovering crack addicts) it does not always follow that the bio-parents will regain custody. The children will most likely be able to state who they wish to care for them. I highly doubt the two eldest will elect the woman who essentially acted as an Easy Bake Oven, took the money and ran.

As an adoptee, I have had to learn not to be offended when people ask, "Do you know your real parents?" Our society has been slow to learn that sperm and egg does not magically produce - parents. If my parents had died before I had reached the age of 18, there would not have been a massive search for the bio-parents. I would have been placed with an extended family member.

To those who would say Michael Jackson was not the father of these children: I, and the millions of other adoptees who were loved, protected, and cared for by our "real" parents - respectfully ask you to STFU.


  1. I never looked at it from the subject position of an adoptee.

    I remember attending a seminar or symposium, whatever it was defined as, given by a group of black feminists. I was with them until that time in which they began to rail against white families adopting black babies born from crack adicted mothers. Their position was that this practice simply recreated the old slave/master relationship in which all children born on the plantation belonged to the master and the master could do whatever he wished with the children.

    I dissented. My position was, and is, that the most basic need of the child was someone to love and nurture them, and it did not matter where that love and nurturance came from. If that crack addicted mother was not able provide the most basic needs due to circumstance, then so be it. Let whoever was willing and able to fulfill that child's needs do so. Furthermore, the slaves had no choice, while the crack addicted mother was partly responsible for her own circumstance.

    That being said, I only think it is natural for people to wonder about the circumstance of the children's birth. I don't think they do so maliciously. And I don't think in doing so they question whether or not Michael was the children's father in some form or another. From what little I know, those children have been with Michael from day 1. And again from what little I know, he has provided them unconditional love and nurturance, so whatever the circumstance, he is unconditionally their father.

    When I was growing up, there was an old saying in the black community--If you are not sure that you are the father, just keep feeding them until they finally look like you. When I was seven, my mother remarried, and my stepfather adopted me and gave me his name. Until I was grown and left his house, he fed me, and clothed me, and provided for my basic needs. And even now people who have no idea that he is not my biological father, comment on how much we favor.


  2. I like your title - Sperm meets Egg - does not a parent make. Parenthood goes beyond conception, it goes beyond signing the birth certificate or passing out cigars in the waiting room. Parenthood starts when an individual steps up and decides to love, protect and provide for a child regardless of what bloodlines run through the kid's veins. Perhaps Michael isn't the father of the kids - so what. One thing is for certain, he was definitely their daddy.

    As a female who did not know her father I say - kudos to Michael for stepping up and shining some fatherhood light into the lives of three children. I think my father and many others could learn a thing or two from how much Michael cared for his kids and didn't hesitate to step up and walk-the-walk of a real father.

  3. @Max - I think we are pretty much on the same page. I'm glad you disagreed with those women. Sometimes politcal agendas can take the place of common sense. Transracial adoptions can work if the parents are willing to embrace the child's ethnic background, instead of pretending it does not exist.

    As for the people discussing the MJ case, well I'm going to have to disagree with you a little here. True, most people are not being malicious, merely curious. I don't think you have to have malicious intent to be hurtful. That said - I've heard and seen a lot of people flat out say he was not the children's father. No, caveats at all - just he was not the father. Words carry a lot of weight.

    @ Bougie - I had a good relationship with my father, which is why I champion black fatherhood. My daughter will most likely have your experience and I wish I could spare her that. She will know her father, but based on his history, he will be unreliable. Which is worse? Not knowing your father or knowing him, but feeling like you aren't enough to make him love you the way a father should. Tough times ahead, but based on what I've been able extrapolate from your blog, comments etc. my little one has a good chance of becoming a fine young lady even without him.