So Rebekah Brooks has been arrested again. It’s too easy to dislike this woman, the archetype of me-first “feminism”, only female tabloid editor, and Rupert Murdoch’s adored protégé. “Just get the story that sells the newspaper – we don’t care how – just get it,” was the ethos, apparently, at the tabloids during her editorship, a work-environment I can well imagine, having – very briefly – worked in a similar one.
As a freelance market researcher for a well-established retail-trade publisher I had to fill in long, detailed questionnaires about the current and future market shares of certain products under strict time limits. With no clues as to where to go for information, and not much on line in those days, I chased around specialist libraries with limited success. In the end, as my deadline approached, like a tabloid journalist, I made the answers up.
But what really gets me going is Rebekah Brooks’ baby. Needing, like all top career ladies, to have not just the Etonian husband and Gloucestershire mansion, but also, naturally, a perfect baby or two to complete the picture, she ends up acquiring one via a surrogate. Naturally, she was too busy networking and building her career to make one herself at the usual age, in the usual way. And naturally she’ll find herself too busy, somehow, in future to waste much me-time on the daily drudgery of childcare. You can guarantee right now that the poor mite will be held personally responsible by its matchless parents, in twenty years’ time, for having anything less than a stellar career herself.
But accept that in this life there are sometimes difficult choices to be made, and that occasionally compromises with Have-It-All must be made? Or possibly, even, engage in a little maternal charity, Madonna–style, and adopt someone else’s abandoned third world child? Brilliant, gorgeous, all-round superior-being Moi? I hear RB and her alpha-woman ilk cry. Do me a favour, minion.
More interesting than this article – though the issue is interesting, especially to me – is the virulence of the comments which followed it. On the one hand we have, apparently, scores of black and brown children in care brutally denied the families they need by a political correctness which insists on matching adoptive parents’ ethnic identities with those of the adopted child. On the other hand we have a number of “colour-blind” white couples, who just want a child, any child, to bring up as their own. But there’s a problem with this kind of “colour-blindness”, says this writer. He’s not saying cross-ethnic adoptions can never work, but he is saying, it’s an extra challenge to all concerned, not an ideal. He is, actually, right.
Lots of black or mixed race people adopted in the past by lovely white parents will testify to the fact that these parents can be brilliant: Jackie Kay’s lovely memoir is one I recall, but I know there are many others. However even they do not gloss over the issue of their blackness in a generally white environment and tend to stress they could not have coped with anything less than the total support they got from their new parents – parents not “colour-blind” but taking the trouble to engage with the reality of racial discrimination, even if they had never experienced it themselves.
This challenge doesn’t only affect adoptive parents – it affects anyone with a child of a different ethnicity to themselves. On top of all the usual demands of parenthood comes the additional urgency to question one’s own inherited “colour-blindness” which is often, on examination, not so blind as one assumed.
Before I gave birth I never doubted the limitations of my own social circle, or questioned my assumptions about my child’s social identity, my relationship with his black father notwithstanding. My child would be “one of us,” naturally. Meaning, white-middle-class, of course; what else? Actually, he’s not, and never will be. I hope he’ll be something much better.