David French On Racism And Adoption
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
In 2010, David French and his wife traveled to Ethiopia to pick up their baby girl. He writes that he was full of hope at that time about expanding his family in this way - adopting a child from a different country, of a different race. They named her Naomi Konjit French. At only 2 years old, Naomi had already lost both her biological parents and her grandfather. She weighed barely 14 pounds. Her grandmother turned her over for adoption because she could no longer care for her. The backlash against French's new multiracial family first came from the left and then it came from the right. His recent piece in The Atlantic magazine is called "America Soured On My Multiracial Family." And he starts the piece by explaining how his Christian faith informed his family's decision to adopt.
DAVID FRENCH: I thought it was important to give people my worldview, where my heart was as my family entered into the adoption process. And it was framed really in these two verses, one from the book of James that talks about the true religion of caring for widows and orphans. And another one from the book of Galatians that references that in the Kingdom of Heaven, there is no Jew, no Greek, no male, no female, no slave, no free, which is a critical clarion call that says we are one in Christ Jesus in the Christian context. And so with that as a background, we went boldly into the adoption world. We also knew - and then became more aware over time - that in the United States of America, in particular, issues of identity become front and center and are becoming more front and center in American life.
MARTIN: So let's talk about that. You write in this particular piece that in the beginning, the criticism came from the left, people criticizing your family for adopting a child of color from overseas. What were those attacks like?
FRENCH: The one that I think hit us a little harder was this sort of notion that you cannot be a good parent to an African-American child.
MARTIN: Because you're white.
FRENCH: Exactly. And particularly if you're politically conservative. You just cannot be a good parent. And we know and understand there are difficult identity issues in this country, but we reject utterly the notion that we cannot be good parents to our child because of those issues.
MARTIN: Things changed though, recently. You write in the piece that those attacks were, quote, "soon to be matched and exceeded by attacks from a racist right." You go on to say, they made me wish for the days the left came after us. At least progressive critics didn't want my daughter to die.
FRENCH: Yeah. You know, what happened in 2015 when I and my wife began to criticize the rise of Donald Trump and criticize a movement called the "alt-right" was something else entirely. The "alt-right" is a group, very vocal Donald Trump supporters in the election, who are, for lack of a better term, they are white nationalists. They are...
MARTIN: Are they racists?
FRENCH: ...White supremacists. Absolutely racist. And they use lingo like race cucking your family or raising the enemy, that you're diluting white western civilization. What we're talking about are people who came after us with images on Twitter, for example, of my daughter's face in a gas chamber with Donald Trump in a sort of a cartoonish SS uniform pressing the button to kill her, my daughter's face photoshopped into things like slave fields. It was absolutely horrific.
MARTIN: Do you think this segment of society would be as vocal, as emboldened in their racist attacks on your family if President Trump wasn't in the White House?
FRENCH: Well, all this was in - during the campaign. So there was no question there was an organized effort amongst this population to viciously, viciously attack critics of Donald Trump.
MARTIN: Have you been satisfied with how President Trump has addressed this segment of the population that has been emboldened because of him?
FRENCH: Well, you know, look. I mean, I think one of the worst moments of the presidency was when, in the aftermath of the Charlottesville terror attack, when he talked about very fine people on both sides. I think he finds it incredibly difficult to condemn anyone who likes him. And so if you look back at the president's conduct during the campaign and elsewhere, there were times when he actually retweeted "alt-right" accounts. So the idea that I would be satisfied by his response to any of this - I mean, I don't know that his response to any of this is all that relevant to our family. I do think it's very relevant to the broader culture and how - I can't possibly be satisfied by his response.
MARTIN: Near the close of your piece, you write that the idealism that you and your family held back in 2010, the year that you adopted your daughter Naomi, that that idealism is now gone. That back then, you thought that being a multiracial family reflected America, reflected the future. You no longer think that is true?
FRENCH: Let me put it this way. There was an enormous amount of optimism and love, and optimism and love that still surrounds that very tight-knit community that we're a part of. So when we're going into the process, as I wrote about it, there was this question that was asked - this rhetorical question - aren't you so excited? You know, the same question that is asked to families who are about to have biological children. Now, instead of aren't you so excited, you will get a different question that's not rhetorical. And that question is, are you ready? That's not to say don't adopt. Adoption has been a great, great blessing in our lives. It is to adopt with your eyes open and your heart resolved.
MARTIN: Have you talked with Naomi about any of this? Is she aware of the criticisms from the left and the right, from all directions, that have been put in your family's direction?
FRENCH: You know, Naomi has been increasingly curious. And we had a very, very emotional conversation not long ago, really, where we walked her through the story of her life, the story of Naomi. But we have sheltered her completely from all of these external attacks - completely.
MARTIN: Is she online?
FRENCH: She is not online.
MARTIN: She's not online. So...
FRENCH: She's not online.
MARTIN: ...You're sure she's not seeing any of this bubble up on the Internet.
FRENCH: Yeah. We're sure she's not seeing any of this. But that day is coming really, really soon. So we're going to have to deal with that.
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MARTIN: David French is a writer with National Review. His piece about racism and adoption appears in the latest edition of The Atlantic.
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