I have a lot to say about the custody of Michael Jackson's children, but haven't quite sorted out what I want to say. So in the meantime, here is an article in which a friend of mine, Robert O'Connor, was quoted.
From ABC News: How will Michael Jackson's White kids get along with Black family?
Michael Joseph Jr., 12, and Prince Michael II, 7, will have many
adjustments to make without their famous father — not the least of
which may be growing up in a family in which their fair skin will
noticeably set them apart.
There's nothing unusual about black families
taking in their kin. Historically, they have often done so, but when
the children look more white than black, eyebrows — and stereotypes —
Even with trans-racial adoptions on the rise, it's still far more common to see white parents with adopted Asian or black children
than the reverse. Steve Martin made a joke out of being adopted by
black parents in the movie "The Jerk," but all kidding aside, it's
still extremely rare for black parents to adopt a non-black child.
"It's much less of a two-way street," said Robert O'Connor, an
assistant professor at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul,
Minn., who studies trans-racial adoptions.
Since we don't know if MJ was the biological father of these children, we don't know if they are actually biracial or monoracial. If they were White and MJ is not the biological father, then they were already in a transracial family – not really recognized because MJ's skin was so fair – so their living with the Jackson family isn't changing that. And if MJ was their biological father, then again, despite MJ's skin color they were still used to their extended family being Black. It appears that these children have long had a relationship with the Jackson family.
Anyway, it is intriguing. The article in full is here.
I really appreciated the acknowledgement of privilege as it impacts healthy racial identity development for white TRA kids:
“Some people would say, ‘aren’t you concerned about racial identity and self esteem?” O’Connor said. “I’m less concerned, because they are going to see themselves positively portrayed in media, films and books. If anything those children will be able to develop a bicultural identity that helps them rather than hurts them.”
I haven’t really sorted out how I feel about the custody of MJ’s kids, but Patricia Williams has a very interesting take on the subject:
I thought I read that two of his children were born of a surrogate for his ex wife. Or at least something that complex or more.
I would imagine their identity issues are going to shaped by that reality as they approach adulthood.
So far as the ethnic thing goes, it was African Americans that gave me a foothold in my troubled childhood that helped me to have the strength to overcome the weight of all that.
But I always though it had as much to do with them as the wonderful individuals they are as they hopeful, strong culture they drew me into.
So I’m troubled by two things. One is that–apart from questions about parentage–we have no idea how the children themselves think about their race (to the extent that they can, given age/development/etc). But that seems important.
Along those same lines, it’s odd to me to begin this conversation by trying to determine whether the children are monoracial or biracial. It seems like the question needs to go beyond biological determinism when they children have lived with MJ as their father, and believe him to be their father (I assume). I guess what I’m saying is that the children may already think of themselves–at least at some level–as biracial, and maybe that’s more important than whether their biological father was black or white. (I’m not saying that they shouldn’t know the truth about their parentage. Rather, if MJ was the father they felt emotionally bonded to as a father, they get to keep that, and all the identity stuff that accompanied it.)
But most of all, I just think poor kids. And for this conversation to be so public… I don’t know. In some ways, I feel embarrassed to be putting my two cents in. It’s really none of my business. It’s too bad that they can’t be sheltered from all of this…