At first glance, it was a troubling headline: Jennifer Cramblett, a white woman living in Ohio, is suing Midwest Sperm Bank over her biracial baby. Although both Cramblett and her partner, Amanda Zinkon, selected sperm from a caucasian donor, the sperm bank informed her post-insemination that they had actually impregnated her with sperm from an African-American male. And despite how it may seem, Cramblett tells Fox 8 News that hers is not a racist case. The lawsuit, which was filed in Illinois’ Cook County Circuit Court, cites "medical expense, emotional distress, and other economic and non-economic losses" as the reasons why Cramblett and her partner should be compensated for the sperm bank's oversight.
And it is indeed an oversight, one of epic proportions. Cramblett is right to cite the negligence of Midwest Sperm Bank as one of the root causes of her decision to file suit. But her claims of "emotional distress" and "non-economic losses" are more subject to question. Cramblett argues, for instance, that because the Ohio town in which she and her partner live is "too racially intolerant" and "homogenous," they will be forced to move their family to a more diverse community. Her lawyer also tells Fox 8 News that the town is "not terribly culturally diverse." While I respect Cramblett's desire to raise her daughter in a more inclusive environment, I wonder about a town in which both she and her partner feel comfortable living as a gay couple, but not as a couple with a biracial baby.
The rest of Cramblett's remarks to Fox 8 News seem to confirm my sinking suspicion that her claims are not entirely warranted. The problem begins when Cramblett tells Fox 8 that the couple wanted a baby who resembled her partner Amanda, "so then there was never a question of, 'Oh, that's not your child...'." She's even quoted as responding to the clinic's receptionist as saying, "Why would I request [an African-American donor]? My partner and I are Caucasian.” It's clear, then, that Cramblett has a particularly narrow worldview, something she acknowledges in her lawsuit. According to the suit, Cramblett has a “limited cultural competency,” and “was raised around stereotypical attitudes about people other than those in her all-white environment."
Why, then, are some insisting that this isn't a racist case? Of course, I would never venture to say that Cramblett doesn't love her child. One look at her crying in her Fox 8 interview suggests that she loves Payton very much. But, to me, her statements indicate that this was once a woman with slightly discriminatory attitudes who now feels wronged having to raise a biracial baby. I can't help but think that if Cramblett and her partner were indifferent to the race of their child, they would not be going to such lengths to file an extensive lawsuit. What is more, her whole argument about wanting the baby to look like her partner seems like a cover-up. After all, this isn't her partner's biological child, so even if it were caucasian, it might not necessarily look like her.
But the real question is why Cramblett's "limited cultural competency" would serve as sufficient grounds for a lawsuit. Cramblett mentions in the suit, for instance, that no one wants to cut her child's hair because of her race, to which I would respond: Go on to YouTube, watch one of the millions of videos that black women have posted on how to cut and comb their hair, and then do it yourself. The town's racial intolerance is one thing, but Cramblett complaining about her unfamiliarity with her daughter's culture is another. What she fails to realize is that raising a child for the first time is always uncharted territory, filled with numerous obstacles and opportunities for learning. These are the types of comments that suggest her claims of "emotional distress" and "non-economic losses" are more racially-motivated than she appears to let on.
Although we can never know for certain the extent to which this a prejudicial case, I think it's safe to say that Cramblett doesn't come across as particularly celebratory of her daughter's race. It pains me to think how Payton will react when she is finally old enough to understand the controversy surrounding her conception, and I can only hope that it is explained to her in a positive light. I also hope that Cramblett and her partner raise Payton to embrace her background, and use this gross disregard on behalf of the Midwest Sperm Bank as a way to expand their entire family's worldview. Perhaps, with time, they will learn to see this situation as a blessing rather than a cause for bitter litigation.
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