White Lesbians Say Their Town Isn’t Tolerant Enough for a Biracial Baby
A white Ohio couple unwittingly sparked a national debate about race and parenting after news broke that they are suing a sperm bank for mistakenly sending them several samples from a black male donor.
Uniontown residents Jennifer Cramblett and her partner, Amanda Zinkon, say they were “mad,” “upset,” and “couldn’t think straight” when they learned that in 2011 Midwest Sperm Bank in Downer’s Grove, Ill., gave them sperm from donor No. 330, a black man, instead of donor No. 380, a white man. The mix-up by the Chicago-area bank resulted in Cramblett giving birth to a biracial—half black, half white—child.
Although she says she’s happy to have her now-two-year-old daughter, Payton, Cramblett filed a $50,000 lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, claiming the mix-up has resulted in “personal injuries, medical expense, pain, suffering, emotional distress, and other economic and non-economic losses.”
“Jennifer was crying, confused and upset. All of the thought, care and planning that she and Amanda had undertaken to control their baby’s parentage had been rendered meaningless,” the suit alleges. “In an instant, Jennifer’s excitement and anticipation of her pregnancy was replaced with anger, disappointment and fear.”
The court documents go on to cite Cramblett’s “intolerant” family, “all-white” rural community, and even Payton’s “typical” African American hair as potential hardships in raising the girl. While Cramblett says she’s happy she has a healthy child, she told NBC News, “I’m not going to let [the sperm bank] get away with not being held accountable.”
Cramblett insists that she doesn’t want Payton to “feel like an outcast” in their 98 percent white town, which is about 20 minutes south of Akron. But it’s hard to see how the child won’t feel like an outsider once she learns her parents sued over her very existence and listed their extended family’s bigoted views as grounds for the complaint—which notes that one of Cramblett’s uncles “speaks openly and derisively about persons of color” and that Cramblett “did not know African Americans until her college days at the University of Akron.”
Typically, most people would be sympathetic to Cramblett’s case. However, the issue of the little girl’s race has turned what appeared to be a clear-cut case of negligence on the part of the sperm bank into a debate over whether Cramblett and her wife are even fit to parent their biracial daughter at all.
As writer and cultural critic Robert Jones Jr., also known as Son of Baldwin, put it, although Cramblett and her wife have experienced discrimination when it comes to their sexuality, they were OK with cloaking themselves in the privilege of whiteness until it was stripped away.
“[Cramblett and Zinkon] were just fine with living in a racially intolerant, antiblack town when they then could be racially intolerant and antiblack right along with everybody else and pretty much blend in,” Jones wrote. “But the moment they became raced as a result of a child who is a part of a race that they didn’t even come in contact with except through television and college; the moment THEY were fitting to be the victims of the town’s racial intolerance, THEN it became a problem.”
Meanwhile, some area residents are speaking out against Cramblett’s claims. John Arnold, a trustee for Lake Township, of which Uniontown is a part, told NBC News that residents are more welcoming and open-minded than the suit alleges.
“We have a large Mennonite community, and a lot of the members have adopted African American children and babies from all over the world, and those kids have been treated fine,” Arnold said. “I hope that [Cramblett and Zinkon’s] perception of how they might be treated in Uniontown is not the reality.”
Whatever the reality in the town may be, instead of seeing their daughter’s African American heritage and hair—yes, her hair—as some sort of Herculean task that must be overcome, Cramblett and her wife would be better off taking a moment to school themselves and their families and address their, as the suit claims, “limited cultural competency relative to African Americans.” In the long run, doing exactly that is what’s in the best interest of their daughter.