August 18, 2006

Going For A Ride?


Did you notice this shot on the front of Thursday’s NYT?

The accompanying article (Overcoming Adoption’s Racial Barriers) examined the increasing tendency for white families to adopt black children.  I thought the examination of the issue was pragmatic and even-handed.  It was also gratifying to see a prominent write-up dealing with the dynamics of parenthood.  (If I had any complaint, the piece mostly avoided the economic and social roots of the “supply chain,” in which white middle class families are the “beneficiaries” at the expense of what one assumes are mostly poor, urban black ones.)

Where I mostly had a hang up, however, was with this image.  I found it misleading, and exploitive of those sensitivities the article otherwise handles well.  Maybe it’s the fact the JonBenet Ramsay case just broke, but the image seems to play more to abduction than adoption.  It might have been different if it was a woman holding the child.  Instead, the “language” — the guy turning his back to us, and ducking his head — reads like shame, or some sense of the covert.  And the child’s expression?  It has a “Who is this (white) guy, and where’s he taking me” feel to it.

(image: Mark Schiefelbein for The New York Times.  August 17, 2006.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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