Monday, April 11, 2011

Student Guest Post: "Losing Isaiah"

by Paul Daly

I realize that I’m about sixteen years late on this, but I just came across “Losing Isaiah” on Netflix, and since I’m currently taking Adoption Law, I decided it would be worthwhile to watch it. It was certainly a moving film, and I found it really drove home the problems we’ve learned about in China, i.e. mothers abandoning babies. Growing up in an upper middle class, white family, I always viewed the world in black and white. It was very easy to see what was right and what was wrong. Only as I’ve grown older have I realized that, like it or not, the world is composed of varying shades of gray.


“Losing Isaiah” is a movie starring Halle Berry, who portrays a young, African American, drug addicted woman who abandons her baby in a dumpster. The baby is adopted by a white family who cares for him for the first two years of his life. Meanwhile, the birth mother gets herself clean and learns that her baby has been adopted. She sues for custody of Isaiah and the two sides engage in a heated custody battle, with the judge ultimately granting custody to the birth mother.

When Halle Berry’s character leaves her baby in the dumpster, I immediately thought of the films we have seen in Adoption Law that show Chinese mothers leaving babies on street corners, etc. My initial reaction was pure outrage. “How could someone do such a thing?!” I think it is easy for white people to distance ourselves from these sorts of events because we feel that it’s not our problem. Any time we see a film or hear a news story about people who abandon their children it is always about Chinese people, African American people, etc. We never think that we could ever make such a choice. I wonder how Caucasian attitudes toward adoption and the plight of these desperate people would change if someone made a movie about a white heroin addict who left her baby on a street corner in Fort Worth? It would certainly make people stop and think.

8 comments:

Linda said...

Halle Berry's character dumped her baby because she was a drug addict. Chinese mothers dump their babies because their government forces them to do so. Chinese mothers have no choice...the drug addict, or any other mother who abandons their child in the states, DO have choices. The two scenarios are completely unrelated, although both suck for the child.

travelmom and more said...

Linda
There are choices in China although not choice like we define choice in America. However, abandoning a child on a street corner is still an illegal choice in China, it is a choice not to parent a child who is a girl or more commonly has a special need. I think there are many parallels between a drug addicted parent who abandons her child and a parent in China who does the same. Both are desperate, both are victims of either drugs or family, both are likely in poverty and feeling incapable of parenting a child. Except for the dumpster babies or the babies left to die on street corners many are left to be found so that maybe they can have a life the birth parent doesn't feel they can provide.

It is my understanding that during industrialization and the great depression there were a large number of abandoned white children throughout the US and they were not readily adopted. Wanting a Daughter Needing a Son addresses this.

Reena said...

People in China are oppressed beyond anything that most white, middle-class Americans could ever begin to fully understand-- and they have been oppressed for a seriously long time.

I would hardly equate abandoning a child due to oppression to abandoning a child due to a drug addiction. It is not parallel.

malinda said...

Does it boil down to how we define "choice?"

Elaine said...

What is most interesting about this film to me is this. In the novel the white woman very explicitly pays the AA birth mother for the baby. There is no abandonment in the dumpster. My question is, of course, what do we learn from the changes made for the film? Who is the "bad" mother here?

Kate E. said...

A very interesting parallel, and I believe a valid one. I appreciate your perspective and sharing how it has changed over the years. People being willing to continue to evolve in how they view adoption issues can only be helpful to the plight of all abandoned children.

choose joy said...

Plenty of white people abandon babies - I was left in a farmer's field in Eastern Europe and I've met many many white adoptees with similar stories. I'm not trying to be picky, just pointing out, this is not an ethnic issue. Label it what you want -oppression , "bad choices," desperation - they exist in every culture.

Paul said...

Choose joy: I should have been more specific. I was thinking more along the lines of "White, Middle Class America" than anyone who has white skin. I would argue that perception of the events we've been talking about are absolutely an ethnic/socioeconomic issue.