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.