the color of love - Precious Williams story

Some of you might have read about Precious Williams in the February issue of Elle.  She is a "black"  woman, born in England to a Nigerian mother and a father from Sierra Leone. Her father  left shortly after her birth (which I think was sometimes in the 60ies or maybe 70ies) and her mother -unable to cope - advertised her (those were her exact words!!!) in a magazine to find a private foster home for her. Only days after her birth Precious Williams was handed over to a "kind hearted elderly woman who was lonely and suffering from agoraphobia (.... and who) felt a foster child would give her a new lease of life". The reason this lady wanted a "black" child was also explained: "...she'd read the novel Uncle Toms Cabin and fancied the idea of a child who reminded her of Topsy, a slave child depicted in the book."  ( comment from me needed here.....)

The article then goes on to describe Precious Williams life from her perspective in an all white English town surrounded by prejudice and ignorance. Her birth mother lost custody of her when she was 9 (ruled at a time where racism was still mostly politically correct) and her foster mother then became her legal guardian. How her foster mother referred to her constantly as "not really being black" as if this was a positive. How she was unable to address any of the issues she had to deal with as a child as her foster mother (who she says "adored" her)  basically just chose to ignore life in the real world (probably a result of never leaving the house) and live in a cocoon with her little "black daughter" where her often proclaimed love for her was the only thing that really mattered.

The article left me with a sick feeling of dread and unspecified guilt. As the main message the article brings across is that most of  Precious Williams problems stemmed from the fact that a white woman brought her up, it is only logical for anyone reading this article that "white" people should never be allowed to adopt "black" children. The article then goes on to accuse Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Sandra Bullock, Tom Cruise - in short celebrities and generally anybody white adopting a black child - to aquire black children like fashion accessories, instead of sticking to their own (color/race/culture.... whatever.......)

I even thought for one crazy moment that maybe they are right, maybe we are all deluding ourselves thinking that this - our family - might actually work when we are in fact  damaging our children by bringing them into our home. I had to do some real deep breathing, talk it through with Alan on a long walk towards our Arniston Wishing Dune and get some perspective.

I read the article again and then it dawned on me: What this woman has been through would have made anybodys life miserable. Not only did she grow up with a mother figure suffering severe mental problems - she also never had any emotional support or even acknowledgement for what she experienced. Her birth mother's infrequent visits and subsequent abandonment (this is what it would have looked like for a child of 9) could only contribute to her feelings of confusion and unworthyness.

I felt even sadder reading the article a second time as I tried to imagine what her life must have been like:
She would never have experienced a mother who dropped her off at school, chatted to other mothers, taken her to playdates, pushed her on a swing or went shopping with her as a teenager. Not one of the little bonding rituals a mother and daughter do together on a daily basis was part of her growing up.

The tragedy of her life was being handed over (first by her mother and later on by the authorities) to a person clearly not capable of  raising a child -  as well intentioned, warm hearted and loving she might have been.
The fact that this lady is white has -in my view - very little to do with the trauma Precious Williams experienced. Of course being totally obvious as a "black" child in a "white" society in the dark ages of rampant racism did not help, especially when the people responsible for this child were in no way equipped to deal with issues and questions she would have about her background and her identity.

As a foster mother - and really the only mother Precious Williams had in her life - she probably loved her as best as she could - but she could by no means give her what she needed - what any child needs: a healthy and strong bond with a loving adult to guide them along into adulthood.

The sad fact is that her foster mother's emotional life was overridden by her mental problems and she was simply not capable to love any child (black or white) the way a child needs and deserves to be loved.
Sadly she used a child to alleviate her own suffering (to feel less lonely and get a new lease on life....) and was naive enough (to put it mildly) to think she could create her own fairy tale story by saving a little slave child from it's sad destiny. To me this sounds utterly stupid and irresponsible - and maybe she can not even be held responsible for it - but it horrifies me that there were people involved (her birth parents, society, judges and lawyers) who should have known better but did not do anything to prevent this tragedy happening to Precious Williams.

My heart goes out to her - and there is so much I want to say to her as a  mother of two utterly and totally beloved  children, who do happen to have skin a couple of shades darker than me.  I want to invite her into my home to stay with us for as long as it would take for her to see us for who we really are: a normal family thrown together by fate (or god or the universe) who never goes anywhere un-noticed but  always together on this journey into love and life.

I want her to see my childrens eyes shine with happiness screaming hysterically chasing each other through the garden sprinklers on a hot summer day. I want her to see them angry and frustrated when life does not go their way and how we try to comfort and help them through these feelings without belittling or ignoring them.   I want her to see them sad and distraught climbing onto my lap and allowing me to hold them and kiss them and make it all better (oh what bliss to still have the power to do so...) . I want to talk to her about my worries about racism and my children's self image - as I slowly learn to adjust my perspective to their ever changing needs. I would love for her to find some comfort and maybe even joy within a family who celebrates differences rather than ignores them and who most of all supports one another no matter what. 

That's my wish for today.....


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