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Features

Excerpt from "In White America"
By Paul Barlin
Aug 3, 2014 - 6:27:16 AM

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My fear of losing the baby erupted again. My mouth dried. The thought of swallowing the goo in my mouth made my stomach close up shop and post a sign saying, Unh-unh, not here you don't. I thinned the stuff in my mouth with a sip of milk and carefully swallowed it bit by bit. Only a smidgeon separated my fear of "losing the baby" from the hated feeling of suffering "another failure."

I put the sandwich down and bounced up to look out the window at the cul-de-sac below. The newly asphalted road looked sleek and black. I smiled. The remembered days of walking up the many cement steps with heavy shopping bags were done. All through '48 and '49, I'd carried countless huge blocks of ice on my shoulder up to our ancient icebox, before we bought the secondhand fridge. Again I looked out and admired the curving road that gave us passage right to the house. Quick access. Big improvement. Big improvement. At least some things are working. And the bedrooms are finished. Leanne loves her new room.

But anxiety dragged me back to the Birchers. I remembered that they were thought to be a core of wealthy elite that successfully kept themselves screened from inspection, yet periodically shook up life in California. They influenced legislators to sponsor state loyalty oaths, outlaw the closed shop, and coalesce racial ignorance to condemn hundreds of babies to living their lives without love. Are the Birchers asking, "Who is this Barlin family slamming the status quo with a sledgehammer? And Jewish, of course."

As I stood and looked at it, the new road took on a different meaning.

Would Birchers seek out the parking pocket that is Ewing Street and drive right up to the Barlin house on the new road? How dirty will they play to keep orphaned babies in captivity?

I shook my head. "Dammit!" I hissed. "It's only two years after the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision that made racial segregation unconstitutional."

With its decision, the court had reminded the country--North and South, California to New York, the territories of Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Samoa, and any other U.S. land areas--that all American children are to be treated equally.

Pacing back to the table, I was too agitated to finish the sandwich. I put the rest of it in the fridge. This adoption would rub the noses of the Birchers in Brown v. Board of Education syllable by syllable. How much opposition will the Birchers exert?

Washing the glass in the sink, I imagined the far-right crazies howling at the Bureau of Adoption's projected move, "You're destroying American values by polluting the White race!"

Drying my hands, I recalled baby Li's face--thin, neglected, confused, hyper sensitive. I shook my head. Do they know how cruel they are being to this child?

In danger of unnerving myself before teaching, I decided to go to the studio early. Better to talk with Theresa at the office and prepare to teach than sit at home and take a beating conjuring the monster.

Walking down the three steps to the car right outside the new deck, I was choreographing new movements to the folk song, Donkey Riding for the eight-year-olds. Productive again, I felt alive despite our adoption crisis.

Later, after classes, I drove home, feeling pleased that I'd done well with both classes. But, suddenly, I tensed. The call, the call. But I shook my head angrily. "Shmo! It's still Monday--tonight, all night, until tomorrow!"

Paul Barlin
"
In White America"


Paul Barlin and his wife, Anne, became the first couple to adopt an interracial child in California in 1956. Currently a resident of Colorado, Barlin is the author of six books, including In White America, which follows the family's journey. In the book, author Paul Barlin highlights social courage, race in America, and the idea that all men -- and babies -- are created equal.

"In White America"
By Paul Barlin
ISBN: 978-1-45024-140-3
184 pages
Hardcover $24
Softcover $15
E-book $14


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