ICWA, Baby Veronica, and White People Being the Worst

It is hot. I am miserable and sweaty and the rampant racism rearing its nasty head around the country this week has not been improving my mood.

Let’s talk about the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Supreme Court’s wrongheaded ruling on the Baby Veronica case. One of the best courses I took as an undergrad was called Native Women, Children, and Tribes. That class taught me more about my white privilege and the innumerable ways we continue to oppress, marginalize, and enact violence against Native populations than I ever would have had the wherewithal to learn on my own.  People in positions of privilege often don’t realize they have it until someone else, usually someone without that same privilege, points it out.

When we learned about ICWA in my course, I didn’t totally understand it because I wasn’t acknowledging my privilege and the storied history of white violence against Native children and their families. This is embarrassing now, but I remember feeling a bit offended for a second. I thought, “I could give a kid a great home. What do you mean I couldn’t ever adopt just because I’m white?” And then the heavens opened and I was punched in the face by the mighty fist of, “Hey, there white person, you’re the worst!”

The Indian Child Welfare Act is meant to ensure that Native children remain with their families and their culture. White people are the very last people who should be considered when a Native child is being adopted. And that’s totally valid. The conversations happening online around this issue are disgusting- much like my initial reaction to learning about ICWA. “Why can’t we adopt them? We could give them more opportunities and a better life!” Here’s the thing, white people: there are plenty of non-Native children who need homes. You can’t adopt Native children, because they are not toy poodles for you to parade around. Removing a Native child from their culture is a blatant act of violence. Remember the American Indian Boarding Schools?

But that was a long time ago, right? We don’t do that anymore! Well. It wasn’t that long ago. When white people remove a child from their culture, especially when that culture has been historically, systemically, and continually obliterated by those same white people, violence is continued.  The Indian Child Welfare Act tries to stop that violence. I don’t see how anyone can argue with that. And then the Supreme Court did. Of course they did.

Following the Baby Veronica case has been akin to watching the quick dissolution of common sense, which is how this entire week in United States politics has felt, really.  The National Indian Child Welfare Association has an awesome fact sheet on the case. Here’s the short version, if you’re not caught up: a native child, Baby Veronica, was placed for adoption with a non-Native couple. Veronica’s father, Dusten Brown an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, never agreed to the adoption and never waived his parental rights. The adoption of Veronica was never finalized. When Brown became aware of the adoption, he immediately sought legal counsel to stay the process and assert his parental rights. This was a little difficult for him because he was in Iraq. That’s right. When Brown returned from Iraq, a South Carolina district court and Supreme Court ruled ICWA valid and custody of Veronica was transferred to him. But the prospective adopters, the Capobiancos, kept appealing and the case went to the US Supreme Court.

Earlier this week, SCOTUS ruled in favor of the Capobiancos, contesting the validity of ICWA. Because apparently white people still can’t kick the habit of ignoring the laws made to protect Natives from white violence. Because white people are the worst people. The SCOTUS majority objects to ICWA, because they just don’t like the way it dissuades white people from adopting Native children. Which is the entire point of ICWA. To prevent the continuation of racist violence. The SCOTUS objects to preventing that. In further SCOTUS stupidity, they literally suggested that Brown surrender his parental rights and then try to adopt Veronica himself. Because that makes perfect sense!

Now, the case is getting kicked back to a district court, and there’s a chance that Brown might lose custody of his daughter. Hopefully common sense will kick back in at some point and Veronica will be allowed to stay with the biological father who wants to raise her. I really hope that happens, but you just can’t trust white people to do the right thing.

I sometimes think about going to law school, just because of situations like this one. I’m so frustrated by the whole thing. What really kills me is that you know if a white serviceman was in this situation, there’s no question that the child would be returned to his custody. If a white dude went to Iraq all while fighting for custody of his child, the media would be completely in his favor. But Dusten Brown isn’t a white man, so he’s not afforded that same respect. Or any respect, really.

Another thing that just kills me about this case is the website that’s up in support of the Capobiancos. It’s called Save Veronica. Save Veronica? Are you fucking kidding me? She’s not in danger! This child is living with her biological father who has been fighting tirelessly for his legal rights. Save Veronica? From what exactly? A loving home with her family? I can’t even. I hate white people. I really do.

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3 thoughts on “ICWA, Baby Veronica, and White People Being the Worst

  1. Pingback: ICWA, Revisited | Angry Feminist Killjoy

  2. ‘I hate white people’ isn’t a racist statement? Great job there, Angry Killjoy, spreading more hate in this world.

    • The concept of hating white people results in hurt feelings. The concept of hating marginalized groups results in very real violence and oppression. I *am* white. I benefit from being white every day. I have accomplished a lot in my life, and I’m very proud of those things, but I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize how much my various privileges (race, in this case) propelled me forward and allowed me access. Saying “I hate white people” isn’t any different than saying “I hate bankers” or “I hate lawyers”. I don’t hate individual bankers, lawyers, or white people. I hate the institution of Bankers, Lawyers, and White People which only serve to harm, marginalize, and oppress.

      I hope this makes sense to you.

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