Bullock's adoption of black baby stirs debate
By Lisa Respers France
May 4, 2010 / CNN
It was supposed to be just a picture of a happy new mother showing off her beautiful adopted son.
But when Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock appeared on the cover of People magazine with her newly adopted African-American baby, the image stirred discussion in the black community and on blogs aimed at that readership.
"We have a poll up right now on the site that asks a question about interracial adoption," said Marve Frazier, chief executive officer of Bossip.com and chief creative officer for its parent company, Moguldum. "For the most part people have been saying it's great that she adopted a baby from the United States."
Still, the topic of transracial adoptions is a sensitive one, made even more so when the adopted parent is a celebrity.
In a piece appearing on the site Black Voices, writer Lola Adesioye notes that Bullock joins other stars, including Madonna and Angelina Jolie, who have adopted black children. Madonna and Jolie's children are African and Bullock's new son, Louis, is from New Orleans, Louisiana.
"As Bullock's case shows, a white celebrity adopting a black child raises questions as well as suspicions," Adesioye writes. "Why do they want a black baby as opposed to a white one, when there are also white kids who are up for adoption?"
Bossip.com CEO Frazier said Bullock had already engendered sympathy from her readers when news broke of alleged infidelities by Bullock's husband, Jesse James.
"She just seems like such a regular person," Frazier said. "She's never really been on that 'Hollyweird' trip and that makes her so much more relatable."
What has thrown some fans for a loop, Frazier said, are reports of a photo of James wearing a German military hat while appearing to give a Nazi salute. The image prompted questions about James' racial views and made some African-Americans leery, Frazier said.
James' attorney, Joe Yanny, said the hat was a gift from a Jewish mentor and denied that his client was anti-Semitic. James once lived for nearly a month in an Israeli kibbutz, Yanny said.
The online magazine Clutch, which is aimed at African-American women, asked its readers "Do you think Sandra Bullock is using her new black son to curtail the negative publicity on her husband's scandalous affairs? Or is Bullock like many adoptive mothers who simply want to give children in need a happy home?"
The responses of commenters ranged from "God bless anyone who wants to adopt" to "Suspicious with the timing." One person commenting raised the parallel of Bullock's starring role as a woman whose family opens its home to a disadvantaged black football player in "The Blind Side" to her real-life adoption.
"When I saw the trailer my first thought was 'not another white savior movie!' " wrote a commenter who identified herself as "Margaret." "But in real life -- our kids need homes. I'm glad to see that Sandra Bullock chose to adopt a child from the United States. Too many of our babies are in the system."
Author and host of the Mack Lessons Radio show podcast Tariq Elite was more caustic.
The writer, actor and lecturer who has appeared on "The Tonight Show" as well as VH1 and MTV posted a skit online that he billed as an "exclusive" interview with Bullock's newborn, Louis, discussing his "business relationship" with the actress.
"People find [the skit] hysterical, but they also find what I said in it to be very true," Elite said. "This is a PR move to get her image back on track. She had a big Oscar win and then immediately this thing came out with her husband and that started to take luster away from her shine."
But according to the interview Bullock gave to People magazine, she and James began the adoption process four years ago -- well before any scandal -- and finally brought the baby home in January. She told the magazine she has filed for divorce from James and plans on completing the adoption as a single parent.
Natasha Eubanks, founder of the blog Young, Black and Fabulous, said Bullock has long enjoyed popularity among black audiences "as America's sweetheart."
"Her movies cross cultural lines and every movie she has people can relate to it," Eubanks said. "She's never been a glamour puss, she's always just been very much the girl next door."
Eubanks is a native of New Orleans, as is Bullock's new son, and said the actress is well-known for her ties to the city, most notably as one of the first celebrities to donate generously to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Eubanks said she applauds Bullock's decision to adopt from a group that has historically found it difficult to find homes.
"Young black men have it the hardest when it comes to adoption in the United States," said Eubanks, who added that she has yet to see any negative comments about the adoption from her readers. "The fact that she chose to adopt a baby from the U.S. just makes us love her even more."