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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Submitted to the Ruth Institute by Ellen Giangiordano
I applaud the History Channel for airing Alex Haley’s “Roots” reimagined over Memorial Day weekend. As co-producer LeVar Burton noted, “Roots” generates a dialogue that is needed now more than ever.
Today, the loss of ancestry is still keenly felt by slave descendants. In February of 2016, when I took a seat at a conference offered by the Black Law Students Association at the University of Pennsylvania, the attendees near me were not talking about Ferguson type police brutality, the topic of the day. They were talking about roots and how successful each had been at reconnecting her own. In this room of legal professionals, Alex Haley’s words rang particularly true: “In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage - to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.”
All this raises the question “why, when we readily admit that the amputation of ancestry was wrong during the slave trade, would we seek to amputate the ancestry of others today?” I am not talking about adoption here. In adoption, children are not produced for the commercial market by we the people. They come into the world through the sex act of two private citizens and then society reacts defensively to the abandonment of the child. Rather, I am talking about third party reproduction, which is the intentional manufacture of citizens using donor sperm and/or donor egg knowing that the child’s ancestry will be amputated in whole or in part.
While we no longer allow fully formed babies to be sold at market, we license the merchants who reduce human beings to their component parts, forcibly harvest those parts, maintain them as live stock, advertise them for sale, and ultimately sell them, knowing all the while that the ultimate purchaser will assemble the parts to make the baby he/she/they could not legally buy outright. With guns and drugs we would call this conspiracy, but here we it donor-conception.
Standing in the shoes of the “donor-conceived,” shouldn’t we be trying to prevent this unnatural reality just as we try to keep kids out of our adoption agencies by funding educational and birth control programs? Don’t all roots matter? Of course they do. To deny that every citizen’s roots are worthy of protection is to admit that some citizens are products because they came with a price tag and thus are owed nothing.
In the shadow of Father’s Day 2016, this is a call to stand for something that makes historical, natural and common sense: “Roots Equality.” Find your federal and state legislators at whoismyrepresentative.com and openstates.org, and forward this article to them. Ask that they draft legislation to abolish donor-conception and to establish agencies to re-connect those roots already severed. For the truth is, all roots matter.