Race in America

Jennifer Givhan

1. Domestic Adoption:

No joke, black babies are cheaper—
white ones cost ten grand more. That’s not

how she phrased it on the phone
after the gauge of my uterus

had fixed itself on empty.

I’d made peace with the threat of
you’re not my “real” mother &

called for information, but here’s
how it broke down:

30K service fees for white babies,
20K for black. The wait-list is shorter

she told me. Most of our couples want babies who look

like them.

Imagine her joy when she found out we were
a biracial couple, Sunday & me, & we were looking

for a black baby. Imagine how we took
out loans cosigned with my mother

& how the call came just two months later,
faster than any other couple there.

 

2. Strolling through Koreatown

                                           new home where we’d sought peace after
                           death threats posted on our apartment door:

We watch the garbage truck lift its steely arms
& heave our trash bin over its shoulders.

The garbage man honks his horn.
Mack! you yell. You think all trucks are called that.

A grandfather trundles his grandson-
filled cart toward our neighborhood market.

Fish fry in the air, fire-bright koi in the pond.
I don’t need to convince you we’re safe.

You grin & say Hi! He nods.
The other baby stares but says nothing.

You peel the tan bark off a birch tree like a scab,
thumb it, inspect it: Nice tree.

 

3. Rainstorm (after the riots):

              The child believes
he is made only

                                                        of glass

                                                                                    until it rains

                                                        & the child

walks the streets
              umbrella-less

                                                        only then
                                                                      he can create, with his

                                                        body, with only

              his body      a prism
                                                                      splitting

                            light

                                                                            I might never have seen.

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