The good thing about my blogging about culture and health is that I hear from the most amazing people who inspire me. However, nothing prepared me for a Facebook message I received from a young man, who called himself ‘George’.
The message read:
“Nola, please write about abandoned bi-racial children. My mum is English and my father is African. They were in a relationship for 10 years. When I was 8 years old, my dad left and promised to come back. A month later, my mum told my brother and I that our dad had married a African woman, and was not coming back. She explained that it was the culture that my dad married an African woman. We never heard from him again. My mum tried to contact him, but he never replied her messages. Now I’m 24, and my brother is 20 years old. My brother is sleeping rough and is on drugs. I’m on a drug programme, and I’m trying to put my life together. I attribute our outcomes to our father leaving us. We just didn’t fit in.
George (the boy who shouldn’t have been born).”
I was shocked. I didn’t see that coming. I was already prepared to post a different topic. I had to think about this one! A young man just described himself as a child who shouldn’t have been born! That’s deep and sad! On reflection, I realised that George’s story was not an isolated one. I’ve seen and heard about hundreds of children like him. Bi-racial children whose fathers went back to Africa and started new families. What I never saw though, were the health implications for those children. So hearing from George was an eye opener.
The science bit…
A quick search on the effect of abandonment in children showed that it can have a cradle to grave effect. It affects children and adults both physically and psychologically. It is a form of child abuse. It creates a deep sense of loss. When there is a threat or disconnection to a child’s primary attachment; separation anxiety usually occurs. Anxiety triggers a significant imbalance of cortisol (stress hormone) in the brain; which in turn sometimes manifest in form of avoidance behaviours, depression and severe anxiety. The pain caused by abandonment in childhood needs to be dealt with and healed. If not, its effects transcend into adulthood.
My thoughts are, firstly, George’s dad’s decision to marry an African lady was not based on culture. It was a choice. “Come home and marry” is a fluid statement made to African men in diaspora, especially those who are in bi-racial relationships. There is always pressure on such men to marry African ladies, so that their children can “carry-on the family names”. In other words, children born in bi-racial relationships are inadvertently condemned from birth. The irony in this case is that, the so called family name is carrying-on with ‘homeless’ and ‘drug user’ suffixes. Primal family links can never be broken! A mother’s race should not determine the treatment of a child. It is important to show empathy to children and always put them first in the picture; after all they didn’t ask to be born.
Secondly, preferences in marriage is an individual decision, and I respect that. However, where there are children involved in relationships, their welfare should be considered before any decisions are made. The dad ending his relationship with George’s mum was an adult decision, and I also respect that. However, I detest the fact that he brought children into the world, walked out on them, and used culture as a shroud to justify his actions. No earthly culture condones the abandonment of a child.
For George and his brother, I hope they realise that their dad’s abandonment of them, was in no way an indictment of their goodness and worth as human beings. Rather, it shows the flawed thoughts and actions of a dad who chose to hurt his children. To a large extent, it is an indictment of a society which focuses on geographical boundaries and race, more than the human aspects of it. Maybe other factors may have played roles in George’s and his brother’s outcomes. I may never know. George’s Facebook account is no longer live. However, I hope they find the healing they need. I sincerely wish them luck, and I hope George contacts me again. I would say that George deserved to be born, because he will make a difference to other lives. He certainly has made a difference to mine.
Myers, Linda Joy (2005). “Connecting the Past and the Present: Healing Abandonment and Abuse through Awareness”.
“Children Deprived of Parental Care”. Human Rights Watch. 2006. Archived from the original on 2008-05-13