More than 100 people rallied on the Alabama State House steps Wednesday to demand a state representative “pay up” on a $100,000 bet that no one could show him a “whole bunch of whites” in the state who had adopted black children. The families displayed giant posters with the phrase “Faces of Families in Alabama” and dozens of photos of smiling families built through transracial adoption, including pictures of white parents with black, Hispanic, Asian, and multiracial children.
Rep. Alvin Holmes, D-Montgomery, made the comments on the floor of the House on March 4 during an abortion bill debate. Holmes, an African-American, said that 99 percent of the white people in the room would raise their hands in opposition to abortion, and that same 99 percent would force their daughter to get an abortion if she “got pregnant by a black man.” He went on to say he would mortgage his house and give $100,000 in cash to the person who could prove white Alabamans would adopt black babies.
“I want to see those negative statements corrected,” Beverly Owings, an adoptive mother of five children, told reporters at the rally. “I want the public to know that Alabama families do adopt children of other races.”
Lauri Currier, the executive director of The CALL in Little Rock, Ark., said she’s witnessed a change in attitudes over the last 10 years regarding transracial adoption, particularly in the South. The CALL’s mission is to “mobilize Christian families to foster or adopt children from Arkansas foster care.”
“[Prejudice] is a lingering issue across the South—here in Little Rock we live in the shadow of Central High School,” she said. “But I’m seeing God is changing people’s hearts. Most of the families we are recruiting from churches today are willing to care for any child who comes from a hard place, regardless if the child is white, or black, or purple, or green.”
Holmes, 74, is a 10-term representative first elected in 1974. He clarified his position to the Montgomery Adviser, saying he is personally supportive of transracial adoption but believes most white people are not. USA Today reported more than 150 news outlets from across the country have contacted Holmes about his remarks. He has said he stands by his comments and is entitled to his opinion.
“During the time I was growing up, this happened many times where whites got pregnant by blacks and in every instance their parents made them have an abortion,” Holmes told USA Today. “It’s not as obvious now as it was then because back then most white people were against interracial dating.”
That might have been true then, but as Owings pointed out, times are very different now: “We live in 2014, and we want our elected officials to live in the present with us. We will never move forward away from racism as long as we have leaders holding on to the past and turning everything into a race issue.”