The legendary Melissa Harris-Perry, whose MSNBC news show has presented some truly insightful coverage of the racial history of the US, made a mistake. A photo of the Romneys’ grandchildren was never going to be a good fit for the annual comedians’ year-in-review show.
The adopted black infant in the picture, who is the only grandchild of color, is going to have some challenges in his life, despite all his family’s wealth.
For one thing, he is named Kieran Romney. Kieran, which is Gaelic for ‘My grandpa has a car elevator’*. This person is going to have a lot of conversations with rent-a-cops that start, “Sir, please stand here while we wait for the manager,” when all he is trying to do is buy a belt.
Melissa is sorry. She should be, because I just made a joke about the adoptive parents’ apparent choice to name him exactly what they were going to name their white baby–without thinking through how that might affect him as a black man in a racially prejudiced nation.
The joke was about racism and how it will affect Kieran as he grows, premised on the Romneys’ apparent efforts to transcend racism by “not seeing color”, a common misconception of all-white adoptive families…and I’m not even a talk show host. Or comedian. It wasn’t that hard to come up with a way to mock the problem (white parents thinking racism won’t affect their child of color) instead of attacking the child’s role in the family.
Alternately, there’s always the option of not making the adopted child of color the center of your jokes about a political figure who is eminently mockable for his actions. That would work too.
*This is a joke. ‘Kieran’ actually means ‘dark-skinned’ in Gaelic, which is why I’m sticking to my contention that Ben and Ofben (this is also a joke) went ahead and applied a name they liked to their new baby without taking his race into account. Because the alternative explanation, that they chose this name for this child, is too disturbing to contemplate.