Why Bullock’s baby is a public relations blessing

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News of Sandra Bullock’s adoption of Louis Bardo Bullock, a black baby boy from New Orleans, may just be rolling out, but Bullock has had little Louis, named for Louis Armstrong, since January. Actually, Bullock and soon to be ex-husband Jesse James began adoption proceedings together well before tabloids exposed his numerous extramarital exploits. Now, Bullock, who also announced that she has filed for divorce in a People exclusive, is moving forward with raising 3 ½-month-old Louis on her own.

Knee-jerk reactions to the People cover of Bullock smiling as she raises her black baby won’t be surprising. ‘Why now?’ is a question some may ask.

Is there any better way to get great publicity than to adopt a child of African descent these days? Thanks to the paparazzi, details of Zahara’s whereabouts with adopted parents Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are free-flowing. When Madonna adopted little David from Malawi, a whole can of worms regarding African adoptions spilled over into the headlines.

But many will indeed question the timing of Bullock’s announcement. So far, the feedback on Twitter has largely been positive. But coming on the heels of news that Michelle McGee, one of James’s many mistresses did a sexy, Nazi photo shoot where she posed with swastika armbands over her heavily tattooed arms, the fact that little Louis is black does raise eyebrows.

According to Gawker.com, James’s ex-wife Janine Lindemulder is reportedly married to an “admitted skinhead” — and Bullock and James reportedly used that info to try to gain custody of James’s child with Lindemulder. In addition, others have questioned whether James’s West Coast Choppers’ logo bears a striking resemblance to Germany’s Iron Cross, which is linked with the Nazis. Given that James did have contact with little Louis before his personal indiscretions began dominating the headlines, there are more questions, especially when Bullock didn’t close the door on James being a part of little Louis’s life.

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Adding even more fuel to the fire, of course, is the fact that Bullock won her Oscar for playing white Southerner Leigh Anne Tuohy, who, along with her husband, took in homeless, black teen Michael Oher, who now plays in the NFL.

“Is life imitating art imitating life?” some will ask.

The adoption itself is not a public relations ploy, but the release of the news comes at a very opportune time. For weeks, Bullock has not addressed James’s infidelity and now she reveals the details of her secret adoption, burying the fact that she has filed for divorce within the joyous announcement. It’s hard to blame the woman for wanting to throw off the tabloid hounds. Although most of us will never experience them, few of us doubt their viciousness.

We shouldn’t let these concerns obscure the real issue, however. Black children are more likely to be raised in foster care than any other race of children in this country and they are less likely to be adopted by Bullock or anyone else, for that matter. According to a May 2008 report from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, black children constituted 15 percent of all U.S. children but 32 percent of the 510,000 kids in foster care.

Of children adopted in this country, domestic-born, black children fare poorly. Black children constitute as much as 40 percent of foster care children who are available for adoption, according to some statistics. More disturbing is the fact that, according to the National Adoption Center, black children constitute 67 percent of all hard-to-place children for adoption. Black children with dark skin fare even worse.

There was a time in this nation’s not so distant history that white people were not even allowed to adopt black children. Soap star Victoria Rowell shares her own story in her memoir, The Women Who Raised Me. Concerns regarding identity aren’t trivial. Having a healthy, racial identity is essential for personal success and happiness.

With all the resources available today, it is not wise, however, to assume that white adoptive parents cannot raise black kids to become healthy, racially-balanced adults. Also, is it not better for a child to be placed in any environment where he or she is loved over being shuttled from home to home in the foster-care system?

Instead of black people asking why Sandra Bullock has decided to adopt a black baby, the real question is: Why aren’t more black people adopting black children? In Hollywood alone, the list of white celebrities who have adopted black children, especially foreign-born, is long and mighty. Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg and Hugh Jackman join Angelina and Brad. Now, try to name a black celebrity who has adopted a black child. Why haven’t black celebrities stepped up the same way as white celebrities?

As far as regular folks are concerned, adoption is not easy or cheap. Recently, there has been a spike in adoptions by successful, single, black women. A doctor in Dallas, for example, reported that adopting her baby daughter cost roughly $15,000. In an already financially-strapped demographic, that’s a hefty price tag. Also, why aren’t family members stepping in to care for abandoned children? Perhaps we should look at the barriers that exist regarding relatives caring for children.

However it plays out, one thing is certain: We shouldn’t criticize Sandra Bullock for doing the right thing. Instead, we should join her.