Earlier this week, the Atlantic published an essay by David French describing racist attacks his family has experienced over the last few years. Many of the attacks came at the hands of alt right white supremacists infuriated both by the criticism French, a “never Trump” conservative, has levied against the president, and the fact of French’s multiracial, adoptive family. In 2010, French and his wife adopted their youngest daughter from Ethiopia. Since 2015, he writes, racist trolls have targeted them, photoshopping pictures of their daughter into images of gas chambers and plantation fields.
But those weren’t the only attacks French describes. Long before his family endured attacks from the racist far-right, he says they’d faced attacks from the left, from those who framed adoption as, among other things, an act of “cultural imperialism.” As part of his explanation of the left’s hostility to the idea of white parents adopting children of color, he cited my 2013 investigative journalism book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption. Not because I wrote—there or anywhere else—about French’s family, but because my book reported critically on a Christian adoption movement that arose in the mid-2000s and swept through U.S. evangelicaldom. A movement that French, an evangelical, identifies with, writing of his early optimism that, through adoption, his family could live out the Scripture verse: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” French is very clearly a loving dad, and the racism his daughter has dealt with is obviously ghastly. But his attempt to draw equivalence between that sort of hate attack and what he presents as corresponding attacks on his multiracial family from the left felt to me like a willful misreading of the history I lay out in my book.