Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Significance of 'Blood Relations'

I was listening to a podcast a bit ago when one of the guests said something about her "blood," meaning her family. Every time I hear people talk about their family or ethnic group as their blood, it makes me cringe.

As someone who was adopted, I can tell you unequivocally that blood does not mean a thing. There are plenty of biological parents out there who have not done anything for their children. There are plenty of lovers out there whose bond is stronger than the bonds they have with their biological family, whether they had lifelong relationships with that family or not.

And truly, it's a bit insensitive to speak in terms that make the relationship between this country's 1.6 million adopted children and their parents seem less connected and less real.

Another thing I find truly offensive about talk of "blood" is where the talk stems from. Using the word blood to refer to relationships started in the middle ages. Talk of blood was talk of inheritance, aristocracy, and hereditary privilege.

As Benedict Anderson points out in Imagined Communities, Europeans believed that a persons stature in life was related to their blood. They brought these ideas of aristocracy and supremacy to all the lands they colonized.

European ideas about blood continue to saturate the minds of people in this country. Many people still believe in the one-drop rule, the blood of an African being so powerful that the tiniest amount makes them black (and inferior).

And talk of blood to denote family is a culturally centric notion of family. Many cultures have defined family as only those connected through the mother. Some trace lineage by the father. In some groups, children belong to everyone.

I know there are people whose only close relationships are biologically related to them. So I can understand how they might believe biology is the source of that bond. But it would be nice if people took a step back and thought about what they are really saying.

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