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Eight is Enough?

February 13, 2009

Here’s a human interest story that reveals a lot about the American public mood these days. Nadya Suleman, a native of Whittier California, recently gave birth to octuplets–adding to the six children she already has.

As this LA Times article notes, Suleman’s situation has become a “lighting rod” for a variety of issues, including the recession:

Suleman is an unemployed graduate student, lives with her parents and already had six children under the age of 8. She has become a lightning rod for criticism for the nation’s healthcare woes, the economic crisis and the medical ethics of in vitro fertilization.

The reaction is decidedly different from what occurred in 1998, when the first set of octuplets born in the United States were met with curiosity more than scorn. The Houston octuplets also had two parents and were born during better economic times.

“Ten years ago, this would have been a medical miracle — heartwarming, everyone would have been thrilled,” said Allan Mayer, a crisis management specialist and principal partner at 42West in Los Angeles. “If everyone was riding high and feeling flush . . . it would be more of a ‘live and let live’ attitude. Now everyone is counting pennies. There’s a lot less forgiveness these days than there would have been at the height of the boom. . . . The public is almost primed to go very quickly from joy to suspicion and fury.”

Much of the criticism of Suleman has focused on the costs associated with the birth of her octoplets. For instance, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, the hospital that delivered the babies, has received angry calls about the financial costs of Suleman’s hospital stay.

Beyond this, some of the responses to Suleman have been implicitly informed by racial and ethnic vitriol. As this Racialicious article on the Suleman situation suggests, some of the anger at her delivery of the octoplets was motivated by perceptions that she was an “illegal immigrant” and because she is of Middle Eastern descent (Suleman is biracial born of an Iraqi father and Ukranian mother).

In short, the Suleman situation is just another example of how submerged racial, ethnic, and economically-driven resentments rise to the surface during times of crisis or hardship.

Surely, much uglier examples are coming.

One Comment leave one →
  1. lisalee permalink
    April 23, 2009 11:54 pm

    Ordinarily I would agree that certain issues in this ciuntry regarding having children out of wedlock and the AMOUNT of children can sometimes have a slippery racial slope I just don’t see it here. I don’t think this has squat to do with racism OR sexism but more about her utter lack of responsibility and living this ‘fantasy’ where she’s trying to be a low rent Angelina please this woman is a flake! In fact she’s so flaky she should be in a box of Special K people are pissed at her because she’s a goofball who cared more about her own selfish needs and getting attention than she did about those kids she follishly saddled herself with. Racsim has nothing to do with it.

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