Lola and Nicholas Kampf should write a parenting book. And then they can include this sage little tip: When your college-age white daughter turns up pregnant by her possibly less-than-desirable black boyfriend, you should restrain her, shove her in the car against her will, and go on a road trip during which you browbeat and possibly even threaten her into terminating the pregnancy.
After all, that’s what the former Yarmouth residents did last year when their daughter Katelyn turned up pregnant by Reme Johnson, a native of South Africa. Now, I don’t know too many people who’d be thrilled to have their daughter pregnant by a man with a criminal record, but my focus would be on getting said daughter away from the man, not packing up the .22 caliber rifle, rope, and duct tape, and trying to force her to get an abortion.
The Kampfs, who initially were looking at kidnapping charges, have now reached a plea agreement that includes pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of assault and disorderly conduct and getting no jail time. Katelyn is speaking out and claiming this was a hate crime; Mama and Papa Kampf claim it’s an American tragedy. I wasn’t in the car during this harrowing little misadventure, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge, but I have to agree with Katelyn that race was the big factor in all of this. After all, if it wasn’t, why be in such a hurry to get rid of the unborn kid?
I would expect some anguish over the impending arrival of a biracial grandchild into a monoracial family but often, whatever tensions exist, there is at least love for the new child once he or she arrives, and often before. Guess the Kampfs weren’t up for cuddling a brown baby.
No, too many people talk a good game about diversity, or at the very least can say they are not racist or bigoted with a convincing ring in their voices, but the truth is that acceptance isn’t really that forthcoming in reality. Oh, we may not be sitting in our La-Z-Boy chairs spewing out half-baked notions about other races like a 21st-century Archie Bunker, but the way we live does say a lot about what we really think of people who are different than us.
The Kampfs can say all they want that this was about repairing shattered dreams for their daughter. But if what Katelyn says about her parents is true (including that her Mom referred to the pregnancy as a human science experiment), that speaks volumes about racial intolerance, and fear of the unknown.
It’s rarely a conscious thing, but it’s there nonetheless. For me, I’m wary of young white men in pickup trucks; I figure they might they be itching to mess with me because I’m a black woman.
We should be able to recognize when our fear goes too far. Sadly, the Kampfs haven’t. They want to sweep this criminal mess away and meantime, Katelyn opposes the decision to drop kidnapping charges. Shattered dreams? Worse, shattered family instead.
Only honest dialogue between people who are different can head off fear. And if the Kampfs ever choose dialogue, maybe they can still enjoy a precious grandchild instead of regretting that their daughter is saddled with a little black mistake.
Shay Stewart-Bouley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.