According to recent reporting by The Washington Post, Black women looking to become mothers by artificial insemination have limited options if they want their child to share their skin tone, background and culture. Cryobanks across the country are facing a shortage of Black sperm donors, but this is nothing new.
The number of Black women choosing to sojourn into parenthood alone throughout the years continues to rise, while the options for Black sperm donors remain low in numbers, and limited in range. If you were to find yourself scrolling through the websites of one of twenty American cryobanks, you would initially be presented with a bevy of boys, (well men assigned male at birth) that you could sort through based upon eye color, education, and pedigree. You can of course also filter by race, but for Black women browsing for their likeness, the selection narrows down fast. And fast you must be.
Angela Stepancic tells the Washington Post that she wasn’t quite quick enough as she was outpaced by a sorority sister who she was on the phone with as she was trying to add her Black sperm donor to cart. Yes, it’s that deep. So what do Black women do when the options are few and they don’t want to fight with friends like they’re at a Telfar warehouse sale? Well, that varies.
Perhaps the easiest option is just to select a non African American donor. But while this choice may seem like the most unchallenging call to make at the moment, there are difficulties that can arise once the baby is born. In Reese Brooks’ case, the hopeful mother to be had been desperately searching for months to find a Black donor. After an unfortunate loss in 2019 where she delivered her son Kemet at just 24 months, (a pregnancy she formed with a help of a Black friend) she and her partner at the time agreed that when they were ready to try again, their best bet would would be to broaden their search at the cryobanks, eventually selecting a Latinx donor.
Brooks shares that while she loves her mixed race child, a beautiful baby girl born in November of 2021, she received backlash from the Black community as she began posting her daughter on TikTok.
“I got comments like, ‘Of course she’s mixed,’ and ‘You only wanted a light-skinned baby. You don’t like being Black,’ ” Brooks told The Washington Post.
“I am not going to raise her strictly in the African American culture because that’s not who she is,” Brooks said. “I’m learning as much as I can right now about Peruvian culture.”
For Leslie Fickling, a single lesbian who yearned for motherhood, unmonitored apps like Just A Baby provided a shot at the dream for a fraction of the cost of cryobanks, and a better chance at securing a Black donor.
“I’m not a rich White woman who can just go to IVF or cryobanks and spend that money, and let alone save for a baby,” Fickling said. “I started looking at other ways I can find donors without spending thousands of dollars for sperm.”
Fickling eventually found her match with a Black man 50 miles outside of her home in Atlanta. The two met at a restaurant, and later went to a hotel to use a DIY at home insemination kit. After the first attempt failed, they agreed to have sex the next month for a higher chance of impregnantion. Fickling’s daughter Justice was born on Halloween of 2021.
While Fickling’s match was tested for STIs, there was no further testing conducted, nor do they have a legal contract between them. Fortunately for Fickling, she has realized her parenting dream at a low cost and seemingly low risks, however, the dangers that she could have faced throughout this interaction cannot go without stating.
So how did we get here and what measures are cryobanks taking to recruit more Black sperm donors? Perhaps it’s due to a general distrust of the medical system in Black communities, or perhaps it’s because for decades Black men have been fed the myth that they are all absent fathers, and are then being asked to create babies they’ll likely never see. The sperm banks say they are trying various ways to recruit Black donors including speaking to college fraternities and partnering with well known influencers, but as of yet, these efforts have not made much of an impact.