advice would you give to the
'White' mother of a biracial child?
After my ('White') stepmother read my
book ... one of the things she said was
that she never thought of me as "black",
she just thought of me as Rebecca.
While this is a wonderful and important
concept, I found it quite dangerous.
Growing up, I was in fact a "black" child
and I had to navigate being a "black"
child in a racially-stratified world.
For any of my caregivers to ignore this basic
truth was, in my opinion, to ignore the reality
of my daily existence and thus be unable to help
me figure out how to move skillfully through it.
It is important for 'White' parents of
children-of- color to pay attention
to how [the issue of ] race
functions in your child's life.
It is important for you to "come to your child's
reality" with at least some understanding
of the issues they may be facing.
This doesn't mean 'assuming' that they are
being marginalized or discriminated against;
it does mean being vigilant about keeping
communication open when it comes to
issues of "race", class and 'color', topics
which are often masked in discussions about
"beauty, intelligence, socio-economic status,
sexuality, and violence", among others.
Often our kids are not able to identify and
articulate how they feel in a given environment,
and so we must know what to look for,
and feel confident acting on what we see.
I think that 'White' parents should make
every effort to live in "diverse communities" .
You often cannot imagine the strain of being
'one of the few' or 'the only one' in a community.
You may feel comfortable walking down the
street where you live, or visiting the school you
want your child to attend, but does your child?
Because your family is "non-traditional"
(whatever that means), reach out for "the
unspoken support" of [such] a community ....
This can free your children up to explore their
individual interests more fully, instead of
having to spend time figuring out what it
means to be "different" from 'the status quo'.
Finally, have a clear philosophy about "race",
and communicate this to your children so
they can contextualize themselves and
your family within a bigger world-view.
So many parents I talk to think that 'not' talking
about race is the way to a race-neutral world,
but kids are getting a zillion subliminal
messages about race every day.
At least one of them should be yours.
Feburary 23, 2005