Children make you confront a lot of stuff about yourself. I realized this inevitability before I had my kids, but it didn't make the premise less intense. Presented with the reality of the world I was raising my kids in, I could either rise to the challenge of self-improvement, or repress anything unpleasant I learned about myself. Little did I know that regardless of the choice I made, there would be times my kids forced me to confront my white woman privilege.
Of course, some people might say I had a choice in many of the following circumstances that made me face my inherit privilege as a white woman. I'm sure many would argue I didn't have to allow my child to force me to confront much of anything at all, because I'm an adult and capable of dealing with any situation as I see fit. While I guess that's technically true, I both want to leave the world a better place than I found it and I want to teach my children to be reverent stewards of this world. In good conscience, how could I not rise up to the challenges presented by the mere existence of my children?
If you're a white parent reading this now, I could not be more emphatic in urging you to lean into the discomfort and allow your children to force you to confront your white privilege, too. It's might not always be easy, but it will always be worth it.
When My Child Shared Why There Aren't More Black Children At Her School
We live in a small, predominantly white mountain town. It's politically liberal, but there are only a couple of Black children at my children's school. When I asked her why she thought that was, my 7-year-old daughter said it was because Black children had their own schools but the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was working to change that.
Let that sink in.
In 2017, a white child in a liberal school with activist parents could still believe we were living under segregation. I imagine it's partly because the school spent time on the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, but whitewashes current civil rights struggles. Because our state is so white, unless we directly teach them, our children don't have to confront anything about race.
What a blatant failure on all of our parts. How do we expect our white children to change the legacy of white supremacy if we aren't vigilant about our own privilege? Complacency is not a viable option, because allowing my white children to not think about that stuff is literally killing Black children.
When I Can Choose Whether Or Not To Go To A Rally
People will take any opportunity they can to criticize other parents. One of the things I've been criticized for is taking my children to marches and rallies. Would I ever knowingly put my children in danger? Absolutely not. However, teaching them that it's our job to dismantle white supremacy is one of the most important lessons I'm charged with teaching my children.
White guilt and shame is unproductive and paralyzing. In this family we take responsibility for the legacy of racism that grants us unearned privilege. The truth is that, as a white woman, I can choose whether or not to go, or take my kids, to a rally. I can say, "This march might not be a safe place for my kids just yet." Mothers of color, however, have to send their kids every day out into a world that isn't a safe place for them.
Every single day.
When I Can Choose How Much To Tell Them
Because my child is autistic, gets into some trouble, and is sometimes violent as a result, my partner and I have to facilitate conversations about what she should do if she is confronted by a police officer so that officers doesn't see her autism as a threat.
However, because of my white woman privilege, I can choose whether or not to tell my 7-year-old daughter about the 7-year-old child who was murdered for sleeping while Black. Her name was Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
I can also choose, when I instruct them not to play with toy guns, whether or not to tell them about Tamir Rice.
Because my children are white, I can be reasonably sure that my 7 year old won't be Aiyana and my 5 year old won't be Tamir. I can also be reasonably sure that I won't be Rekia Boyd. My white woman privilege gives me choice with how much I tell my kids. As a matter of self-protection and preparation, without that white woman privilege I wouldn't have that luxury.
When I Got A Home Loan
When it became apparent that my eldest's school was not giving her what she needed to thrive as someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), my partner and I started looking for another school district. Even though we just bought our house two years prior and were struggling to make ends meet on one salary, I was able to get a home loan for double my previous loan and move, fairly quickly, to a better, more affluent school district. Would this have happened if I were a woman of color?
According to a recent study highlighted by CNN Money, white people who apply for a conventional mortgage are denied just over 10 percent of the time. Black people who apply for the same loans are denied nearly 28 percent of the time, while Hispanics are denied 22 percent of the time. In other words, buying a home is easier if you're white, and though being a woman has its disadvantages in this area, it's certainly not the same as being a person of color and applying for credit.
When My Transgender Child Is At Risk
My eldest child is gender expansive. There is an epidemic of violence against transgender people in this country that is only poised to increase with the current political climate and the Trump administration's rollback of Obama's guidelines for supporting trans students. As a parent, this is so terrifying I can barely bring myself to think about it.
However, the epidemic of murder almost exclusively effects transgender women of color. In 2017, according to GLAAD, all victims of transphobic murders have, thus far, been trans women of color. So even in an oppressed identity often targeted for violence, my child is still safer because she's white.
When My White Cisgender Children Aren't At Risk
If I were a mother of color, my primary concern might be sending my boys out in the world with the high likelihood they will have some interaction with the police. Those interactions for Black children can be deadly and, when they are, the officers are rarely held accountable. This fear is so removed from our actual lived experience as white people in a very white state that I can actually choose whether or not to talk to my children about this danger. If we stay in this community, they could, theoretically, go their entire childhood without even realizing that there is an epidemic of police violence against people of color in this country. "The Talk" that U.S. parents of color have to have with their small children is something most white parents don't even have to think about.
Now, as it is, I believe that the burden of ending white supremacy is (and should be) on white people. It's our pathology, it's our mess, and it's our problem. No, I don't want nor deserve an ally cookie for this. I want all white parents to teach their children the same. White children may be afraid or sad when they learn the truth about race in this country, true. However, white children's fear is not more important than Black children's lives. Period.