Thursday, October 20, 2011

How Parenting Across Racial Lines Can Change You

E.J. Graff blogs about being a white woman parenting an African-American child in a world where African-American college student D.J. Henry was shot by a white police officer:
Did D.J. Henry die because he was black?

This one haunts me. I am a white woman raising an African-American child. Less than a mile from where we live, a white cop arrested professor Henry Louis Gates for trying to get into his own house. It brings tears to my eyes to think that in just a few years, some cop might look at my tall, strong, funny young man—the kid who likes “Another One Bites the Dust” and can’t get enough math—and might see not a person but a dangerous black kid, and arrest or shoot him. Or that such a thing could happen to one of his equally unique and beloved friends, the kids who tumble in and out of my house and yard and car, the kids I stare down when they get too rambunctious on my watch and who hug or high-five or fist-bump me when I pass them on the street. Parenting my eight-year-old has changed my racial identity, even more than having other black and biracial relatives has, in ways that are hard to describe (although others have tried). I was easily outraged about racial unfairness before, but now I have a nauseating fear about how easily my boy could be harmed for no other reason than the color of his skin.
Be sure to read the whole thing -- how middle-class privilege, which we sometimes rely on to protect our minority children, didn't help D.J. 

Has transracial parenting changed you?


Anonymous said...

I think there are prejudices. But I think they are on both sides of the fence. I am white and work in an office with 1/2 or more black co-workers. The black co-workers in my office tend to "stick together" much more than the white ones do. I also take phone calls for a living, and there are a LOT of black people whom I talk to who do not like white people.
Again, I do think there are prejudices, and many times it goes overboard, but I also think that pointing out the ones that include black people as the victim, and not giving equal notice to the ones that include white people, is dangerous to the psyche of the American people. So many times in my office, when a famous black person is taken to jail I have heard black people say, "See! I told you so!!" And when they get off the justice wheel, even when it's KNOWN they are guilty, like OJ Simpson, for instance, not a word is said in my office by most people there, even when all evidence points to the person being guilty.
I really think it's counter productive (and destructive to society as a whole) to find racial undertones to every case that comes along which includes a white cop and a black resident.
We have a black president now! We have black people in society who are high in the ranks of the working class; doctors, lawyers, actors, colleges devoted to mostly black students. I think looking for racial prejudices from the angle of "white guy is bad" can be found in any story that includes a black victim. You can also find racial prejudces from the angle of "black guy is bad" when it's a story of a white victim as well. But I don't think it's healthy to constantly look for it, and I dont think it's there just because it was a struggle between two people who happened to be two different races.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I recommend you read Resist Racism 101, especially points 1 and 2:

1. White privilege exists.
2. Sanctuary is not segregation.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, she lost me at the Henry Gates thing. I too live "less than a mile away" from the incident, and Gates was obnoxious--staged the confrontation to prove one of his typical race card pulling "points" and gain face time in the media. Next thing she'll be channeling Obama saying the cop "acted stupidly".
Oh, and then they can all have a beer summit at the White House? Puh-leaze. EJ Graf doesn't have much credibility, since if you scratch her surface, her biases shine through.

malinda said...

Sheesh, I hope Anon 1 & 3 are not parenting children of color. . . .

Anonymous said...

I think for me I have become much more aware of the various overtones and tensions within the Asian community.

We have 3 children: Taiwanese, Japanese, Chinese.

Imagine our shock (and dismay) when attending a function at our oldest child's Chinese school to be confronted by an angry Chinese gentleman chastising us for bringing "our lesser" children to a Chinese event.

Since then, I have done more extensive research and the undertones/tensions, mutual stereotypes, etc. are not pretty.

I suppose some might say we should have known, or guessed...but we didn't. Or rather didn't expect discrimination against our Asian children from the Asian communities at large. And discrimation not due to their adoptive status, but by their country of origin.


Anonymous said...

Taiwan and Mainland China have had tension since about 1049. That tension is carried over into Asian communities here in the Sates.

And of course, Japan has been a source of hositility for China due to past transgressions (horrible ones at that.)

There are many layers to ethnicity.

Other countries do not have the U.S. ADHD especially when it comes to remembering the past (probably because we haven't been around too long and how we came on top after WWII).

Anonymous said...

OOps-- 1949...

Anonymous said...

Re: Gates . . . I don't know how you stage a confrontation when you return from a long trip and find your front door jammed.

Also, only white people and adopt-o-land use labels like "Asian community" to denote anyone who comes from Asia, ignoring the multiplicity of ethnicities and languages that make up the continent and acting like all Asians are the same and therefore ought not to have any prejudices.

Anon 3:59, the second Anon

Jessica said...

As the white adoptive mother to a boy and girl of color, born in Guatemala, I observe that discrimination exists in the US, in ways subtle and not-so-subtle, in many directions.

This is not unique to the United States. Like the poster who mentioned China, Taiwan, and Japan, I observe similar discrimination when we visit my children's country of origin, Guatemala, particularly against my daughter's family members, who, like my daughter, are dark-skinned indigenous K'iche Maya.

Everywhere, there are people who are going to judge others based on a thousand different superficial reasons, including skin color. At the same time, there are people who are going to judge others, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "on the content of their character."

As a parent, I try to prepare my children for either eventuality.

Anonymous said...

@ 2nd Anon:


Of course even in this contribution someone would find a reason to blame, be offended and lump adoptive families all in one category! Why am I not surprised?!

And we wonder why tensions exist among groups/ethnic and otherwise?

Simply because I didn't differientiate ad nauseum in a post, in an effort, I might add to condense and save space, doesn't mean I'm lumping all Asians into one subsect.

I parent 3 distinctly different and uniquely beautiful children ~ believe me when I say, I KNOW the difference.

But thank heavens I was so brief, as it gave you the chance to flame a bit!


@Jessica...beautifully stated!

1st Anon.

Anonymous said...

By claiming that only white people use the word "community" to denote certain groups of people is, well...

Pot. Meet kettle.

Anonymous said...

Methinks I detect an undertone of prejudice in your offensive hopes...just saying. You have no idea.

Anon 1

Anonymous said...

To the Anon (Anon 3:59) who blasted another for using the phrase, "Asian community". Are we also to talk about whites as German white, Italian white, Norwegian white, Polish white, Danish white...etc? Give me a freakin' break. Really???? Laughable. However, I do take offense to your use of Adopt-O-Land. Extremely prejudicial and offensive statement.

Anon who spoke of Gates trying to upset the apple cart. I completely agree. Immediately he was on the news. He is a professor of black culture and what better way to prove his own point that he lectures about, than to be obnoxious when the police arrived? Hmmmm....interesting.

Anon 1