“Racism is Like Air” - Children and Parenting Edition
A non-exhaustive list of where privileging whiteness shows up
“Racism. It's always there... Like air.”
This statement from Yinka Ewuola jumped out at me on LinkedIn recently.
I often use Guante’s assertion that “racism is the water, not the shark” but Yinka’s statement reminded me of the taken-for-grantedness of racism and that white supremacy is a fact of life for Black and Global Majority people especially, but certainly not exclusively, in white majority spaces. And I’d like to add a reminder here that anywhere that’s been colonized by a European country likely has to unlearn the pervasive pernicious privileging of whiteness - I know that’s true in Barbados, where it remains a work in progress with multiple missteps.
So then I started thinking about all the ways in which Yinka’s statement is true. Since her post was specifically related to parenting, these are the experiences I can think of right now related to that. I’m sure there have been others, though as Yinka points out, most people who look like me can’t interrogate every single instance, or we’d never get anything else done:
Not seeing myself reflected in any of the literature related to pregnancy, whether medical or otherwise. (That’s just one reason why I appreciate Chidiebere Ibe’s work in this area.)
Having my pain dismissed during pregnancy, posing the very real risk that I could have ended up unable to walk (thankfully, a Jamaican midwife got on the case).
Experiencing an unusual level of scrutiny from our health visitor, as though she doubted my ability to care for my child.
Being mistaken for the nanny of my biracial child, because how else could white people explain the difference in our skin shade, hmm?
Having to rescue my child from the wrath of a white mother for doing the same thing any white toddler would do - and seeing that same behavior ignored or indulged in white toddlers.
Seeing the double take or hesitation the first time I walked into a playgroup with my biracial child.
Being mistaken for the shop assistant in the toy department even when my child was with me.
Then there’s the stuff that happens in the media and out in the world:
The ads on TV that show mostly white dolls, making them objects of desire for Black kids. (This has improved a bit, I’ll admit.)
The kids’ TV programs with minimal representation of Black kids, or where the representation of Black kids falls into well worn stereotypes. (No, they don’t all need to be comic figures.)
The other media coverage supporting the stereotypes of Black people as criminal, or just wrong, somehow.
The adultification of kids, especially when it comes to perceiving their behavior as aggressive or potentially criminal.
The fact that a Black kid’s boisterousness is seen as aggressive when it would be “high spirited” in a white kid.
The hair discrimination…
The expectations of underachievement for Black kids, and the different educational experiences they have in white majority spaces. That, at least, is different for many in Barbados and the Caribbean.
The erasure of Black history and Black stories in the education system and elsewhere.
The fact that there are white kids who can flout the school rules with impunity while the Black kids can’t.
The knowledge that there are areas and experiences closed to you because of the color of your skin.
As you can see, there are a LOT of places racism shows up when it comes to parenting, and these are only the examples I came up with off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many more, so if you think of any I’ve missed, feel free to add them in the comments. If I get enough, I may do an update.
I’m also considering doing another version of this as part of my occasional “working while Black” series, so add your examples from the world of work, too, if you’d like me to include them.
Would-be allies, how are you ensuring that the Global Majority kids in your area are getting treated fairly and equitably? As anti-racists, this is another area where you can show some leadership.
Thanks for reading,
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© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.
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