Reflections on White Privilege While Raising a Child of Color: I Am Not Trayvon Martin's Mom
I remember the very first time that I felt the complete and utter helplessness of motherhood, the ability for the flipside of all that love to bubble up as terror at the thought of what you cannot control. My daughter was two days old, and we were checking into a hospital because she had elevated bilirubin levels and needed some time on the UV lights. I hadn't slept for more than thirty minutes for over 70 hours, and I had just given birth. When the nurse told us we were being admitted, I burst into tears. All I could think about was how much I wanted the tiny baby I was clutching to my chest back inside of me where she was safe. It was a children's hospital, and I watched the helicopter touch down on the landing pad outside our room. It was carrying some other parents' nightmare, and I realized just how scary and immensely huge the world had suddenly become.
Elizabeth Stone once said “Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
But that doesn't quite capture it, not really. See, if my daughter needed new lungs, I would want to rip mine from my chest and give them to her. Of course I believe that I am an autonomous person who has an important identity outside of motherhood, but--at the end of the day, when the chips are on the table--I would die for my daughter. Being a parent is raw and all-consuming. It makes the simple joy of watching bubbles pop in the front yard into a profound act of spirituality, but it also makes every revving engine and nearby pond into an ominous threat.
What does this have to do with being the white mother of a child of color? Well, that's what I hope writing this post will help me figure out.
I've turned to the public forum of blogging in the past when I've had something to unpack that has been difficult for me. That's what I'm doing here, and I hope that I can do it with grace and finesse, but I think I'm on a particularly precarious tightrope, dangling at the intersection of parenting and race.
- Nadirah Angail wrote at My Brown Baby about the fear she felt when she found out the child she's now carrying is a boy:
I’m having a little brown boy, a member of the most targeted and feared demographic group in the country. That’s when the fear and worry set in.
- Melissa Harris-Perry talked about the relief she felt over having a daughter and how messed up it is to live in a country that makes her wish her sons away.
- MSNBC ran a post questioning what impact this would have on how black parents would talk to their children about safety:
Reid also remarked that while black families are accustomed to warning their children about being suspected by police, now the conversation will have to include civilians.
- This powerful quote from bell hooks started making the rounds on the internet:
Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You [white women] fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs on the reasons they are dying.
Balancing Jane: PhD student. Educator. Mother. Wife. Feminist. A look at the intersections.
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