Tag Archives: Race

You will never be him; please don’t be them

Dear Boychick,

Last week was your fifth birthday. We made carrot cake and sang you happy birthday just the once like you wanted and opened so many presents from family who love you fiercely despite being so far away. We bought you a bike and a raincoat and I cooked breakfast and lunch and dinner (and did I mention the cake?) just like you asked for and I marvelled at how very fast you are growing up.

There’s someone I’d like you to meet. I don’t know if you’d like him, or vice versa. He was born twelve years before you, which is too much of an age gap to be peers, but maybe he was the type to like kids. I don’t know, and we will never find out. I would like you to meet him, but you won’t, because eighteen days before your birthday, he was shot and killed by a man who looked at a black kid in a sweat shirt and saw a threat. He was killed by a man who is walking free still, nearly a month later — after your presents are losing their luster, after your bike is no longer quite so new — because of racist gun laws and racist police departments. He was killed by a man who mistook vigilantism for protection, violence for justice, and a kid walking with candy in his pocket for a no-good criminal.

Millions of parents across our country are holding their sons closer now, with this one thought echoing in their heads: that could have been my son.

You’ll forgive me I hope if I hold you tighter tonight, if I snuggle you just a little longer, kiss your hair just that bit stronger. But the thought in my head is: that will never be you.

You will never be seen as suspicious because of your skin color. You will never be coded as a violent criminal because of your race and your gender. You may one day know persecution, may one day be subject to epithets and violence simply walking down the street — you may be a fag or a tranny or a crip — but this, this will never be your fate.

But I am aware, I am so very, painfully aware that you might be on the other side of this. You might be the one wielding the gun1. You might be the one looking at the dead kid and seeing a corpse, a criminal, a cause for gunfire and “self-defense”. You might be the one letting the killer go without testing him for drugs or alcohol. You might be the one lobbying to pass laws that are disproportionately harmful to black and brown communities. You might be the one opining that it’s all so tragic but the kid did look like a thug after all and he shouldn’t have been out walking where he didn’t look like belonged.

When I hold you tight, I am thinking, praying, begging: don’t be them. Don’t be them, please, child, my beautiful boy: don’t be them. Don’t be the one that black mothers are afraid of tonight more than usual. Don’t be the one that lets this happen without trying to make it better. Don’t be the one that cracks a joke, that thinks of it as their problem, that doesn’t bother to care. Don’t. Be. Them.

You are, no matter how much I wish it otherwise or how much I work to prevent it, going to be infected by racism. It will — is, has already — pervert you, damage your ability to see others’ wholeness and humanity and (says your theist parent) holiness. You live in this society, in kyriarchy; it cannot not touch you and make you rougher.

But you don’t have to let it make you them. You don’t have to let it turn you into Trayvon’s murderer and his family’s misery. You have to not. You have to resist. You have to find a new way.

I’ll help you child, as much as I am able — how can I do else when there is a family without a son and without justice for their loss? — but as much as I want, I cannot shape you as I will, cannot fill your tabula with my anti-racist scripts (nor would I know the right things to write there, even if I could). I can only whisper in your hair, pray to whatever gods are there, write to a you I hope will be ready to listen: don’t be them. Don’t inflict this pain. Remember a boy you will never meet, and for him, for his family, for every family knowing it could be them: please, be better.

For Trayvon Martin. For so many others. Please.

Yours always,
Arwyn

  1. George Zimmerman — per Mother Jones — is Latino, but the point stands: white men might kill a black boy, but they will never be killed for being black.

More links? Yes, but this time with more Arwyn!

Been missing your semi-weekly dose of RMB? Wondering when the hell I’ll write again?1 Worry no longer, for here are TWO, TWO posts in one! You just have to click through to read ‘em. CLICK!

Firstly: Yours truly, for reasons incomprehensible to same, was asked to participate in a roundtable for Bitch Magazine, on race and racism in and around the mommy blogosphere. It appears in issue 52 (on newstands and in mailboxes sooooon!) — but is also available to you, Internet Denizen, right now. There are several amazing bloggers (plus me) who weighed in on some interesting questions, and it’s well worth a thorough read.

Renee Martin: I created my blog to keep a promise to my children that I would do my best to make the world a little better for them. Having said that, no matter how many times I declare that my blog is a mommy blog, it is steadfastly denied. I firmly believe that it is in part due to my race, and in part due to that fact that my idea of parenting is far more involved than writing about diapers, sleepless nights, and recipes. I believe that raising well-rounded children means dealing directly with any issue that they might potentially face—including but not limited to race, gender, sexuality, ageism, disability, etc. The idea that mommy blogs should be safe, fluffy spaces is absurd, and comes directly from the fact that those assigned the label are white, middle class, cisgender, and largely straight.

Secondly: Emily Manuel, Taco Pusher Extraordinaire, put up some ramblings (me), rantings (us), and righteous points (her) over at Tiger Beatdown, on the problems with allowing kyriarchy to control the conversation around birth, pregnancy, contraception, transitioning, and tacos.2 This is where to click if you’ve missed my ALL CAPS ravings recently.

Arwyn: All around me I see people arguing positions I want to see succeed try to argue within the other side’s delusion, and it sends me around the bend. Why are we so damn bad at reclaiming the conversation? Why do we let right wingers be so damn GOOD at it?

Emily: I’ve been thinking about that for a long time and I’m still not sure I have the answer. I think that the Left is terrible at strategy and some of the reason is that we don’t attack ourselves.

When the last anti-abortion bill was defeated here in La the group fighting it were like, ok time for a rest. And I was like NO, time to attack! Time to think about ways to create systemic change, to aim to achieve something rather than prevent (so what do we want? state-sponsored contraception, or more funding for PP, or something - and preferably something really big). Stop playing defense. And they were like wow, we never thought of that.

At worst you take away the energy of the Right, at best you succeed – it’s win/win. There’s very [few] people on the Left that do this consistently… whereas I think the Right does this constantly, they launch a million bloody REALLY AMBITIOUS bills and sooner or later some of them hit the target.

Coming soon — more belly pics, now with added henna! Pretty words on the false dichotomy of “body” and “mind”! And, if I can convince her to grant permission, further Arwyn/Emily ramblings, this time on Ecclescock3 and the construction and ramifications of oppositional sex!

  1. You and me both.
  2. Pull quote centers around left/right politics, but post contains more on birth, bodily autonomy, and the need for a new conversation around pregnancy.
  3. LINK NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Unless you work at a pr0n shop. Or Highly Cultural Nudity-As-Art Venue. Or home. Or with a boss who really, really likes Christopher Eccleston. Lucky you.

I’m alive! To prove it, have some links!

So I’m sort of, y’know, done? With this whole parenting-pregnancy-housebuying-blogging-daily-living thing? And my need for, and frequent inability to achieve, sleep has pretty much taken over my life? And yet, annoyingly, the world continues.

Fortunately, other writers have continued to, unlike me, write:

Both Salon and bluemilk have tackled the bruhaha around Madison Young (activist, artist, sex worker) and her Becoming MILF exhibit.

Salon:

The emotional response to her public breast-feeding conveys the Madonna/whore dichotomy better than Young could ever hope to do with her kitschy quilt and breast milkshakes. The idea that there is something inherently prurient about a porn star breast-feeding plays right into that classic either-or thinking: Her breasts are erotic in one venue, so they can’t be wholesome in another.

bluemilk (if you only read one of these articles, make it this one):

There is something else worth considering about Furry Girl’s criticisms of Young, and that is the way in which she can’t distinguish between mothers and mothering. Yes, Young’s daughter can’t give permission for being included in her mother’s artwork, neither can mine give permission for my writing. But who owns Young’s experience of motherhood? Who owns mine? Where do Young’s and my experiences of early motherhood and our desire to explore these all-consuming aspects of our lives end, and our children’s ownership of them begin? Can Young, who describes her devotion to her baby daughter so lovingly, not be trusted to know? Does being sexual as women (or even sexually objectified unintentionally) spill dangerously over into our responsibilities as mothers? Does it prevent us from good mothering?

These are particularly poignant questions for me, given the reactions to my recent public discussion of sex.

Also on the topic of breastfeeding, Scientific American reports that Breastfeeding Reduces Risk of Hard-to-Treat Breast Cancer among African-American Women:

The researchers analyzed data from the Black Women’s Health Study, which has collected health information from some 59,000 women for the past 16 years, focusing on 318 cases of ER-/PR- breast cancer and 457 cases of estrogen receptor- and progesterone receptor-positive (ER+/PR+) cancer. Palmer and her team found that black women with breast cancer who had two or more children and didn’t breastfeed them were 50 percent more likely to have the ER-/PR- form of breast cancer than those who had two children and breastfed them.

And a note on language: in hypothesizing some other potential explanations for the difference, the post declares African-descended women have “tougher immune systems to cope with endemic diseases of sub-Saharan Africa” (emphasis added). While at first glance, this might appear a benign phrasing, it seems to me another instance of the animalization of Black peoples; other, just-as-accurate ways of phrasing the same concept might include “more advanced”, “highly evolved”1, “smarter”, etc. But these would require different cultural conceptualizations of race.2

And I feel like I owe you so much more in the way of linkage (and to be sure, there have been some amazing posts I’ve encountered in the blogosphere recently, and please feel free to leave more, your own or others, in the comments), but, well, see aforementioned done-ness.

PS No one say this doneness is a sign of immanent birth. It’s not allowed to be. We’re still weeks away from closing on the house, so if you’re going to send vibes, send stay-in-and-healthy vibes, please. One of the few things worse than dealing with another few weeks of this would be The Man using up all his vacation time babymooning — and then still have to move. With a newborn. So, just, no.3

ETA OMG PONY DOCTOR WHO!

This is only quite possibly the best thing in the history of everything. Because pony Doctor. And bad French. You’re welcome.

  1. OK, technically we’re all equally evolved, because we’ve all been on the planet equally long, and therefore have evolved the same amount, if in very, very subtly different ways.
  2. I also have questions about the accuracy of generalizations that characterize sub-Saharan Africa as more disease-ridden, and inherently and long-term so, than other places, but am not knowledgeable enough about evolutionary epidemiology to make any challenges to this assertion.
  3. We’d survive, obviously; I’d manage somehow. I just don’t want to, ta.

For your edification and edjumacation

Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiinks!1

In case yesterday’s overextended metaphor wasn’t enough for you, check out this piece on the dog and the gecko, an amazing metaphor for privilege. If you haven’t figured out what I mean by “privilege” yet, read this.

And then there’re dogs and smurfs: why women writers and stories about women are taken less seriously (don’t worry, it’s not a metaphor — or rather, interrogates a trope we take as metaphor).

If you’ve ever asked yourself “Why does she stay with that jerk?” here are twenty answers. None of them is “she’s stupid” or “she deserves it”.

Filed under further rhetorical questions, would B. Manning be treated the same if out as a trans woman? As Emily says, not bloody likely.

Of course, being trans doesn’t mean Manning is, therefore, a woman — and being nonbinary doesn’t mean one is genderfluid, either.

Elizabeth of Spilt Milk is blogging at Feministe, and I couldn’t be happier. Check out especially Feminist mothers (you, being here, don’t need to be exhorted to read women who are parents and writing about feminism, but DO check out the other recommendations at the end of her post) and In defense of children.

Further to meta discussions of feminists, read this long and wholly worthwhile piece on white privilege in feminist organizations, especially those seeking “diversity”.

Race and gender are hardly the only axes (for lack of a better term) of privilege/marginalization, as you can read about in The Mental Burden of a Lower-Class Background.

But speaking of race and gender, do yourself a favor and watch Random Black Girl. (Lyrics, and a bunch of blather, here.)

This is, though rather male-centric, more or less how my mind works regarding writing.

Finally, this post is being pre-written and scheduled, because by the time you read this, I will have seen the final Harry Potter film installment, with the awesome Amy of Anktangle. But oh, do I wish we could have seen Joanne Rowling’s Hermione Granger series instead…

  1. For I am the zombie of the blogosphere, and posts are your brains. Tasty, intelligent brains.

The Boychick’s Bookshelf: Will There Be a Lap for Me?

Welcome to The Boychick’s Bookshelf! In this series1, I review children’s books of interest to those who want to raise children free from and opposed to kyriarchy. These reviews focus on books which showcase stories and lives beyond the dominant culture of white straight middle-class families, or which contain explicitly anti-kyriarchy messages (anti-racism, anti-ableism, anti-sexism, anti-heterosexism, anti-cissexism, anti-violence, anti-colonialization, and so on).

Will There Be a Lap for Me?

The Story

Young kid Kyle loves sitting on his mother’s lap — but the lap is vanishing as his mom’s pregnancy progresses. The other laps available to him aren’t the same, snuggling next to his mom isn’t the same, and he’s afraid he’s not going to get his special place back. And then the baby arrives, and his mom is always busy with his new little brother. While it’s nice to stroke the baby’s soft skin while he’s nursing, it’s not the same. At the end, though, Kyle gets to reconnect with his mom and sit in her lap while the baby’s sleeping.

Intended Audience

Obviously aimed at older siblings as a new-baby preparation book, Will There Be a Lap for Me? also has an implied middle-class and USian and explicitly heteronormative audience, with a presumed stay-at-home mom (there are only two mentions of Kyle’s father: when listing the other laps that aren’t as good as his mother’s and when coming home with the new baby, whereas the mother is seen repeatedly doing shopping and parenting). Unlike most sibling-prep books, the family is Black, and they use public transportation and apparently-cloth diapers, and the mother is seen breastfeeding.

Reader age recommendations online range from infant-preschool to preschool-Grade 2. The text is simple, with only a few lines on each page, so it would likely be good for a child as young as two, and is just right for the Boychick (four years old), but more than a couple years older than that and they’d likely find it too baby-ish and simple.

Changes in the telling

Although ideally for our family and the Boychick the birth would take place at home, rather than at some unspecified “away” place, the only change I make in the reading of Will There Be a Lap for Me? is the line about the father’s lap. It’s written as “Daddy’s lap was too hard and bumpy”, and leads the section on all the other laps (daddy’s, grandma’s, and the babysitter’s) that aren’t adequate substitutes for mommy’s lap. Because we both don’t want to devalue fathers and fathering and want to honor the kid’s desire for his mother’s lap, I change this to “Daddy’s lap just isn’t the same.”

Right on!

I was thrilled to find this book when browsing the used bookshelves, because it’s hard enough to find a sibling-prep book that either doesn’t put me off with use of bottles or with misogynistic portrayals or that features nonwhite families — to find one that managed both was like hitting the jackpot. Written in 1992, some of the illustrations are dated (the father’s mustache cracks me up, for instance), but the portrayals of breastfeeding, babywearing (an apparently-white dad at the grocery store), and a teenage male babysitter far outweigh the clothing styles the Boychick is too young to know are passé.

But does it appeal? The Boychick’s take

Although the Boychick isn’t wanting to be read to as much these days, he’s allllll about the new baby, and so this book regularly falls in his top ten or so. He has no problems identifying with the nonwhite family, and loves to comment on the baby breastfeeding or getting his diaper changed. If anything, I think he’d like it more if it had more of the baby in it, but he’s still a fan nevertheless.

Buy it, Consider it, Skip it, or Compost it?

If you’re pregnant with a new baby in a heteronormative family, especially if you’re planning to breastfeed and have an assigned-boy child already, strongly consider it. Although I wouldn’t use it as the only sibling-prep text, it’s a valuable addition to any collection to acclimate a young kid to a new baby in the house and the changing relationship with hir mother.

Purchase at Powell’s Books or Amazon.com.

Your Take

Have you read Will There Be a Lap for Me? What do you think, and what do your kids think? Are there sibling preparation books, especially featuring non-white families, that you prefer? Do you have any questions after reading this review?

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Purchases made through the Powell’s and Amazon links offered here support this blog and compensate — quite minimally — my time and work as a blogger. I encourage you to support local, independent booksellers whenever possible, but if you’re to order online anyway, why not support an independent blogger?

  1. However intermittent or infrequent…