My motto for raising children is simple: Don’t raise assholes.
I guess you could say my parenting philosophy is, “raise child who are caring, race-conscious problem solvers who understand that inequality hurts us all and are willing to put their comfort aside to help others in the pursuit of actual liberty and justice for all.” But honestly that’s a mouthful and “don’t raise assholes” is catchier.
I’ve been doing a lot of unlearning/educating of my own over the past few years. I am of the colorblind generation. The problem with colorblindness? If you claim to not see race than you cannot see the problems that are caused by systemic racism and therefore cannot be a part of the solution. In some ways it’s more insidious than overt racism. It’s been a mindfuck to unlearn, but I’m working through it. I’m determined to pass on my newfound knowledge to my children and set them out on the right path.
That path, like my own, involves a lot of age-appropriate books on race. I’ve found there’s no better way to start conversations about the tough topics of racism, inequality, etc than through books. (Now I don’t want to be another white lady recommending a booklist, but I will do a follow-up blog if anyone is interested about tips for finding the best books that decenter whiteness and teach kids race-consciousness and a few recommendations. Let me know in the comments if you’re interested.)
One of the books I immediately picked up over the summer (and a friend ordered for me – clearly my people know me) was “Antiracist Baby” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi is one of my favorite authors, penning books like “How to Be an Antiracist” and “Stamped from the Beginning,” must-reads, in my opinion, for anyone’s reeducation on race. Having just had a baby in May, it seemed like the perfect book to include in his blossoming library, tucked in-between “Goodnight Moon” and “Make Way for Ducklings.” FF to Dec and that baby is now a sitting, rolling, slobbering 6-month-old who enjoys chewing on books just as much (ok probably more) than being read to. So I decide to read him “Antiracist Baby” and just he looked so cute holding the board book between his little sausage fingers, balancing it on his cannoli clodhoppers, that I couldn’t resist snapping a pic of the top of his head, burrowed in a good book. Opened up Twitter, captioned it – mindful to not include his name and made sure most of his face wasn’t visible – tagged the author and a favorite Professor of mine, pressed tweet and it was out to my 776 followers, most of whom would never see it.
“It would be really cool if the author saw and liked my tweet,” I thought to myself.
Spoiler: He did. Not only did he like it, he retweeted it along with this well-known Professor and podcast host.
And then the trolls came out.
When I say I opened my Twitter app to a shitstorm, that is an understatement. If you haven’t scrolled through tweets upon tweets of people calling you a child abuser, raising a man who will hate himself, saying how sorry they feel for your kid, going so far as to figure out the area of the country you live in and tweeting the number for Child Protective Services — well let me tell you, I hope you never do. I couldn’t believe the vitriol my tweet caused. My first reaction was to say, “Screw them. I won’t let them have the satisfaction of getting to me.” I knew the hate I was receiving was a fraction of what BIPOC experience everyday online. Would I be shying away from being a dependable ally by deleting it? Was it fragility I was displaying or protecting my child?
In the end, I decided to delete it. The retweets of a picture of my son with phrases like “abused child,” “save the children,” among others were too much. I’m responsible for my childrens digital footprint. My baby didn’t have a say when I snapped that pic. Even if I want to raise him as a race-conscious, empathetic human, was it fair of me to act as his voice? It’s made me think a lot about consent. Is there a difference between raising your children a certain way and sharing it online? Is it ok to share a picture of your child’s baptism, even if they grow up to reject the religion of their youth? Isn’t part of parenting making those decisions for them – within reason – lovingly molding and shaping them until they are able to make decisions for themselves? Is it fair to share a picture of your kids marching in a Pride Parade or in a political candidate’s merch? Does it matter if it’s a social issue vs. politics? Are you using them as a prop or are you simply raising them based on your beliefs? Does it vary depending on who sees it and their POV?
Clearly I don’t have answers. I do know I am going to be more intentional about what I post for public consumption. When you shake the hive of white supremacy, the hornets will come out. It’s one thing for them to come for me, an adult who has decided to take this stand, it’s another to go after a baby. An interesting thru-line in the negative tweets were those who equated antiracism to teaching hate, raising my son to hate his whiteness. Antiracism isn’t about hating white people; it’s realizing the unfair advantages that come from having white skin in a country founded on slavery. It’s realizing “white” shouldn’t be the default. It’s recognizing that while white people experience their own very real problems and setbacks, none of those are related to the color of their skin. It also says a lot about how they view marginalized people and the idea that if we uplift one group we must diminish and demoralize the other. There’s a real fear of getting a “taste of their own medicine” if the status quo changes. Getting “less than their fair share of the pie,” but equality isn’t a dessert, although it should be enjoyed by all.
Here’s the bottom line: I’ll never stop talking to my kids about race because I know it’s a conversation I could easily ignore and that is a privilege. Some children don’t get to avoid “the race talk.” For them, it’s not just an educational opportunity, it’s a matter of survival. If the worst that happens from discussing race with my children is some hate from Twitter trolls, I’ll be alright.
I’m going to keep raising my children in the way I feel is right. I’m going to continue to be an ally who stands for justice for Black & Brown lives. Fighting strangers on the internet with bad faith arguments will not accomplish that. I want to be a social justice warrior, not a keyboard warrior.
Reminder: Don’t raise assholes.