Wednesday, November 15, 2017

To my future (privileged, white) child

I'm thinking a lot about what it will be like to raise my soon-to-be-baby in our (Western, contemporary) culture. As you may know, VOMD and I are expecting our first child in Early to Mid December. On top of the regular What to Expect type material, I have been reading a lot of books and articles about raising a critical, socially conscious, and culturally sensitive kid.

Many of the articles I have read are written by well-meaning white moms who are concerned that their kid will grow up racist unless they have friends from different cultural backgrounds at an early age. These types of articles are usually tagged alongside feel-good stories about a little black girl and a little white girl who think that they are twins - we've all seen that story on our Facebook feeds, I'm certain. But, recently I read a book called Nurture Shock, which addresses much of the new research into child psychology and development, which addresses the fact that raising your child in a culturally, ethnically, or racially diverse environment does not diminish the extent to which they hold biases later in life. It turns out that children naturally 'sort' people based on characteristics like gender attributes, skin colour, hair colour and type, and attire. It is not enough to raise a child to be colour blind in a colourful world. We need to teach them about injustice, race, ethnicity, religious diversity, and privilege.

So, here are 5 things that I need my future, privileged, white child to know, and that I hope that VOMD and I can teach them.

  1. You are so lucky to have been born to middle-class, white, educated parents. We call this privilege, which essentially means that you are given opportunities that many people are not, simply on the basis of the colour of your skin. 
  2. When people say that you are privileged, they are not insulting you, or implying that you did not work hard for what you've had. They are simply asking you to recognize that because of the world in which we live, your skin colour makes your life a little easier than it is for many others who were not born white. 
  3. You may love the clothing and practices of another culture or religion, but that does not mean that you can simply take what you like from them in the name of fashion. A bindi is not just a pretty decoration for your forehead; sugar skull makeup is not appropriate for Halloween; moccasins, and native head dresses are not just fashion accessories; dread locks are not just a hair style. These things have meaning for the people from whose culture they derive. 
  4. If someone tells you that they are hurt by something you have said or done, you should not be defensive - but rather, try to  see where they are coming from, acknowledge what you have done, and offer a genuine apology. 
  5. PC culture is not a real thing. Yes, some people take things too far and insist that you never have an opinion for fear of hurting someone's feelings, but for the most part when people call 'PC' they are saying that they should be allowed to be racist, sexist, and bigoted without consequence or public censure. While free speech is certainly an important right in both Canada and the United States, it does have its limits - and one of those limits is that if it is insulting to an entire group of people (especially one who has historically been put down by mainstream, white, Euro-centric culture), or incites violence (physical or otherwise) against anyone on the basis of skin colour, cultural heritage, religion, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, then it is not acceptable.

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