What mothers can do… Take 2

When I wrote on this topic last week, I was labouring under a weight of confusion, sloppy thinking, white liberal training – I was floundering around, knowing that I was missing something, that I was reaching for something – but not knowing what. So I have done a bit of thinking since then, I have heard what others have got to say (thanks, especially, to Dark Daughta and Amy) and, anyway, here is Take2…

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What can white mothers do to raise their children as antiracist?

The first thing that we must do is to remember the goal – we are not trying to bring up our children as “not racist” but as “antiracist”.

Just to be clear: someone who is “not racist” does not support (overt) racism; while someone who is “antiracist” opposes racism.

To put it another way, if you see racism as an institution*, call it white supremacy, then you can view someone who is merely “not racist” as someone who tries to do the impossible, to stand outside the system, ignoring racism in the vague hope that it will slink quietly away; whereas an “antiracist” is someone who will actively stand up against the system, draw attention to it, oppose it, and try to make it go away. Colourblindness is an attempt to stand passively outside the system. It will not work.

[* In the way that we see patriarchy as an institution – and see this post by secondwaver.]

So that brings us to the question – what can we do?

We want to raise our children so that they have the will, the vision and the tools to fight white supremacy. And they have to see it first.

We must explain it to them. We must tell them the story of the world – how white people enslaved, trafficked, exploited and abused black people, why they did it, and how they persuaded themselves that this was just. We must tell them how those systems of oppression and justification have been refined and perpetuated right down to right now. We must help them to see what, and why, and how. We must explain it so that they understand.

Once they see it, their natural empathy and keen sense of justice will do the rest.

To keep that empathy, that insistence on justice, good and sharp we must also be on the lookout for othering behaviour or attitudes.

Proactively, we can head off othering by giving our children real and positive understanding and experience: by telling them stories from other cultures, by having them play within mixed groups, by excluding white supremacist books and toys from our homes. Reactively, we can address othering where we find it, by quickly engaging our children’s sense of empathy/fairness whenever we come across prejudice or discrimination, by pointing out what has happened.

But mostly, we must talk.

We must talk and talk and explain and discuss. We must show them what white supremacy is and how it works. It’s hard to know how to do this with a child, especially with a young child, especially if we ourselves feel that we are on uncertain ground. We must learn. Keep doing it, and eventually it will start to make sense.

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One Response

  1. Yes. This is so good. This is why this blog is here.

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