When I was asked if I would like to contribute to a ‘Mothers of Color’ blog my first reaction was “Is it right for me to participate?” Darcel, the blog owner, felt it was appropriate for my white-skinned self to be a contributor but still I took some time to check myself. I do this often when it comes to anything related to being a ‘woman of color’. As an American born and raised Puerto Rican woman who is white-skinned I often benefit from what some refer to as ‘passing for white privilege’.
The privileges afforded to me for being someone who often has “passed for white” for having white skin preclude me from feeling like I have a stake in most of the experiences shared by women of color (WOC) in America. As a child growing up and now as a mother I find that while often times I feel I do relate to the experiences of other WOC overall? It just is not the same.
I did not have to face being stalked in my neighborhood in the Bronx by the cops for just being out and about. I was not followed through the department stores. I was not stopped for truancy as often and never faced the frequency of stop and frisks that my siblings and darker friends faced every single day. Never mind that in comparison to my peers I was the one up to no good more often than not. Even though my name is Spanish I never had people ask me if I spoke English at a job interview. I was never asked to prove I was born here in the US. Unlike my younger sister and brothers my parents rarely felt the need to give me the same safety tips they gave my siblings for just walking to the bodega or ride the train into Manhattan. I could walk freely from harassment—simply because of my white skin.
I do consider myself part of the Latina/Hispanic community and have experienced both the undercurrent and blatant racism in our society firsthand but I know that at the end of the day my own experiences pale in comparison to those of my peers. So why even bother being a part of this blog magazine?
All I had to do was take a look at my kids. My children are a mix of ethnicities and races. Their sampling of genes have made all three of them vastly different in appearance. One is like myself—white bordering on golden in the summer, dark eyes, dark curly hair. My second born is white skinned with light eyes and golden blonde hair. My youngest born takes after my mom’s side of the family. Every day he looks more and more like my brother E with his darkening tan skin.
Already my children have experienced what it means to be part of a family of color/diversity in the US. Unfortunately those experiences have not been positive. My daughter has faced being called a dirty beaner and other not so nice words. Has had students ask her and heard adults ask me if my youngest has a ‘Mexican father’ with a smirk and chuckle. Our middle child is often referred to as our ‘Aryan boy’ as if somehow relating our child to the KKK is supposed to be funny—completely ignoring my children’s Jewish ancestry and precluding him of his Latino background.
We are not colorblind and we are not raising our children in a make believe post-racial society. I can’t afford to raise my children in that world, not when the world will surely see some of them as less than human due to simply the color of their skin—even if I do pass for white and benefit from white privilege. We need to talk about it. There are many kinds of bias based privileges in this world and we cannot just simply hope that if we ignore they exist they will go away. Or that it’ll all eventually even out if we just ignore race.
Inequality, racism and bigotry continue to exist and never has that been more apparent to me than with the wrap up of the George Zimmerman trial of the murder of Trayvon Martin today. The jury will weigh the facts about the murder of a young innocent black boy, murdered for simply walking home from the store. Mothers, like myself—like my own mother, will still feel the need to give our sons of color ‘safety tips’ for walking around their own neighborhoods. If we don’t share our experiences and talk about these lives we lead and those of our children how will they ever be progress and change?
As mothers, how do we raise our children in a world that is stacked up against them before they are born? How do you as a mother see privilege and bias and explain it to your children?
Post by Sol