by ARP Columnist, Jason Sperber
Where I’m Coming From
What does it mean to be an anti-racist parent? Thinking about this question makes me flash back to the diversity trainings I was involved with during college, both as a participant and a facilitator. One of the recurring exercises we did was sort of a personal history inventory, a way to figure out what background and experiences we had with any given topic. It was called “Who am I, and what do I bring?” and by way of introduction and welcome to this new venture, permit me to try to answer that first question by answering these other two.
Who am I, and what do I bring?
• I am the only son of two public high school teachers, one a Japanese American woman born in a concentration camp, one a white man with three immigrant Jewish grandparents.
• I am a native Angeleno, born and raised in mid-city Los Angeles and a “product,” as they say, of its “majority minority” public schools, but I have spent a third of my life, and three-quarters of my adult life, away from that city.
• I met the woman who would become my wife at a pre-orientation program for incoming students of color at our college, where we attended workshops on how all oppressions were connected and that, in order to fight one, we had to fight them all.
• I majored in ethnic studies and later studied education with a social justice focus because I couldn’t separate the personal, the political, and the academic—and the lessons of multiracial situational identities and multiple positionalities told me that I didn’t have to.
• I taught social studies in a school like those I had attended because I wanted my students to ask the tough questions: Who decides what we learn, and why? What’s missing, and why? And how do we put back the voices, like our own, that have been kept out?
• I am able to be a stay-at-home-dad because my wife’s occupation affords me the privilege to be one, and I know that it has been a privilege, and an amazing experience, to watch our daughter grow and learn and discover in these formative early years.
• I blog about the intersection of race, culture, parenting and fatherhood because these issues are who I am, because of the community the internet can bring together, and, to paraphrase something one of our Rice Daddies readers said, because racism, equity, and social justice are parenting issues.
I am a parent of color of a child of color in a society, nation and world still grappling with issues of power, history, and difference. No matter how much we’d like to, my wife and I know that, for our daughter’s future and our society’s, we cannot pretend that racism is dead or that race doesn’t matter any more, or that simple color-blindness or “we’re all just human”ism are viable solutions to entrenched, systemic and institutionalized problems.
Parenting is a political act. In my education classes, we used to talk, somewhat naively, about “teaching for social justice” and “teaching to change the world.” This, then, is about parenting for social justice, and parenting to change the world. On Anti-Racist Parent, I’ll be looking at these issues on the ground, as a parent in the real world, and in the broader context of what’s going on in our country and world today. I thank Jen and Carmen for the opportunity to be here, and I look forward to dialoguing with you.
Jason Sperber is a former stay-at-home-dad of a 2-year-old daughter (“The Pumpkin”) and the husband of a family physician (“la dra.”) living in California’s Central Valley. He is currently a writer/blogger/online community manager. A former high school social studies teacher, he has a background in ethnic studies and education for social justice. He writes the blog daddy in a strange land and coordinates Rice Daddies, the group blog by Asian American dads. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.