by Anti-Racist Parent columnist, Amber
As a white woman, I was not raised to think about my race. I was supposed to be colorblind and not acknowledge that I noticed other people’s race. Growing up, it wasn’t hard to keep up that charade, because most people I came into contact with in my small town were white, mostly middle class, Midwestern Americans. Wonder Bread at its finest.
When I was growing up, it was impolite to talk about race and racism. When race was discussed among the white people I knew, we used codes. We lowered our voices. We talked about “those people,” “bad parts of town,” and “people who don’t speak English.” Even if we disapproved, we didn’t speak up when people made racist comments or jokes. We didn’t consider ourselves to be racist because we weren’t using slurs or directly hurting anyone.
When I left my small Midwestern town for a big university, I found myself among with people of color for the first time. Without meaning to, I managed to say some pretty hurtful and racist things to several classmates. Aware of my own ignorance, I also found myself avoiding people of color because I was afraid I would say something wrong. I simply didn’t know how to interact with people who were not white like me.
I struggle to find the words to describe how I felt then, because so much in my life has changed.
Now, I am married to an Asian American man. I am the mother of a mixed race (Asian and white) daughter. I will soon become the transracial adoptive parent of a child from China. Culture, race and racism are frequent topics of conversations in my world today.
For me, becoming anti-racist began before I met my husband or became a mother, but now the stakes are higher. Unlearning racism is the most important parenting work I do for my children and myself. It is a long process and I try work on it every day.
Racism is more than being actively hateful. Racism is passively allowing discrimination to happen, ignoring a racist joke or not speaking up when I should. Racism is ignoring the pain and experiences of people of color. Racism is pretending that race doesn’t matter.
It has been difficult for me to find other white people who are willing to talk honestly about the challenges of trying to unlearn racism. And when we do talk about it, it sometimes feels like we are trying to communicate in a foreign language. I have found that with practice, it gets easier.
It gets easier to acknowledge that I am the recipient of white privilege. It gets easier to admit that I notice race. It gets easier to look honestly at my thoughts (even the subconscious ones), identify racist tendencies and change my actions. It gets easier to speak up.
I am not an expert, an academic or much of an activist, but I am honored to be one voice here at Anti-Racist Parent. I believe that the more we talk about race and racism, the more power we have to fight it.
Amber is currently underpaid and overworked as the full-time parent to a three year-old daughter. Currently, she and her husband are in the process of adopting a child from China. Amber blogs about motherhood, adoption and life in her Midwestern multiracial family at American Family.