by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Dawn Friedman
When I was pregnant with my son my husband and I had no idea if we were expecting a boy or a girl. Our doctor didn’t do routine ultrasounds and when my husband asked, “But then how will we know what we’re having?” She answered, “You’ll just have to wait until it’s born and then look between it’s little legs!”
As it turns out I was the one who got to announce we had a son. “It’s a boy!” I said when the doctor lifted him from my body. “It’s a Noah!” Them they whisked him away to the nursery and he came back a few hours later in the arms of his father.
I remember cradling him while my exhausted husband slept on the pull-out couch in the corner of my hospital room. I gazed lovingly into his perfect little scrunched up face and thought, “Oh my god – I had a white male!”
Crazy, right? But the ink on my Sociology degree was barely dry and I’d been working as the family program coordinator at a women’s shelter where being anti-racist was part of the mission statement: “The YWCA will thrust its collective power toward the elimination of racism, wherever it exists, and by any means necessary.” I’d been lecturing on anti-racism, debating our policies with other feminists, and thinking hard about unearned white privilege.
What I know is this: my son, by virtue of the accident of his birth, is at the top of the privilege totem pole. Not that I think that any of us really get off easy in our patriarchal culture, (which is why this song moves me to tears) but I know that the stats are what they are: my son (and his father) are very much at an advantage. And if Noah turns out to be straight? Well, the world is his oyster!
My particular challenge in raising my son is giving him a sense of his unearned privilege without burying him in guilt. I sure don’t have all the answers; I’m figuring this out as I go. As a white, middleclass, straight woman I constantly struggle with my own knapsack but heck, as I learn for myself, I get to pass the lessons on to him. Around here we remember Spiderman’s mantra, “With great power comes great responsibility.” With our unearned privilege brings the responsibility of recognizing the injustice that puts white people (particularly white men) on top through no efforts of our own.
Being an anti-racist parent a struggle I don’t mind sharing with other people because I figure that ignorance is nothing to be ashamed of if we’re committed to its repair. Social constructs are complicated and it takes time to untangle them and make sense of them for ourselves.
Since adopting our daughter in a domestic, transracial/transcultural adoption two years ago, my job as an antiracist parent has become even more immediate. However my journey as began that frigid January morning when I cradled my son for the very first time.
To be a part of the antiracist parent blog is an honor. I look forward to learning from everyone the other columnists and those of you who take the time to comment. Thanks for having me!
Dawn Friedman is a writer and mother to two children. Her articles have appeared in Salon.com, Yoga Journal, Brain Child and the Greater Good and she is the op-ed editor at Literary Mama. She is also the founder of OpenAdoptionSupport.com and since the adoption of her daughter in 2004 has become passionate about the need for adoption reform. She blogs at this woman’s work.