by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Tereza Topferova
I am a white parent of a white toddler in the whitest major city in the U.S. Carmen’s work has inspired me to commit to putting anti-racist education and parenting at the center of my life. I am honored to have been asked to write about my experiences here on Anti-Racist Parent.
Growing up in the Czech Republic, where whites make up about 97% of the population, I was sheltered from the concepts of race and racial diversity. Under communism, I was also almost entirely sheltered from consumerism as well as American media, though, of course exposed to a different kind of propaganda. My family, critical of the system, taught me to question the messages to which I’m exposed. I lived for fourteen years in a largely homogeneous society, which I now recognize to be permeated with deep-seated racism.
As a child, I didn’t think about race. It was when my family immigrated to the U.S. and I began attending high school, where I was one of approximately five white students, that race became one of the central issues of my life. Throughout high school, my best friend was a black girl from Ethiopia. She and I talked and joked freely about race and race relations. This was my first opportunity to reflect with another person on the questions of race. I have continued since to learn about race and racism in high school, college, and beyond from peers, authors, teachers, and others. It’s interesting to note that during the first stage of my immersion into a multicultural society, I was extremely ignorant and naive, but I did feel completely free to pursue friendships with just about anyone and say whatever was on my mind. This, of course, wasn’t always a good thing. The more blunders I made and the more I learned, the more reserved and fearful I became of attempting to bridge the racial divides, which I quickly internalized.
I have lived in the U.S. for nearly two decades, but it has taken me this long to finally begin to be able to put my finger on some of the things I have experienced and observed here. The new phase of my life, as I see it now, is about continuing to learn (and unlearn much of what I’ve internalized), but also about talking about this process, taking a stance, and following through with action. Though I may have once been a stranger in this land, this is my home now. And I do come from Europe, the cradle of white supremacy. And because I am beginning to see clearly how racism plays out, it is my responsibility to work towards racial justice. I vow to continue doing internal work, an essential step towards becoming an anti-racist parent, and to couple this with action in a more public sphere. I look forward to dialoging with others on issues of anti-racist parenting. Thanks for having me!
Tereza Topferova is a teacher, who has worked with both youth and adults, teaching English, Czech, speech, journalism, creative writing, workplace communication, and vocational education. She grew up in the Czech Republic and immigrated to the U.S. at age fourteen. She is a mother of a toddler and blogs at White Anti-Racist Parent.