Wednesday, May 27, 2009

go to amber-alert when a male person of color is near her toddler

This is a guest post by swpd reader Chris Diaz.

I'm a fairly large (5' 11", 230, broad chest and shoulders) Mexican-American male. I dress in a "bland" style (shorts, t-shirt) way. Not that it should matter, but I don't have any tattoos, piercings, etc.

I know mothers are ever-protective of their children (as they should be). However, it has been my experience that some white moms' protective measures go from prudent to paranoid when I, or another man of color, am near their toddlers in a public space.

I realize the myriad of doubts that may arise in response to this post. People may wonder, "Are you sure you're not the one being paranoid?" or "What are the circumstances?", and so on. Certainly, where one lives and the local culture play roles in how cross-racial interactions play out. The purpose of this post is to draw attention to a disturbing phenomenon unique to men of color in America.

I am not questioning the effectiveness of white mothers' protective behaviors toward perceived threats to their children. I am instead saying that, for some white mothers, their distorted perceptions mean that the skin color of a man is either 1) a threat in and of itself or 2) lowers the bar for what constitutes a threat. I am stating that, all else being equal, their internal "alert systems" have a much lower threshold when the man near their toddlers is a person of color. I am saying that their that their "alert" systems are set off by irrational fears arising from stereotyping and ignorance.

This is a phenomenon that I have been forced to notice over the years; it's impossible not to. I didn't go looking for it; it came looking for me. To ensure the validity of my perception, I have bothered to observe the phenomenon from a distance, involving other men of color. Roughly 1/2 of the time, the phenomenon replicated itself. I have also spoken with other men of color who have affirmed my perception.

So, what does this situation look like in real-life? I'll give two quick, fairly common examples from my own life.

My doctor works in a family clinic in a hospital. There is a long sidewalk that leads to the entrance. So, say I'm leaving an appointment heading down the sidewalk back to my car. If I take the time to observe, I can often see, in the distance, a white mother walking along, looking comfortable, with her toddler jumping around happily on the sidewalk in front of her. I can watch white men pass by, and mom usually doesn't take notice in any explicit way. Then, I can observe, say, an African-American man approach the mom and toddler on the sidewalk. I can't hear the words, but I can see the mom mouth something to the child, then the child comes back to the immediate space of the mother, and the mother may then grasp the child's hand. For me, personally, the mothers in question may, as soon as they notice me, say something like, "Katie, get over here," in a fairly anxious and stern voice. The child then comes close and mommy grabs her hand, and maybe mom then averts her eyes.

In a store or waiting room, toddlers naturally get bored and exercise their curiosity about the world. So, the situation might be something like what follows. Maybe I'm at, say, JC Penny. I'm walking up to a department, say, housewares. I see a little toddler running around, talking to strangers who, understandably, find the cuteness to be uplifting. Mom is shopping, keeping an eye out, but certainly not worried looking. White adult men in the vicinity smile at the toddler when she/he runs by or says something to them. It is just a low-key casual interaction; the overall feeling is tender-hearted, with cautious optimism from mom.

So, anyway, I can be looking at, say, toasters, and not paying attention at all. Then, here comes, say, the little male toddler in this case, running by saying "hi!" or some other funny thing that makes adults smile. A significant amount of the time, white mom will IMMEDIATELY be like, "Mikey, come over to mommy," and repeat herself quickly and repeatedly until Mikey obeys.

So, white folks, take from this what you will. Again, I realize that location, time of day, attire, etc. all play a part. But, again, I am not questioning the actual protective behaviors white mothers' employ when they sense a threat. I am saying that, for some of them, the color of a man's skin is part or all of the perception of threat, regardless of other considerations.

If there are any men of color who have an opinion to add, I'd like to hear what you have to say.


  1. here comes, say, the little male toddler in this case, running by saying "hi!" or some other funny thing that makes adults smile.I'd just smiled.

    It's ironic that crimes against any ethnic group of people are almost mostly committed by others of the same ethnicity. Where people got the idea of "scary male poc" is baffling and makes no logical sense.

  2. I would like to add that by being a Woman of Color - I'm automatically a child carer whether I asked for it or not :P

  3. I hear you on that, gooblyglob. It's annoying.

  4. Good post, Chris. It's not even as if you can call someone out for their behavior, because they will either deny it or perceive your approach as a threat. What do you do in that situation?

    As gooblyglob said, it's the opposite for WOC. It's automatically assumed that we are there to be child care givers.
    I was once helping a couple renovate their house along with some other people (mostly white men) and somehow, I got relegated to the role of childcare...

    Also, the scary male poc stereotype is illogical, but I'm gonna have to blame that one on the media. I mean, the violent crimes committed by non-white men on white victims is disproportionately reported and people don't like to research.

  5. I knew a Saudi man in college. He lived in graduate student housing at the University with his wife and toddler. One day he picked up his kid from the jungle gym at the compound. Another kid held his arms out as if to say "help me get off this jungle gym too." The Saudi guy picked up the other kid, chatted with him a bit and put him down. The panicked mom called 911. Two squad cars came out to question my friend. This was pre 911 (80's) and my friend wore his full Saudi garb.

  6. Look at who kidnaps kids: mentally unstable white dudes. White men also blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma. They also caused the downfall of Enron and Tyco, yet--no racial profiling of white guys.

    I would also like to add that I love your use of the name Katie for the random white female toddler. Next time, might I suggest Megan?

    I have to say that I love all the Meg(h)ans and Katies I know, but they must acknowledge that their names have become very much played in recent years. As Walter Sobchek would say, "Am I wrong?"

  7. This is so true. I feel awkward just walking past a white family in public. That feeling that someone doesn't want me around their kids is even worse for me as a teacher.

  8. Obviously these mothers haven't read the stats on who's most likely to kidnap and rape their child. Obviously.

  9. I'm a new reader to this blog, and I love the premise of a white man who pays attention to race because it still matters, especially in America.
    I'm a black woman living in Holland, and I'm always cooing over babies and toddlers, black, white, or whatever. Over here, it's no problem. In fact, many a conversation with a (white) stranger has resulted from my proximity to their youngsters. I wouldn't dare approach a white child in America, even as a black woman. While not necessarily seen as a threat, I don't feel like I'm welcome to lay my hands on a white child. I also thought I was just paranoid, but after reading this post I know I'm not. Good post!

  10. All of my life I have been assumed to be MUCH younger than I am. Even now, some times I am confused with a high schooler.

    When I was 14, I walked to elementary school to pick up my nephew from after-school care. When I told the older white woman behind the desk who I was there for, she asked me if I was his mother.

    I stuttered through a very long "NOOOO!" It still makes me very angry.

    A friend of mine, has a brother who is 9 years younger than her (the same age difference between my nephew and I). She has recounted several instances where she received negative comments and dirty looks from strangers who assume she is his mother. They're appalled by it.

  11. @ Roxie

    my friend has a sister who is 12 years young than her, whenever they were in public people assumed it was her child

  12. Anonymous,

    What do I do? That's a good question. It's situational, really. It depends on the "feeling" in the situation, who's around, what the community is like, etc... I have never had one person admit to it, in fact, if I say something many actually have the nerve to act like THEY'RE the victim!!! When I do say something, it's usually a simple "I'm not a bad or evil person" or something like that as I pass by". I just try to plant a little seed so they have the opportunity to reflect later. It's really not the setting for intellectual discourse and it gives me a stomach-ache to hear the incredulous denial. You have made me think, though and I have an idea. Maybe I'll start carrying around little tabs of paper with the name of a good book or the web address to a site like this or something and simply hand it to them politely.


    That is an awful story. I think when these sort of baseless stereotyping alarm bells are rung, maybe a system concentrating on education could be employed with law enforcement. Simply handing the caller a pamphlet about different stereotypes would probably be useful.


    Lol. I actually had a better one but changed it for some reason during the grueling editing process Macon ya I originally used "Brittany".

    Kevin Lockett,

    It's so irritating how people can't put 2 and 2 together regarding the avoidance and/or difficulties people of color face in their professions. The closer the profession to someone's personal space concernig their children, secrets, or bodies, the worse it is. What comes to mind for me are careers in edcuation (especially early childhood), nursing, pastors, etc.. It's ridiculous, in your case I believe that white America always identifies you as a Black man, then considers whether you are a teacher, scientist, lawyer, etc...

  13. HELLO, WHITE PEOPLE!!! Where are you? If you can't face up to issues of race online with a generally friendly audience how can you expect to be a force for good in real life?

    If the things that effect us people of color affected you, silence would not be an option. Are you here to help us, yourselves, and our world or aren't you?

  14. We shrink from comments on race because in most cases if we try to be roud of our own backgrounds, we are called racists and anti semites. I deliver pizzas, I have a college degree. But Im white and outspoken. My family has been in this land since the English ran the joint. I would like to see a group that would look out for my interests, like when I was denied a job at the Post office(VietNam vet score88) Am I supposed to believe that every negro(oooh he said negro) scored higher? Some may have, and I support their right to be there over me with my last breath. But just as in the Ricci case. The even playing field that the so called "doctor" King spoke of is not the wish of the blacks or hispanix. They cant compete with us. In every case they score lower. Orientals score the highest. Maybe we should refraain from hiring them? Its not fair. Cultural bias. I would say that its biased against the orientals more than the blacks. They are jjust generally a lawless race. Poverty? I dont think so. There are poor whites in appalaicha that dont have crack gangs. I know blacks very well. Prejudice means you prejudge without good evidence. I served 4 yrs in the VA State Pen on a drug charge that was imposed just so that the town I lived in could show how diverse and fair they were. I never saw a black in there that had a lesser charge. I was their "great white dope". I have raised a son by myself, buried a wife and daughter. I am still here white and proud of my race. I would rather not associate with blacks when given a choice. If I took a test for a job and a black or green or purple beat me..then Id live with it. I wouldnt hope for some Supreme ct justice to justify the inequity. That woman is a racist. PERIOD. Rush is a moron. I served in the viet war as I said, but protested afterwards. Went to all ther marches. Thought the Chicago7 was wnnerful. That was until I saw that the altruism I had shown was not being returned, but turned ineward against me. You are wrong about someof us.Therest are cowards. Or maybe they just wanna keep their jobs. We do what we have to. Dont we all? Try not to be so judgemental. What are you darker races afraid of...getting beat in a fair fight? Probably. I have never been in any kind of fight with a black wehn I wasnt outnumbered. They do it in every pahase of their lives. They are still basically stone age peoples in a society they cant compete in fairly. I mean reallly..They didnt even have the wheel.

  15. My blackfriend...dont forget most of these serial killers and child molesters are Jewish. Jews choose to be a dif race. ie see interview Mike Wallace and Morgan Freeman>Wallace stated in no uncertain terms.."Im Jewish" The Jews have a preponderance of the positions in the "neu Amerika".Many have dual citizenships. The fall of Anglo saxon man would be viewed as a victory to them. You sure sound jealous.Yes I like being white. I would hate to be black. The Pakistan thing. Is very sad. I have complete empathy for these noble peoples. I support the Arab causes. They have been much maligned unfairly. If anyone is persecuted in America it is Arabic peoples.

  16. White woman checking in to confirm, in the most embarrassing way possible, that you are 100% correct and that it is a stunningly insulting and publicly condoned form of aversive racism when white mothers do this.

    I am not a mother, but replace 'child' with 'purse' and we could play a solid round of Bingo using all thirteen years of my school experience until I went to university and actually reacted appropriately to the literature I was being given on racism in my Canadian Studies and history classes.

    It's really fucked up. I don't know how to explain it. I do know that self-awareness- REAL self-awareness, in the sense of starting to question one's own motives for dealing with POC in certain ways- has changed it.

    p.s. I have no idea how I got here, it's been a Blog Rabbit Hole kind of day, but I'll sign this cadetsandkings because I feel like a creepy spy if I don't connect my online identities.

  17. This is an interesting subject for me because somewhere along the way how I interact with people with children has changed over the years. I don’t think it is because of any incident, but more just an awareness of what has happened in our society. We as a culture are just more paranoid; and I would be a fool if I didn’t adjust my behavior.

    When approaching a woman with a small child:

    . I ask the mother, “may I say hello to the baby?”

    . I give people space when speaking with them. Even when speaking to the child I keep at least an arm’s length between us.

    . And I keep the conversation/encounter brief.

    I do this with all children.

    Does it sadden me that I have to put that much thought into saying “what a cute baby”, you bet, but that’s the world we live in.

  18. givepeace05401,

    I understand what you're saying and don't necessarily disagree with you.

    I am wondering, however, are you suggesting that the "paranoia" level about children's safety is equal, in degree or application, when it concerns white mothers' responses to white and non-white men?

  19. As a former bus driver I saw this all the time. My route went through a predominately white area, downtown, and a predominately black area. The mixing taking place downtown was often uncomfortable for the white women.

    As a white male, I have experienced the sudden fear of encountering a poc male suddenly and rearing back with defensiveness. I then moved to a predominately black neighborhood and this changed. For me we all became more and more just people, you know? The way it should be.

  20. And another thing in a similar vein:
    I have noticed through the years that when I am walking (I walk a *lot*) and someone comes up behind me, if it's a male poc they seem to make more "unnecessary" noise than if it's a white male. My theory has been that these people know they are perceived as a threat and want to give warning of their arrival to remove the extra stress of surprise. I had one friend who said something similar so I was reinforced in thinking this way. Does this sound right to anyone?

  21. pocketlama,

    I think your observation about walking up behind and making noise is an excellent addition to the discussion. I've done it before in my life.

    I'd like to offer my two cents about two reasons I think this happen, both concern perception.

    First, I think it is sometimes simply done out of a combination of kindness toward the white person and an avoidance of negative, pessimistic feelings. In other words, a POC may do it to settle the white person's nerves and also to avoid the depressing feeling that comes when a white person is freaked out simply by your existence in a shared space.

    The other reason I think it happens is when people of color fall victim to internalized racism. It may not be a wholly conscious process, just a feeling that, for some vague reason, it feels more comfortable to go out of one's way for white people relative to behavior towards non-whites. It's a really sad and sore subject for alot of us POC, but it is true if everything in society tells you you're second class, it's hard (especially as a kid) to not start believing it, at least a little bit, yourself.

  22. I'm based in Australia and I'm an Asian-looking woman. So I don't set off amber-alerts, but unpleasant stereotyping does happen. I was in a car park once waiting for the car in front to move. i.e. My car was stationary. A car to my left tried to pull out of their space. The white male driver obviously didn't see my stationary car behind him. So I gave a light honk to let him know. Later he yelled abuse at me as he finally got to drive off. He probably saw me and assumed that I was in the wrong and had pulled up behind him out of nowhere, since the stereotype is that Asian women are the worst drivers in the world.

    But guess what? A good white male friend once joked about Asian women being the worst drivers around. He was a good man, so I said nothing in defense as I felt no need to, and had no hard facts to prove him otherwise either. A couple of months later he hit a tiny little baby tree in a deserted car park and tore the bumper off. So guess who got the last laugh? That's right.

    So I'm starting to wonder if the best defense is no defense at all, at least for me.

  23. Fromthetropics,

    That's really the terrible problem with racism. It goes very, very deep. In America, I do not exaggerate when I say that Mom and Apple Pie might not be quite as much of our national heritage as racism.

    So, you have even generally decent people who can't help themselves. There's certainly work to be done.

  24. White man with 2 girl toddlers of color here.

    First - let me say that in my 15 years of adulthood, I cannot remember a parent going any where near amber-alert when I am their kids. At most, a mom might gather them up and give me a knowing smile like "sorry my kids are so rowdy". But - she would acknowledge me. So, in my experience as a white guy - no, women do not go amber alert like they do with black guys.

    My wife is good about this kind of stuff - but it may be more because she's oblivious some times and a very laid back parent in general. I honestly don't know if I've ever done anything like this myself. Sometimes racism is "second nature" for people and we don't even consciously think "black guy" be on alert".

    @myblackfriendsays -- LoL (I think). My daughter's name is Megan and she was named by her natural Mother - who is black. I'm thinking you might consider Emily instead. Perhaps Connor for a boy toddler if you ever need one.

  25. cdwriteme---"First, I think it is sometimes simply done out of a combination of kindness toward the white person and an avoidance of negative, pessimistic feelings...
    The other reason I think it happens is when people of color fall victim to internalized racism."---The first time I noticed this behavior and figured out what it meant I got a warm feeling of gratitude that someone was looking out for me. It struck me as a kindness. Then, almost immediately, I felt so sad that it seemed necessary to this perfectly normal black man to feel the need to try not to scare me by his presence alone. To this day I continue to have those very mixed feelings. (I also have learned and do the same loud walking when behind women at night.)

  26. Pocketlama,

    This might sound silly, but, I've been boycotting any television(and mostly movies, too) for like four months now and I think it's really helping me.

    I find I'm having to fight "automatic" thoughts abot anyone less and less. Whether it be from the promotion of fear-mongering, stereotyping, or materialsim, TV seems to find a way to infect my brain.

    I find myself not "assuming" as much because I don't have the shallow models TV gives us for human beings actually are. I also find I'm having less self-doubt when I don't conform.

    As for the walking up behind people thing, a brief story about the military. When an enlisted servicemember is going to overtake an officer as they are walking, he's supposed to give a warning/request of "By you're leave, sir" (at least in the Marines). That's some pretty degrading stuff and I submit that no one is obliged to make anyone else comfortable about their simply walking and existing.

  27. Try this one: I'm Black, Jewish, and female. My blackness, at least in terms of skin tone, is apparent. There's a friendly lady who brings her daughter to shul regularly, a child she and her husband adopted from a South American country. (Sorry, I don't recall which one.) This child often runs to me or flashes the sweetest smile when I see her at our largely white congregation. I oblige, of course, because I love the babies.

    Anyway, her father, who rarely attends, came one day during a major celebration. His wife was occupied elsewhere, so I stepped over to him because the child reacted the way she typically does after seeing me. He grabbed at her with a fearful look at first, scowled at me, and took her outside. I called him all sorts of unholy names in my head and shortly left afterward. Given his reaction, I also wondered how this little brown-skinned baby's identity would fare in a world that, possibly in the near-future, would still make assumptions because of her Latino heritage. And she's Jewish, which also makes her a target for well-documented prejudice, being raised by white parents -- one of whom is teaching her not to associate with other brown people. Um, what?

    More, for those of you who'd say any parent would react that way to a "stranger" approaching their kid, I'd say rethink your assumptions. At least in my area, not many black Americans frequent Jewish shuls most Saturdays short of child caregivers, and that's a different discussion. There are many, many Jews of color in other places, though, and given everyone else's familiarity with me at my congregation, I felt this man's reaction was over the top.

  28. The big picture here is that people are being pre-judged based on factors other than their character. I don't know if everyone does this, but I'm very certain that every white American does this.
    For me it's not so much concerning non whites around my child, it's more with young black males. I am man enough to admit that in some circumstances I pre-judge young black males that have tatoos and or are dressed in the same color schemes. I HATE THAT I DO THIS! I'm not quite sure how not to do this.
    One thing I did is volunteered in North Minneapolis at a youth program that gives Inner City (read African American) kids a first job experience along with classes that provide job skills and resume writing. I got to know some of the kids well and built a rapport. This experience taught me two things. 1) Not all people that "look the part" act the part. 2) Some of the stories of neighborhood violence saddened and scared me a bit, even though the number of people actually being violent is much smaller than most people think.

    Question...As a white male trying to be conscious of racism what ca I do? What is my part of this? I look forward to your answers.

  29. derek,

    I'm a Chicano (male) and I can tell you what I try to do in terms of misogyny. First, I really watch almost no TV nowadays. Stereotypes and shallow characterizations of all sorts of people are beamed into one's brain.

    Second, I try to keep a good book that discusses the subject around. It's good to refresh sometimes to remind myself to stay pointed in the right direction.

    One of the hardest things is simply to be willing to suffer personally. I've been laughed at, called a "mangina", second-guessed, and sometimes even insulted and semi-ostracized for not "going along with the guys". It sucks.

    So, as POC, I can tell you what one of the most heartbreaking racism-related phenomena that I've had to live through is being let-down by someone I trusted. It is quite common for white people to be mistreated due to relational stigma due to their compassion for or relationships (friends or otherwise) with people of color).

    I don't know what your personal experiences have been. But, I recommend that you pay alot of attention to how much you are willing to sacrifice to stand up for people of color, even when they're not around.

    Obviously, personal contact, support via protest involvement, membership in social justice organizations, etc.. are helpful.

    On the personal contact side, I recommend you make it a point to have contact with people of color in an environment in which you are on netural, or even subordinate terms.

  30. hey cdwriteme,

    Thank you for your feedback. It seems as though you are a regular commentor so please provide me feedback/advice as you see fit...I'm eager to learn and grow.

    My wife and I adopted transracially 16 months ago and we have done a few things since. We started educating friends and family members about racism and stereotypes as situations arise. My wife and I talked and we are both prepared to discontinue any relationship we have if the person is racist and has not responded to the education/feedback we provide. Luckily everyone has been very respectful and appropriate (at least to our faces). Another thing we did was we joined an African American Baptist Church in our neighborhood. We are one of 3 or 4 white families and it's been such a blessing since we joined. One other significant choice we made was to join Harambee Village, an adoption group where adoptive parents of Black children (either African American or children from Africa) meet every month to discuss racism and strategies to use as to be the best parents possible to our children. While the parents are meeting the children are being watched by African American staff and they are doing cultural specific activities.

    I very much enjoy this blog because it keeps me on my toes and points out new areas of racism that after reading some entries I scratch my head and think, "wow, I never even thought about that!" And of course I never thought of that...I'm a white guy...we don't ever have to think about racism if we don't want to since this country was pretty much made for us and everyone else is forced to try to fit into it. I thank God every day for opening my eyes to racism and I pray I continue to learn...I don't want to be ignorant anymore!

  31. Derek,

    Wow. The information you shared with me certainly makes me understand where you are coming from better.

    Understanding race is a big priority for you as a proud pappa of darker-skinned children. You said you are attending an African-American led Baptist Church. I don't want to assume anything, but are your children of African heritage? Just curious, because whether they are or not that church you're going to is a VERY VERY good idea as African-Americans are perhaps the most fit group in America from which to receive instruction about racism.

    The actions you and your wife are taken seem very proactive and beneficial. I actually find your story very interesting. I wonder if you might share a bit how your perspective and sense of urgency about confronting racial issues have changed since the adoption. After all, it is one thing to be intellectually against racism and quite another when one's heart gets involved.

    You're probably already on board, but, just in case here are a couple blogs you might enjoy:

  32. Derek, I second the request for more description of that if you're willing. In fact, if you feel inclined to work your thoughts up into a guest post, please write to me about it:

    unmakingmacon at gmail . com

  33. @derek - I second the recommendation of - but I suspect you already know about it.

    I'd also suggest
    I've learned a ton on both blogs since adopting transracially as well.

    One of the authors there has been sharing his repeated experiences as he encounters a white family with an Asian kid. It's rather heart wrenching.

  34. Thanks for the links to the blogs...I do frequent antiracist parent, but hadn't even heard of the other two.

    I'm in the process of typing up ideas for a guest post, hope to have something in the next week or so.

  35. Kilgore,

    Dude. What's up with all the lumping and hate?

    I would like to get some clarity on your specific positions on a couple matters, if you wouldn't mind answering.

    1) Do you think that African-Americans (Blacks) ans Hispanics (you termed "hispanix") are innately inferior to Anglos? If so, can you explain a bit? For instance, is it just intelligence or other aspects?

    2) You mentioned Pakistan. Can you expound? Did you mean Palestine?

    3) Do you think its unreasonable for Jewish people to look out for each other given what we have seen, historically, can happen to them if they let their guards down?

    4) Do you think it's fair to characterize "Jews" in general for any action, organization, policy, etc... you can attribute to have been influenced by some Jewish people? For the record, I sympathize with Palestinians. But, I realize the situation is complex and some officials in the Israeli government and various special interest groups and hard-liners consitute some of the greatest threats to a peaceful co-existence with Palestinians. Similarly, there are Palestinians who want to dominate and terrorize Jewish Israelis rather than co-exist as equals.

    I believe there are many, many American Jews that are appalled by the Israeli governments handling of the Palestinian dilemna and would love to see a two-state solution with peace and equality.

    Anyway, I'm rambling now. If you would not mind, can you respond to my questions and add anything else you wish to?

  36. Hello cdwriteme,

    Sorry for the delay in responding to your question. I had to read your comment several times to ensure I understood your question correctly. All I can say is the adjustment in how I approach any woman with small children came from my appreciation of how challenging it is to raise children. The color of the mother was never the issue.

    With that said, the comments posted have given me much to think about. Does the fact that I am an African-American male living in a white upper middleclass environment play a role in my approach? As much as I hate to admit it, I think it does.

  37. givepeace05401,

    I can't prove anything that pertains to your life. But, if we ever did run an experiment, I'd bet my next paycheck that the reactions you get around African-American mothers and their toddlers is noticeably less guarded than around white mothers and their toddlers (assuming you don't already know any of them, of course).

  38. I can't prove that this is true, but I suspect that some white mothers actually think this behavior is respectful. The current fad is white parenting is to be very permissive. Maybe these folks think that POC are stricter with their children, and they attempt to rein in a child's behavior in the presence of a POC?

  39. YarroPilz,

    I think that is possibly what happens SOME of the time. I would like to add on a possible "why" to that.

    I read a research study involving Black and White participants in a small waiting room. Two participants were put into the waiting room at a time. Both thought they were just waiting to do the real experiment.

    It was found that, on average, even self-professed liberal whites had a significantly greater physiological response (increased heart rate, pupil response, etc...) when sitting in the confined space with a black participant rather than a fellow white participant. Black participants showed much less difference in responses.

    So, I think it is at least plausible that, SOME of the time, white mothers do have good attentions and are simply trying to respond to the unconscious discomfort produced by their limbic systems. In other words, they SOMETIMES automatically "sense" something is wrong and, making a conscious effort to block racist thoughts out of their minds, almost automatically come up with the notion that they are doing something wrong (as in you're example).

    Just a thought. I do want to stress, however, that I think that if this actually does have merit, the bulk of cases involve both conscious and unconscious racist thoughts and irrational fears.

  40. Quoted from a previous point: "I would like to add that by being a Woman of Color - I'm automatically a child carer whether I asked for it or not :P"

    I was thinking the same exact

  41. it happens all over the world- in england, a poc male walks behind a non-poc woman, doesn't matter if he's in a suit. The reaction is grabbing-bag-tighter, pulling-down of-blouse-over-butt as far as it can stretch, hand-over-cleavage(anybody recognise these), the covering up of any exposed flesh. and it is done when poc male is on approach, even if poc male is not staring at them, usually for him to get the message, "I'm in defence of you" manner. What is even more confusing is to the poc male in the UK is when in a social gathering/club, the "taboo" poc male looks mighty good under the influence of drugs or alcohol.(I am thinking of being a regular on this blog due to the fact that many things I thought only I experienced due to my having dreadlocks are not unique. It does affect us all in a negative way. Thanks to this forum for giving me voice.
    NOTE:I also want to state all white people in the UK are not racist-there many examples of white mums raising their mixed kids well on their own, mixed couples that are doing fine in the face of blatant racism being directed toward them in public-mine being one of them. THERE IS A LOT OF ACCEPTANCE BUT IT STILL COULD BE BETTER-I USED THE WORD "ACCEPTANCE" AS TOLERANCE MEANS "PUTTING UP WITH"-A THING THE PRESS WANTS US TO "ACCEPT" AS "ACCEPTANCE".

  42. Maybe I'm an exception, as a WOC, but living in MN where anti-black racism is more pervasive and overt than most of the other places I've lived in, I live the amber-alert too.

    For example, my toddler son was playing in the hospital's play room with another tot. His mother, who was speaking on the cell phone when we entered the room, actually moved her stroller to glare at me. (BTW, you can only be in that part of the hospital via special physician referral: IOW, if you didn't have any business being there, you wouldn't be there.) Our sons entered a play structure built to resemble a rocket. She actually stood up from her seat and walked across to the play structure, while still on the phone, and sat down, eyeing me the entire time, in the rocket's entrance way, forming a physical barrier between me and our children (and preventing them from being able to get out). I had never seen this woman before and the fact that hospital staff knew me and were friendly to me had no bearing on that fact that she knew my blackness = threat.

    It apparently didn't bother her that her son was playing with my son or my son's toys. Only my presence was offensive. The kicker? She was an immigrant (accent, language on phone, son's name)- although new to this country, she was clear on the racial hierarchy that allowed her to think of herself as white protector and me as dangerous threat. I was in the hospital with my child, just as she was. What did she think I was going to do to/with her son?

    Slightly OT - I find a lot of white women in MN (in contrast to other places I've lived) constantly turning around to stare at me in the elevator, in line @ the grocery/book/clothing store, etc. if I'm standing behind them. The fact that I may be in a suit carrying a briefcase -or holding a squirming toddler and groceries/merchandise while standing in line to make a purchase, just like they are, apparently has no impact.

  43. @ the OP

    This is especially fucked since approx. 75% of child molesters are white males.

    @ TAB

    That sounds like hell. Whenever vigilant white eyes fixated me, which is not too common out here, I pointedly ignore them. Oddly enough, they don't like that either.

    Wonder why that is.

  44. Hey Moi (are you Kenyan? the name -although could be french word too),

    Yeah, it can be one big vortex of suckitude. I used to ignore them but found that it made no difference. Now I verbally confront them (not a diatribe; just brief, to-the-point) if it won't come at too high a cost to me. The staring here has an aggressiveness to it that reminds me of a number of the white people I encountered in Zimbabwe and South Africa. They were surprised and would look away when I and some of the black American students would stare back, lol.

    In other news...checked out another Macon thread about all-white environments and discovered 1/2 my in-laws live in sundown towns. Well done.

  45. I'm white and i've totally done (and still do) the whole purse grab in defense mode thing, i also notice that even if a MoC is making more noises when coming up behind me and i know he's there, if he's walking faster than me and gets close i get startled and will jump even though there has never been a case i can recall that any of these people actually posed a threat to me in anyway. Unlike when a WM walks up behind me i am much more natural if just a little cautious. What has helped me to re-program my avert racist self has been when i see a MoC walking behind me i try to ask myself tons of questions to rationalize the situation so that can stop myself from jumping to further racist conclusions and doing overtly racist things like "jumping" when said person gets close to me. What has really helped also in rationalizing is that i change my gender presentation often and when i am more feminine (like in the above situation where i jump) i am far more cautious and assumptuous of MoC compared to when i am masculine and do not react the same, often i am cautious still but don't jump or get as startled as when i am feminine presenting, i am also more wary of WM because i look gender non-conforming and assume WM will be out to get me, i feel less so about MoC, these feelings and internalized assumptions both seem inaccurate to me. Being gender variant has helped me significantly though to try and break-down some of the stereotypes of MoC i've bought into because of the differet experiences.


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