Sunday, February 14, 2010

subtly pass racism on to the next generation

Robin is a twenty-something white female who spends most of her time writing, and occasionally guest-blogging at swpd and elsewhere; her website: She hopes someday to stop showing her privileged butt on a regular basis, and in the meantime, she continually struggles to accept that she's very much a work in progress.

If being raised as a white person in a racist society means that white parents are inevitably racist, in ways that they may or may not know about, how do they pass that racism on to their children? How can they prevent themselves from passing it on?

I'm sure many of us who read this blog have seen the movie American History X. In a scene that shows the genesis of the young white protagonist's racial hatred, he and his brother, both children, are sitting around the dinner table while their father, a firefighter, rails about minorities: "I'll tell you one more thing. This 'affirmative blaction' shit is driving me up the fucking wall. Firefighters gettin' 99's on their tests while rappers who score a goddamn 62 walk away with the job. . . . we keep givin' niggers everything, there'll be nothing left for us."

And of course we hear about the egregious cases: parents who name their children Adolph Hitler and JoyceLynn Aryan Nation; parents who put swastikas on their children's arms with marker and send them to school; the Stormfront types who proudly talk about hanging swastikas above their baby's cribs; the mother who tried to turn her daughters into white-nationalist pop stars.

Those are the types of parents that most Caucasians will think of when they hear the term "racist parent." But I'm not here to talk about those people, as I believe they're in the minority; I'm here to talk about the many white parents who would back away in horror at the thought of using a racial epithet in front of their children, and yet they nevertheless pass racism on to the next generation.

These are the parents who would never say "those wetbacks," probably not even among themselves with no children in the room; they almost certainly consider themselves non-racist. Yet they will talk about those Mexicans in front of their children. And "those Mexicans" is always said in a voice just above a whisper, leaving no doubt in the children's minds that Mexicans are something so unspeakable, you can't even say their ethnicity in a normal tone of voice (of course, another oft-despised minority group, black people, gets whispered about in similar ways as well). These parents will go on about how those Mexicans keep coming up here and stealing our jobs, using our resources, overcrowding our schools. . .*

These are the parents who will chat with other parents about things minorities (supposedly) do. One that I remember well from growing up was about how Mexicans would get one of their young-adolescent daughters knocked up, sneak up to America just in time for her to give birth, and then the baby would be a U.S. citizen. And of course nobody's going to deport the mother of a U.S. citizen. And if that mother happens to be a young adolescent, of course nobody's going to deport *her* mother! So just for having a baby, now THREE of them get to stay in the U.S.! [/exasperated sarcasm]

Of course nobody ever offers proof to back up this tale. When parents are calmly discussing this tale as if it's fact, why do they need to? The children overhearing it take it as gospel too. (And of course those parents aren't being racist -- after all, it's not like they're making judgments on those Mexicans -- they're just stating "facts" about things that minorities do!)

These are the parents who are appalled by the idea of sending their child to a school where the pupils are predominantly minorities. This is always phrased in terms of "the education there isn't as good" (even though they've done no research and have no idea whether it is or isn't) -- never in terms of "I don't want my child around those children."

These are the parents who, like some of my family members, will be cracking jokes about the supposed incompetence of the Mexican Army (in front of their children) and then snidely follow it up with, "Like that's a surprise, coming from Mexico." Yet these same people would be deeply offended if you said they were racist. They'll trot out their Mexican co-workers, the fact that they're fine with their kids being friends with that Mexican girl down the street... we know all the rationalizations already.

These are the parents who, with the best of intentions, expose their children to other cultures in a way that is profoundly Othering. They take their children to Chinatown and Little India and point out clothing and wares for sale as if they're at a zoo. They'll fawn over their child's new friend of color (often taking this as a sign that they're successfully raising an anti-racist child), leaving no doubt in their child's mind that there's something very different between their white friends and their friend of color. They'll take their children to "ethnic" restaurants and -- well, just see the post (and comments) from a few days ago about Othering in cuisine.

These are the parents who don't challenge racial humor when it's used in front of their children (or worse yet, don't see it as racist at all) ; who stay in all-white neighborhoods and send their kids to all-white schools and socialize with other white families; who raise their white children to believe that everything they accomplish is due solely to their own hard work; who raise their white children to be "colorblind"and "not see race"; who never discuss race with their kids because it's too uncomfortable, or they don't understand why it needs to be discussed; who are proud of themselves for having a token PoC come over to visit, because it's a "positive learning experience" for their children to be "exposed" to PoC (that is, parents who view PoC as a learning tool rather than as people).

These parents don't hang swastikas in their houses, they don't use epithets to refer to minorities, and they certainly don't consider themselves racist. Yet, with the best of intentions and completely unconsciously, and also because of their sheer numerical preponderance, such well-meaning, self-satisfied parents are doing more to keep systemized racism and white privilege alive than any Stormfront member could dream of.

These parents are raising a generation that believes racism is something obvious that has already been pretty much conquered; a generation that believes they themselves are non-racist, and therefore there is no work to be done; and a generation that continues to ignore (and thereby protect) systemized racism and white privilege.

Have you noticed other covert or indirect ways that white parents pass on their racism? 

Do you have memories of things your own parents did in these terms, and how it affected your perception of race? 

Could you suggest links to any good online resources about raising anti-racist children? 

Have you have noticed any successful ways that parents have dealt with racial situations?

* Note: Some of the examples above are specifically Mexican-related. Although the phenomena discussed in this post can be applied to any racial or ethnic minority, I cite racist sentiments toward Mexicans as examples because I grew up in Southern California, where anti-Mexican sentiment is as common as oxygen.


  1. I've been reading for a couple of months now, with deep appreciation for the open dialogue about racism. I speak from this perspective: I am the white adoptive mom of two black sons, ages 12 and 14. I grew up in Vermont (yes, a *very* white state) in a family with a feminist mom and a sibling with a physical disability and luckily for me direct conversations about oppression were part of my upbringing. I work with children ages birth to five and their families, and anti-bias education is one of the foundations of my work.

    I think the most important thing that we can do is *name racism and talk about it.* So many white parents invoke the privelege of "my kids are too young to know about that," ignoring the fact that young kids all over this country and the world *must* "know about that" in order to survive emotionally and sometimes physically.

    My experience has been that conversations about "fair/not fair" are a good way to engage with very young children (two to five), and provide a gentle beginning place for parents as well. I also talk a lot with white families about the ways that racism harms white children/people as well as people of color.

    This work requires engagement in relationship, trust-building, willingness to make, admit, and address mistakes, and long-term commitment. And hope.

    Thank you for this space where so many people speak so fiercely and thoughtfully about racism. You all give me much to reflect on and wrestle with!

  2. Well I am not a White parent but I can say that as a Black parent I often shudder when I hear White parents say something racist to me because I know that if they are willing to say this to me, what they are teaching their children at home is probably twice as bad.

    I get tired of hearing how racism gets better every generation when I see so many determined to teach their children to be racist. It happens in ways they don't even realize. It could be as simple as never picking a bed time story with characters of colour to as direct as making assumptions about a group of people because of race.

    Parenting is such that people do not want to be challenged. They don't see the teaching of racism as the act of child abuse that it certainly is. The world will teach children enough about where they sit in terms of the race hierarchy without parents confirming these biases in the home. Many are aware of active parenting but it is often the acts of passive parenting that teach our children the most about the world. What we don't say and who we don't include lets children know most assuredly which bodies are valued.

  3. @Andrea: "I think the most important thing that we can do is *name racism and talk about it."

    Here's a good link about that from loveisntenough (formerly known as "Anti-racist parent"):

  4. @the writer of the post:

    "Yet, with the best of intentions and completely unconsciously, and also because of their sheer numerical preponderance, such well-meaning, self-satisfied parents are doing more to keep white supremacy alive than any Stormfront member could dream of."

    I would rather be objectified as a Jew, as someone's learning object, as someone's "one Jewish friend" that makes them feel better about being indifferent over the Holocaust... I would rather that than when my synagogue was tagged with graffiti. I would rather that than getting called a kike in grade-school and beat up regularly around Easter for killing Jesus. I would rather that than any holocaust.

    I think that it's ignorant and stupid that parents often use minorities (ethnic, racial, cultural, whatever) to expose their kids to diversity that they don't actually support, except as a trip to zoomanity.

    HOWEVER, I think your statement above is also offensive (and ignorant, and stupid, and oddly ironic) for the implication that you are equivocating racism through ignorance with racism through actually beating my ass with a swastika.

    The latter is far, far worse. Being stereotyped as a Jew hurts; being violently attacked as a Jew hurts more.

    Also, you misquoted American History X. The line is actually:

    "We're talking about books...but we're also talking about my job. I've got two black guys on my squad now who got their job over a couple of white guys who actually scored higher on the test. Does that make sense? Everything's 'equal' now, but I've got two guys watching my back...responsible for my life...who aren't as good. They only got the job because they were black, not because they were the best."

    I think, as far as affirmative action goes, the argument the father gives above is the basic generalization of why lots of people (read: white people, but often minorities too) are angry about affirmative action. Sadly, it really only helps white women.

    This article seems to miss the difference between types of racism, and lumps them altogether. Well, speaking from my personal experience, there ARE differences, and I'll take another stupid Jew-joke over a Neo-Nazi chasing me down some alleyway again.

  5. I am a white woman who is married to a black man. My father was in the Air Force for 22 years. Sometimes we lived in base housing and I went to school on base where there is generally a higher minority population (I'm not sure about the percentages but maybe 20%.) I brought home black friends. In 3rd grade, I had a "boyfriend" who was black for about 2 weeks. I don't remember my parents saying anything about it. Sometimes we lived in the white suburbs and I went to white schools. My dad grew up in a poor neighborhood with a lot of black people and dated black women (I'm a little fuzzy on this one, it mught have been just one). Now, he has an upper level government job in DC where he works with black people. My father thinks he has a "ghetto pass." Now he has never directly said this to me. But he likes to talk about how his black co-workers call him White Chocolate and he told me about a conversation with a black co-worker where he used the word n***a. He talks to black people differently than he talks to white people ("what's up my brotha?" and so forth). He did that to my husband for 3 years before I finally told him to stop. But he still does that with co-workers and black people who work in the service industry. He told me a black woman filed an EEO complaint against him, but she files complaints on all the white male supervisors and nothing ever comes of it. Being in the military, we moved around alot. My parents didn't have a lot of close relationships with people and didn't invite many people over. But let's just average it out throughout the years and say they invited one friend (and family) to our house once a year, they were always white. I know my dad grew up around black people and worked around black people and sometimes we lived around black people, but he never must have considered any his close friends because he never brought them home. When I told my dad I was dating a black man he said it didn't matter. When he met my future in-laws, my finance's father asked my father, "How do you feel about your daughter marrying someone from another race?" He acted like he just said my fiance was an alien because there is only *one* race (the human race). Later, my father told me that my father-in-law is a racist because he "hasn't got past race." He voted for Obama (he didn't like McCain but loved Sarah Palin), but said Obama was "more white than black." My brother has said many inflammatory things about black people. He's said 3-4 things to me, but he has definitely said a lot of things to his wife and to our parents. They won't tell me what he's said. But my dad did tell me he "doesn't know where he gets it from, you two weren't raised like that." My mom told me that she told him "that's inappropriate and I don't want to hear that." This stuff has to be pretty bad because when my brother got married, there were some instances with his wife that I found offensive and when I mentioned to my father I don't think my sister-in-law likes my husband and I'm not sure why considering she's never met him so what does she have to go on (read: all she knows is he's black), he immediately defended her. Oh, I'm being too sensitive, I'm reading the situation all wrong, etc.Growing up, I have one memory talking about race with my father. I asked him why black people can say the n-word but white people can't. He said, "You know how I call you my baby? How would you feel if someone else called you baby?" I probably wouldn't like it. "You know I call you baby because I love you. But you don't want anyone else to call you baby because you don't know where they're coming from, if it's affection or not."

  6. @Zek: First, my apologies for the misquoting of the script, I used IMDB's script lookup to find the exact quote and that's what they have. The version I used is likely from a draft script then rather than the finalized script.

    And upon reading your comments - I agree with you that that could absolutely have been worded better. As written, it's confusing because I use the terms "white supremacy" interchangeably with "systemic racism" in this article - and while they *are* often interchangeable in this blog's context, I think *in this particular article* my reference to Stormfront appears to takes it from meaning generalized white supremacy (overall systemized racism) to being Stormfront-style white supremacy (hateful racist actions such as the ones you described).

    And yes, I absolutely agree, there is a huge difference between overt racism (epithets, attacks, graffiti, etc) and subtle racism (jokes, Othering, distancing one's family from minorities, etc). When I say "doing more to support white supremacy than any Stormfront member could dream of" - I want to clarify now that I am referring to the *overall* systemic racism that props up white privilege, *not* specific and overt white supremacy. I sincerely apologize for writing it in a confusing way, and I'm sorry I was offensive. :(

  7. My dad does these things all the time and has successfully passed his racism onto my two sisters. I was always less influenced but never, until recently, completely free from it. I wish that not being influenced was the only problem with a racist family, but it's not. For example, any family discussion that involves race is one that I'm ganged up on in if I participate. My non-white girlfriend one day got sick of being subtly insulted and now almost refuses to see them. I avoid inviting non-white friends over because it's so awkward. And they don't consider themselves racist... What do I do? really. Any suggestions?

  8. Here is another way white parents pass on racism. I think it's often overlooked because it doesn't have much to do with race: They coddle their children, don't let them feel the social consequences of their actions, disagree with anyone who thinks their child has done something wrong - teachers included, they often defend the child's actions. In my views, this is the earliest teaching of white privilege. It's why white people are raised to believe they're special and awesome individuals. It's the norm among many white parents, and those white parents respect the "individuality" of other white kids because they see their own kids as needing of special treatment. They try to get their kids out of doing what they deem unreasonable assignments in school, try to get them out of having to deal with uncomfortable situations, justify bad behavior, ask for special treatment for their children's special circumstances no matter how minute. Children learn just how to manipulate a system to their own favor - their parents teach them all the time.

    I think the white kids who aren't raised like this still come out with embedded racism, but they actually stand a chance at seeing things from another perspective later on when someone points out injustices to them.

    One of the first things my mom did right with me was when the school district decided to bus white kids to a school which was almost completely African-American (kindergarten & 1st grade) she didn't try and stop it like many other parents did and were successful doing. She never once had a conversation with me about it before hand. And guess what? Without being told how to feel by my mommy, I didn't fear things that didn't endanger my life or health. The only thing I ever hated about that school was that I didn't live near the friends I had made when I was there. This was the 1st of 6 schools I would attend in my life, and I can think of only once when my school was actually predominately white.

    With regard to the above story, she never once asked me anything about it, never told me how I was different looking, never asked my teachers for special treatment given that I was 1 of only 3 white kids in class. My mom didn't raise me with that "you're so special that everyone should treat you like you are" attitude. I knew *she* thought I was, but she didn't push that on anyone else.

    I never heard that woman make a comment about anyone's race, not even poised as a compliment "black people can sing" not even a sweeping statement "Mexicans come here and take landscaping jobs." If she ever felt that way deep down, she never said it.

    I know that in not ever talking about race with me she neglected to tell me about white privilege and she probably never saw race as an issue because she was white and it didn't affect her adversely. But I think it was so important that she didn't fill my head with her fears and stereotypes.

  9. I thought this was a nice summary of everything and exactly why it's not "getting better" with every generation. I feel like that's another myth that people pass on without any proof to back it up. I read somewhere about how in the US, we're such an individualistic culture it makes it particularly difficult to see subtle racism. Even the very idea our parents' beliefs and notions could affect or shape who we are is hard to swallow for most people.

    Even though these people aren't out there hanging swastikas or raising their kids to be a proud part of the "Aryan nation," I don't know that they're too far away. If a charismatic leader comes into power and start with nationalist propaganda, would these parents and the kids they raise be so exceptionally anti-racist? Personally, I think not.

    I had never heard the term anti-racist until I started reading this blog, and personally I like the term. It suggests that it's not enough to just sit idly by and not be actively racist, but that you had to actively work in the other direction.

    Also, as far as affirmative action goes, I'm not convinced that white women are any less subjected to the doubts about their abilities and worthiness as any other minorities. In the sciences at least, women getting accepted into engineering programs, math programs are casted with doubt and speculation about being token women regardless of their race. Racism is good and alive, and so is sexism.

  10. I don't know if this is exactly what you were talking about, but this past Christmas, my uncle made some sort of racist "joke" (he's of the "But I have ____ friends!" variety). To my surprise, my cousin (his youngest son) said "Dad, that's not funny. It's racist." My aunt immediately reprimanded him, saying that its horrible to accuse your own father of being a racist when he is no such thing, and that you should respect your parents and not talk to them like that.

    I felt that this was not only telling their son that its okay to be racist, and that something isn't racist if its meant as a joke, but it was also telling him that you're supposed to be silent and ignore it (or even go along with it) if someone around you does something that you clearly recognize as racist, hateful, ignorant, or just wrong. Basically it means putting one white persons feelings above all the harm their comments can cause, by not saying anything because you don't want to offend them.

    Granted there are a ton of other problems there as well, but even if you don't talk about "those Mexicans" (to use your example) in front of your kids, you can still teach them to be silent.

  11. For those reading the comments: Macon kindly revised the references to "white supremacy" to read "systemized racism and white privilege" instead, which should hopefully make the post more clear. :)

    @Andrea: Definitely. Especially this: So many white parents invoke the privelege of "my kids are too young to know about that," ignoring the fact that young kids all over this country and the world *must* "know about that" in order to survive. Even as a parent who tries to parent in an anti-racist fashion, I know I've done this. There have been times when I've shied away from discussing it with my son, choosing instead to discuss racism and privilege with my husband *in front of* my son - but it's still not the same. Yes, little kids listen to what they overhear... but that isn't a substitute for direct conversations. And you're right, shying away from those conversations is another incarnation of white privilege.

    @Renee: Yes, exactly. That's it: many people are patting themselves on the back about how society is so much less racist (because overt racism has become less common)... and yet racism is staying alive in much more subtle ways, and it really can be as simple as not making the effort to have inclusive books in their bookshelf. It's becoming much harder now to get people to acknowledge the existence of racism; it's easy when you can point and say, "Look, there's all those jerks having their White Power rallies," because there's no way to deny that. But the reality of subtle, systemic racism is much harder for whites to accept.

    @Sonic: Awesome link, and the writer expressed it extremely well. I love the idea of analogizing it to talking about sex - hopefully that will make it more understandable to people.

    @Sallyjrw: I couldn't possibly have asked for a better real-life illustration than your story. :)

    @Croof: As someone who is now in a similar position, you have my empathy. The conclusion I've reached is that all we can do is continue to challenge it whenever it comes up, and hope that maybe something we say will plant seeds in their mind. Maybe they're not ready to hear it now, maybe not even next year... but at some point maybe they'll find themselves wondering. Personally, I can remember having a conversation about two years ago in which I was being a stereotypical White(tm) person - arguing about reverse racism, whining that somebody should give me resources about it, arguing against the "racism is prejudice plus power" definition, etc. And I didn't "get it" then, during that conversation. But about three months later, those seeds started growing, and there you go. People can make progress, even if they're currently obstinate bigots who seem impossible to educate.

  12. @Victoria: You know, I've never drawn a connecting line between Special Snowflake Parenting (my term for the parenting style you describe) and the abuse of white privilege. But now that you've pointed it out, I think it's an extremely logical connection to make. Definitely food for thought. (And it makes me even more glad that my fella and I believe in presenting a united front with other adults such as his teachers, LOL.)

    @cl, who said If a charismatic leader comes into power and start with nationalist propaganda, would these parents and the kids they raise be so exceptionally anti-racist?: I'd like to believe that that wouldn't happen... but then I thought about how much anti-Muslim* sentiment has been stirred up, and the amount of support for anti-illegal-immigrant organizations such as the Minutemen (that have actually released faked videos of them shooting Mexicans)... I hope we never have to find out.

    "Anti-racist" is a debated term - some people feel whites shouldn't call themselves anti-racist because it's impossible for them *not* to be racist - whites are benefitting from a racist system every day. (Resist Racism breaks it down well here.) I usually try to say something like "I try to do X in an anti-racist way" or "I'm part of the anti-racism movement" rather than labelling myself an anti-racist, for that reason. But definitely the idea - that it isn't enough to be passive, we have to actively work against racism - is deeply important.

    @Amanda: Exactly. If you go check out the comments on the recent "challenge racist jokes" post, there's some relevant discussion about how whites tend to tell racial jokes as a form of solidarity, and if you aren't agreeing with the jokes, then it places you on the outside. Shaming someone for speaking up is a way of trying to get them to toe the white party line again, as well as preserving their own illusions of not being racist.

    If you didn't tell your cousin that you agreed with him then, you may want to bring it up and tell him now. It can make a lot of difference to know that you're not the only one willing to challenge the status quo.

    * Yes, I know Muslim isn't an ethnicity, it's a religion. But in many North American minds, "Muslim" is basically interchangeable with "Middle Eastern person".

  13. @ Robin

    Special Snowflake Parenting - LOVE that term. Will use it from here on out.

    @ Victoria

    A-friggin'-MEN. And one of the HUGE unforeseen-though-obviously-should-be-foreseen side effects of such parenting is the inevitable disappointment these kids face when they grow up, and their difficulty adapting to reality. They can't handle constructive criticism from a teacher or an employer. They don't understand why so many peers don't want to be around them. They don't understand why the person they're crushing on either doesn't want to go out with them or is dumping them just after a couple of weeks.

    It's like the "He's Just Not that into You" basic theory revised and expanded--these moms fill their kids' heads with utter bullshit, giving them a cushy childhood while condemning them to a difficult adolescence and adulthood.

  14. @ Amanda

    That's a horror story. Reprimanding relatives for calling out their racist relatives is so counterproductive...I don't even know how to finish that.

    The problem, as people have mentioned countless times here and elsewhere before, is that most whites are focusing so hard on how to make themselves appear incapable of being racist, rather than focus on what about them might be racist and then fix it.

  15. @Zek, as someone whose peoples were also victimized by Nazis, I see it this way. The people who use "soft" prejudice create a context in which "hard" prejudice can exist. It's like saying, don't get mad about oak seeds - get made about oak trees.

  16. @Victoria

    They coddle their chiildren, don't let them feel the social consequences of their actions, disagree with anyone who thinks their child has done something wrong... etc.

    I hope you're prepared to back down on this odd comment or prepared to show some stats on how "white people coddle their kids etc." (good luck on that) because otherwise this smells like an obnoxious negative stereotype.

    Shouldn't have to say this, but I guess I do: there are parents of all races who coddle their kids too much. There are parents of all races who don't let their kids feel the social consequences of their actions. There are parents of all races who defend their kids actions when their kids have done something wrong. There are parents of all races who try to get their kids out of school assignments. There are parents of all races who ask for special treatment for their kids. There are children of all races who learn how to manipulate a system thanks to what their parents have taught them.

    In other words, there are bad parents of all races.

    I'd like to see you go beyond mere assertion and show somehow that many more white parents are worse parents than parents of all other races. Because for your argument to hold much water you have to be saying that most white parents (as in hundreds of millions of them) must be parenting the way you describe. And without any proof to back up a claim like that, a simple gut check tells me that's nonsense.

  17. Step back, Capt. Then look up "Arab trader argument." this is a post about stuff white parents do, within the context of a de facto white supremacist social order (which means that even if other parents do those same things, they're actually not doing those same things -- which is another reason what other parents do is irrelevant here).

  18. I'm so lucky to have parents who are conscious of their white privilege and have done various things throughout my childhood to combat racism, both in our family and outside of it. I remember that they were always very frank with me. There was no whispering of race or acting overly protective of me when a non-white person entered the room. I'm sure there must have been instances in which they failed on that front, but none which I can remember now.

    When I started going to school--and I attended predominantly black public schools from first grade on--I developed a few racist beliefs. I'm not sure where I got them from--it may have been the other children, or certainly my first grade teacher who, if you can believe it, defined slavery as, "When the black people came to help the white people." When I said something about disliking black teachers to my mother, she sat me down and gave me a big talking to--not in a scolding, mysterious way, but in a frank way which identified just what was wrong with what I said.

    I remember in elementary school, suddenly disliking a little white boy who told a racist joke about black people to his little white friends. To this day, when I run into him, I still feel uncomfortable because I wonder if he still thinks that way.

    I don't want to paint this picture of my parents as perfect in terms of teaching me about racism, but they were pretty damn good about it. At the very least, they taught me, both explicitly and through example, how to see race (as apposed to that colorblind nonsense) and how to question my own whiteness, and other people's as well. I learned at least to feel uncomfortable when the people around me were being racist--and while that's only party of the journey, it certainly made learning how to articulate racism a lot easier for me when I grew older.

  19. @macon

    I'll make it simple for you, since you seem to have missed the point.

    All I'm asking for is proof that most white parents parent the way she claims they do. Let's see her proof that most white parents are bad parents. Remember, her argument requires that most white parents parent badly the way she describes.

    If she can't prove that most white parents parent the way she asserts, then she should back off on the negative stereotyping. Her comment has an ugly anti-white feel to it that no blog opposed to racism should endorse.

  20. @Capt Howdy,
    No isht there are bad parents of all races. But I'm afraid white parents are among them, and only they have white privilege. Their special snowflakes? Are the specialest.

    This is Stuff White People Do.

  21. Capt. Howdy,

    I'm very obviously stating my opinion, an opinion 2 other members have agreed with. You don't have to agree and I don't have to show proof of anything. I've been a parent for 12 years now, I'm presently a student-teacher. I'm not pulling my opinion out of thin air. You don't like it, move along then. I never said white parents are the worst parents.

    I really don't feel like conversing with you since you misread everything, use the Arab Trader argument, and look for me to make "fact" when you didn't ask anyone else to back up their *opinions*. DON'T BELIEVE ME IF YOU DON'T WANT TO. Just don't respond to me if you're going to be an a-typical white guy on a site made to breakdown common white tendencies, trying to get everyone to admit that everyone's just the same.

    What next?
    Racism is dead?

  22. one I'd add for swpd in this area:
    -move out of diverse neighborhoods when their children reach school age

    As far as resources/other models, there was a post a while back about a group of white parents consciously raising their children to resist white supremacy:

  23. So true!
    I've been the "diverse friend" for a good number of people who had been raised in such an environment-- by supposedly "liberal" parents. These people mean well and are not trying to be racist, but I end up having conversations where they want me to expose their children to "authentic" Native American or Celtic culture, and it gets old really fast.

  24. I hate posts like this, because the only thing the author is accomplishing is pointing out that this occurs. What am I, an African person, doing with this information? I know everyone says snide and dirty remarks about everyone when they are not within hearing range of a certain person. I am not saying that because of this we should all just give up on the whole issue. The point is, it is one thing to make these snide remarks and another to act on them.

    My mother is West African and she has been referring to Asian people as "Oriental" to the point that my little sister yells out in school, "Oh, so he married an oriental?" Everyone was shocked to hear her say that and I had to educate her on how she should replace that word with "wog", "squaw", "injun", "nigger", "hymie", "jap", or any other derogatory term to see how hurtful it is to say something like that.

    My parents did pass on some racist behaviors to me. I have learned that white people are ignorant of everything, they say awful racist things about other people, they believe everything should be given to them and when someone else has something that they have it becomes an issue, and they are horrible people. However, there are days when I see white people acting like this and it bothers me but there are always exceptions to these racist things I have learned.

  25. @ Capt. Howdy

    I have to back up Victoria on this one. I too work in the school system and the teachers--who are mostly white by the way--are tearing their hair out with the Special Snowflake Parent types because these parents absolutely refuse to believe anything is wrong with their kids. It's always the "teacher's fault." Call it cliche, stereotype, or comedian fodder, but when you witness this day in day out year after year, you can't just ignore it.

    The white kids don't care when their parents are called. I've had only one get upset and cry because he knew he wouldn't get to play on his X-Box that evening when he got home. When their parents show up, they laugh in their parents' faces if their parents attempt a lecture, or roll their eyes, or insist that their teachers just hate them and whatever they did wasn't their fault. Then the teary parents turn to us and start telling all the reasons why we should excuse their kids and how they're having a hard time at for reasons which then turn the situation to be all about the parents and their Lifetime-movie drama.

    The kids with black mothers, on other the hand, practically wet themselves if their parents get called. That's because their mothers stroll right past us before we can even say hello and often smack their kids right then and there in the middle of the office. They always tell their kids--without any help from us--why what they did was wrong, how it makes the family look, and how they disrupted their parents' work and potentially the household income. In all the time I've worked in schools I've had exactly one white grandmother talk frankly to the kid about disrupting household income, exactly one white mother talk about misrepresenting the family, and exactly one other white mother go off on her kids and point out their behavioral patterns to them. The rest either blame the teacher or simply make up something to defend their kids.

    The worst are the parents of sociopaths. Talk about denial which hurts other people. These are the white kids who've been killing animals, setting fires, choking and trying to stab siblings, beating on their parents, threatening to kill classmates and teachers, constantly attacking said classmates and teachers, actually bringing knives to school and yet their parents--moms especially--just "don't want to deal with it." One mom here actually handles her son by simply burying him in video games to shut him up when he's not in school, and then locking his bedroom at night to keep the rest of the family "safe".

    Never mind her son is getting big and strong enough to do more and more of what he threatens to do on a daily basis. Forget the safety of all the other kids, not to mention her own kin. She doesn't want to hear the word "sociopath" and when presented with info on school violence, she has no comment.

    I'll Tim Wise finish this off. I found the stats he listed particularly effective.

  26. @Mel: The point of the post is *exactly* pointing out that this occurs - because many white parents (Capt Howdy might argue here, so I'll say: yes, just like parents of all races, but this blog is focused on stuff white people do) parent unthinkingly. The point of saying, "Hey, a lot of white parents do ABCD and E," is to have some of the white parents reading it read it and think, "Oh crap, I do B and C," or "I know I've done D, and I never even thought about it." And once they know they're doing it, they can start trying to be conscious of it and stopping it before it happens again. (Another point is to have those white people that don't yet have children but expect to have them at some point, be consciously thinking about this stuff so they're more prepared.)

    No, not every post is going to apply to everyone. :) But I believe there's still plenty of value in the "whites do XYZ!" posts. From a personal perspective, when I recognize myself in one (or more) of those letters, it's immensely helpful in making me think about my actions and work on changing them.

    @Molly, who said my first grade teacher who, if you can believe it, defined slavery as, "When the black people came to help the white people.": I actually had to reread that three times. Boy oh boy. If that's how she's going to be discussing slavery, she just shouldn't be discussing it at all.

    @Capt who said Remember, her argument requires that most white parents parent badly the way she describes.: No, it doesn't. She said *another way*, not *the way*. Raising one's children to be free of repercussions and not have to obey the rules is a way of teaching entitlement and white privilege, and for those parents that do it, it contributes to the problem. But nowhere did she say that it's the only way, or even the primary way.

  27. @Moi: While I can't support corporal punishment as being a good method of discipline (policy statements from the major organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics make it clear that the research says CP is effective in the short-term, but other non-violent disciplinary methods are as effective short-term and more effective long-term, and there's been a lot of research now linking the use of CP to greater levels of behavioral problems and violence later on), I think the major part of what you're discussing there is crucial: for the white parents, the context is about their child. For the parents of color, the context is about how their child's actions are affecting others. The white child's place at the center of the universe is being reinforced to the white child during those interactions; the children of color are being made to realize that they're not the center of everything, they're part of an inter-related group of people, and it's not all about them. When their parents are railing at them, they're being taught that you have to consider others, not just yourself. That's huge.

    As a white parent in a predominantly white area, I'm often around a lot of other white parents. And certainly not everyone is a Special Snowflake Parent; I see plenty of white parents who have consequences for their children that are consistently enforced. But I also see plenty of SSPs. My husband and I will be at the park watching open-mouthed as an SSP pleads with her child that "it's time to go, honey!" over and over as the child blithely ignores them and continues to play. I asked one such parent last summer, after watching this charade for several minutes, "At what point do you pick your child up and leave?" She got icy and said, "We don't violate his bodily autonomy." After staring at her and recovering from the stupid, I said, "Uh, your child's what, 3? 4? If he had a knife, would you physically take it out of his hand or would you just beg him to set it down?" She ignored me. (I suppressed the urge to add, "You are a sh**ty parent," because I knew my husband would have been mortified. But man, I REALLY wanted to.)

    I just don't get it, and I've spent a lot of time pondering it. It's not that difficult to be consistent and have limits! Heck, we *still* pick up our almost-six-year-old and leave if he's having an meltdown (autism-related) or not listening to us or still acting up after receiving his single warning (non-autism-related). Sure, it sucks sometimes; sometimes he'll be kicking and yelling and making a scene and it's horribly embarrassing. And sometimes we've just gotten to the park, or we're in the middle of dinner at a restaurant or shopping, and it's horribly inconvenient. But you have to do it anyway! Welcome to parenthood! If you want to be weak, get a Chihuahua rather than a child.

    Re: the sociopathy: can those parents be reported to Child Protective Services? I'm very wary of the CPS system, but there's times when it serves a valid function. When my younger child was genuinely at risk due to my elder child (the autistic one) having constant aggressive meltdowns due to being overstimulated at school, help was offered to us via CPS; I didn't end up accepting it, but I'm under the impression that they can do counseling, and force parents to get medical and/or psychological assessments for their children, make the parents take parenting classes, etc. Would reporting those parents be a possible option? Their other children (and the children at school) don't deserve to be in danger due to the parents' lack of adequate parenting.

  28. @ Molly

    One of my coworkers had a teacher who, when she (the coworker) wrote a paper in middle school about how the enslaved were kidnapped and forced into labor, crossed out that explanation and wrote in angry red ink, "No - they were slaves because they wanted to be."

    @ Robin

    I have wrestled with CPS on this issue on numerous occasions and I always get the same horrific answer: the state will not intervene until after the child severely harms someone. So whenever I clearly ask, "Are you telling me the state is waiting for someone else to get hurt before it will force parents to comply or even remove the child from their care?" CPS workers always reply, as if rehearsed, "I understand how messed up that sounds, but yes."

    The red tape is infuriating as hell. Meanwhile, the state puts the burden on us to "talk some sense" into these parents. You know, 'cause that always works so well.

    Keep in mind, school shooters usually kill themselves after they've killed everyone else. So if this kid grows up to do this, then yes, he will have finally harmed someone else, and the state will be able to intervene and do...what exactly?

  29. Robin stated, "I just don't get it, and I've spent a lot of time pondering it. It's not that difficult to be consistent and have limits!...Sure, it sucks sometimes; sometimes's horribly embarrassing...and it's horribly inconvenient. But you have to do it anyway! Welcome to parenthood! If you want to be weak, get a Chihuahua rather than a child."

    Thank you.

    It is universally known that children are, by design, inconvenient. Last I checked, that's something a person's supposed to accept before they decide to breed.

    What bugs me the most is that I've met the future wife-beaters, serial killers, rapists, molesters, and psycho boyfriends in my office--and they all just happen to know their racial slurs by heart, mind you.

    And when confronted with evidence, all the parents have to say for themselves is, "Well, (s)he can't help it, and that's not my fault." When asked about racial issues, it's always, "I don't know where he got that. We're not racist people; we've got a niece/cousin/foster-son that's mixed"--see how we end up going around in circles?

  30. @Moi re: 'One of my coworkers had a teacher who, when she (the coworker) wrote a paper in middle school about how the enslaved were kidnapped and forced into labor, crossed out that explanation and wrote in angry red ink, "No - they were slaves because they wanted to be."'

    I still can't swallow after reading this. But it doesn't surprise me when I get students (in college) who think that talking about racial issues is racist. I think this begins in white f milies when small children (quite naturally) notice and ask about people who look different from them, and the (usually) mother shushes the child and says, "Don't ever say that again." Noticing skin color is equated with racism both in the child's and the mother's mind. That seems to be a very durable lesson.

  31. @Moi: Wow... I wish I could say I was surprised, but I grew up in the US, so...yeah.
    @Robin & Moi: I used to work at a school, and I could not believe how many upper-middle-class white parents let their children walk all over them! My parents would never have stood for that.
    @bloglogger: There are many well-intentioned people who feel uncomfortable talking about race, especially if their well-meaning parents or teachers had told them the best way to be "not racist" was to ignore race altogether. Luckily for me, my parents (white and Native American, respectively), were quite blunt on the issue, and we lived in a decently mixed neighborhood. But when I moved to a predominantly white, wealthy and liberal region, I ended up hearing the "we don't talk about race" message a lot from people who meant only the best.

  32. "The kids with black mothers, on other the hand, practically wet themselves if their parents get called. That's because their mothers stroll right past us before we can even say hello and often smack their kids right then and there in the middle of the office. They always tell their kids--without any help from us--why what they did was wrong, how it makes the family look, and how they disrupted their parents' work and potentially the household income."
    I'm not sure this is any better...

  33. @Moi, who said I have wrestled with CPS on this issue on numerous occasions and I always get the same horrific answer: the state will not intervene until after the child severely harms someone.: I'm not even kidding you, I've been digesting your response for almost 24 hours, waiting for an intelligent and coherent reply to appear in my mind... and 24 hours later, all I have is, "What. The. F**king. F**k?"

    It is universally known that children are, by design, inconvenient.

    I'm beginning to wonder if some people _are_ as aware of that now as they used to be. Many of us grow up in single-child households or two-child households where we're relatively close in age - we don't have as much exposure to small children. (Personally, I'd only changed a diaper three times in my life before having my own baby.) And I think the ubiquitous news stories of celebrities adopting/having babies left and right and making babies look like the ultimate easy accessory (yeah, it's easy when you've got several nannies)... and all the Supernanny shows where it leaves you with this perception of, "Yes, you too can let your child run wild for years and then with a single week of hard work, they'll become a lovely child!"... I wonder just how much they really do understand that parenting is a frustrating, soul-sucking, nearly thankless endeavor the vast, vast, vast majority of the time. (Also: parents who only talk about the nice parts of parenting and never discuss the frequent tedious reality? Not Helping.)

    I'm now going to return to thinking about CPS's massive fail, because I still can't wrap my head around it.

  34. Sally's story demonstrates the influence spouses have on the white person's racist thought and behavior. I have seen someone go from "knows that telling racist jokes and using slurs is wrong" to "tells said jokes and uses slurs" because the spouse is openly racist.

  35. @ Wiwaxia

    Allow me to clarify. The kids don't get smacked across the face, if that's what you're worried about. I've seen a lot smacked hands in my time and these kids don't repeat-offend. Once is more than enough for them. The white kids, on the other hand, are in the office day after day.

    Furthermore, it is far better than the other sitch, mainly because of how Robin broke it down:

    ...I think the major part of what you're discussing there is crucial: for the white parents, the context is about their child. For the parents of color, the context is about how their child's actions are affecting others. The white child's place at the center of the universe is being reinforced to the white child during those interactions; the children of color are being made to realize that they're not the center of everything, they're part of an inter-related group of people, and it's not all about them. When their parents are railing at them, they're being taught that you have to consider others, not just yourself. That's huge.

    She's right. Granted, CP is not the best method, but a smacked hand is not CP. That one is not the center the universe, and one must think before they act or speak because they might harm another is a huge lesson--the most important lesson, in fact--and a smacked hand simply helps a child to remember it. Like I said, these kids don't keep getting in trouble after experiences like that.

    In fact the only black repeat offenders are the ones whose parents don't do the smack-and-rail routine, but they are in a very tiny minority. There are exactly seven of these kids and I know them all by name. The principal knows all their families and consistently reminds each kid of the mistakes their parents made in their youths--every drug bust, jail sentence, and teen pregnancy. These kids are very young, so we have to constantly remind them how those parental mistakes have negatively impacted their lives today legally, financially, and within the very structure of their families. Again--no coddling, just cold, hard reality.

  36. The comments about Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in this post are all too familiar to me... my grandmother always said things around the house like that when I lived with her, along with the rest of my family, when I was very young (around 3-4).
    The shocker is that my family is Black and my grandmother used to teach ESL at a school in Southern California. And hate of Latinos is damn near ubiquitous here. It makes me sick.

  37. I think the most subtle, annoying and disguting way racism is passed on these days is through the negation of cultural difference ie everything which isn't Western. People, white people would say: "I'm not racist, I see no difference between you and me: we're equal." Having become the leading and dominant culture around the world, white people have become or rather are as eurocentric as their parents, ancestors used to be. Everything is fine as long as you do everything according to the white standards: it's the norm. The main issue with this reasoning is that people don't know how to react when they're faced with something foreign or isn't Western ie white enough. Try explaining a white person that certain things are conceived in a different way in another country, religion or on another continent. The usual reaction would be: "that's weird." Weird as if only one norm is supposed to exist. Being the dominant culture, white people are not raised or used to put themselves in other people shoes and see things from their perspectives. It isn't about accepting those different POVs as true but only acknowledging their existence and maybe their validity even though one doesn't agree with them. Yet, a white person, kid isn't able to do that. On the other side, take any non-western person and you'll see it's more easier and somewhat natural for that person to do that exercise. Why? Because not only non-white people are aware of their difference with white people are neither afraid, neither bothered by that, but being from dominated groups or cultures, they have used to see things from perspectives which aren't theirs. My point is that it isn't because a white person can stand the presence of a non-white person near him/her that he/she isn't racist. He/she will stop being a racist when he/she'll be able to acknowledge and accept that it's OK for the other to be different from him/her: no need to assimilate. Not being a racist is remembering that we all have red, not blue but red blood in our veins and that we're all humans, no matter how different we look, sound or smell. The day white people would stop acting like their culture is the only one which deserves to be followed on earth, they'll stop passing on racism in a subtle way to their children. Stop being eurocentric and you'll see a real major difference between you, your children and your ancestors.


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