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    Entries in politics (5)


    the one with the bright skin

    Welcome to the July 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning About Diversity

    This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they teach their children to embrace and respect the variety of people and cultures that surround us. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


    Shortly after the Presidential election last November -- after we had, as a family, watched the debates, attended rallies and painted our windows on election night with Obama logos, then paraded outside with noisemakers as the results were announced and we breathed a collective sigh of relief -- we had friends over to play. George sat on the couch looking at a magazine with our neighbor's middle school-aged daughter, and they came to a picture of the newly reelected man we'd rooted for. 

    "Who's that?" our friend prompted.

    "Barack Obama," George replied. "But I don't like him. I like the man with the brighter skin." 

    Are you a racist, bro?I couldn't help myself. From across the room, I yelped, "WHAT?!" Do I need to put a disclaimer here, saying this is not the way I recommend you deal with the issue of racism with your kids?

    "Th-th-that's not true," I stammered. Our friend looked on in what I perceived to be sheer horror but what was probably actually bemusement. "You like Barack Obama! You LOVE Barack Obama!" I don't even love Barack Obama, but by golly I needed George to recant, but fast. Unsurprisingly, he didn't. Like most people who are confronted with their prejudice when someone insists that they've simply misspoken, he shrugged and carried on. 

    For awhile, I freaked out about it. Was George being cold to the biracial kid in his preschool class? Was there a reason he hadn't recently asked to play with Juanito from across the street? Has this affected any of the people of color in our lives? I didn't have to wonder for long if he realized they weren't white, because he began pointing out anybody whose skin color was darker than his. I countered with white people's hair color and eye color, trying to make it a zero sum game. But it didn't matter, and it didn't stop him commenting on even the subtlest tan. So I dialed back my anxiety that I was raising a racist, and remembered that, actually, I don't want to participate in color blind culture. I want my kids to see race, to value differences and, most importantly, to examine their feelings around it, not to mention their privilege. 

    So, we talked. I stopped trying to equalize George's every observation. I let him have the floor and when he asked me questions, his openness surprised me. Reframing his observations as...well, simple observations rather than the sinister, loaded comments I was inclined to bristle against has helped me to think more deeply about my own bias and privilege. And I began to understand, too (on another level, at least), how ingrained prejudice is in a culture when three year olds hear and take to heart the dog whistles sounding around them. Having a respectful, open dialogue about his ideas and challenging them, helping him to see the beauty in differences when his mind craves sameness, understanding what is developmentally appropriate instead of expecting him to have a nuanced understanding of race: these things have been imperative to our successful exploration of an admittedly uncomfortable topic.

    I look forward to the day when I can point out to George that the luxury of having this conversation at all is part of our privilege; that many, many people, some of whom we love dearly, experience racism, with no explanations, from the day they are born. With a foundation laid in honest, open dialogue, I'm hopeful that those discussions won't be far off, and their gravity won't be lost on him.  


    Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

    Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

    (This list will be updated by afternoon July 9 with all the carnival links.)

    • A gift for my daugther — Amanda, a special education teacher for students with multiple exceptionalities, discusses at My Life in a Nutshell how she will enrich her daughter's life by educating her the amazing gifts her students will bring to the world.
    • The Beauty in Our Differences — Meegs at A New Day writes about her discussions with her daughter about how accepting ourselves and those around us, with all our beautiful differences and similarities, makes the world a better place.
    • Accepting Acceptance and Tolerating Tolerance — Destany at They Are All of Me examines the origins of and reasons behind present day social conformity.
    • Differencessustainablemum discusses what she feels to be the important skills for embracing diversity in her family home.
    • Turning Japanese — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different shares how she teaches her kiddos about Japanese culture, and offers ideas about "semi immersion" language learning.
    • Celebrating Diversity at the International House Cottages — Mommy at Playing for Peace discovers the cultures of the world with her family at local cultural festivals
    • Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of truly knowing your roots and heritage and how to help children honor their multiple heritages.
    • People. PEOPLE! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is trying to teach her children to use language that reflects respect for others, even when their language doesn't seem to them to be disrespectful.
    • Call Me Clarice, I Don't Care - A True Message in Diversity — Lisa at The Squishable Baby knows that learning to understand others produces empathetic children and empathetic families.
    • Diversity of Families — Family can be much more then a blood relation. Jana at Jananas on why friends are so important for her little family of three.
    • Diverse Thoughts Tamed by Mutual Respect — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work thinks that diversity is indispensable to our vitality, but that all of our many differences require a different sort of perspective, one led by compassion and mutual respect.
    • Just Shut Up! — At Old New Legacy, Becky gives a few poignant examples in her life when listening, communication and friendship have helped her become more accepting of diversity.
    • The World is our Oyster — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot is thankful for the experiences that an expat lifestyle will provide for herself as well as for her children.
    • Children's black & white views (no pun intended … kind of) — Lauren at Hobo Mama wonders how to guide her kids past a childish me vs. them view of the world without shutting down useful conversation.
    • Raising White Kids in a Multicultural World — Leanna at All Done Monkey offers her two cents on how to raise white children to be self-confident, contributing members of a colorful world. Unity in diversity, anyone?
    • Ramadan Star and Moon Craft — Celebrate Ramadan with this star and moon craft from Stephanie at InCultureParent, made out of recycled materials, including your kid's art!
    • Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how her family deals with the discrimination against others and how she and her husband are raising children who are making a difference.
    • The Difference is Me - Living as the Rainbow Generation — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is used to being the odd-one-out, but walking an alternative path with children means digging deeper, answering lots of questions and opening to more love.
    • My daughter will only know same-sex marriage as normal — Doña at Nurtured Mama realizes that the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage will change the way she talks to her daughter about her own past.
    • Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her multicultural family and shares Montessori-inspired ideas for encouraging respect for diversity.
    • EveryDay Diversity — Ana at Panda & Ananaso makes diversity a part of everyday living, focusing on raising of compassionate and respectful child.
    • Diversity as Part of Life — Even though Laura at Authentic Parenting thought she had diversity covered, she found out that some things are hard to control.
    • Inequity and Privilege — Jona is unpacking questions raised by a summit addressing inequity in breastfeeding support at Life, Intertwined.
    • 3 Ways to Teach Young Children About Diversity — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama recognizes her family's place of privilege and shares how she is teaching her little ones about diversity in their suburban community.
    • Teaching diversity: tales from public school — A former public high school teacher and current public school parent, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama values living in a diverse community.
    • 30 Ideas to Encourage Learning about Diversity While Traveling — Traveling with kids can bring any subject alive. Dionna at Code Name: Mama has come up with a variety of ways you can incorporate diversity education into your family travels (regardless of whether you homeschool). From couch surfing to transformative reading, celebrate diversity on your next trip!
    • Diversity, huh? — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn't do anything BIG to teach about diversity; it's more about the little things.
    • Chosen and Loved — From Laura at Pug in the Kitchen: Color doesn't matter. Ethnicity doesn't matter. Love matters.
    • The One With The Bright Skin — Stefanie at Very Very Fine tries to recover from a graceless response to her son's apparent prejudice.

    on involving my kids in politics

    A photo of my son -- a photo (and a kid, obviously) of which I am very proud -- did some laps around the internet last week. On more than one occasion it, my parenting, and my motives were questioned, and that took me by surprise, as George was participating in an activity I would never think twice of. What was he doing?

    Standing on the steps of our county's courthouse, at a rally in support of Referendum 74 (WHICH PASSED THANK YOU WASHINGTON), which affords all Washingtonians their right to marry whomever they damn well please.

    I was accused of indoctrinating him, of forcing my beliefs on him, and using him for political gain. Those accusations made me sad not because they spoke to me in any real way; they were absurd. I was disappointed to read them, because they meant that people are not engaging their kids in political discourse. To the hand-wringers, a child at a rally is a prop, not a participant, and that speaks volumes of the state of our nation. 

    George wasn't plunked down on the steps of the courthouse for a photo-op, and he wasn't naive to the cause for which we were rallying support. We've talked at length this fall about the presidential candidates, the ballot measures that most concern us, and what we, as citizens, can do to make sure our voices are heard and people get a fair shake. So many people he loves -- we love -- are affected by the homophobia that plagues our country, and if anyone feels injustice to the core, it's a toddler. What better time to introduce the concept of privilege (and shedding it) than in these formative years? We are developing a habit of participation, of informing ourselves and thoughtfully considering those around us. If that's indoctrination, well, there are certainly worse dogmata.

    That brings me to the other troubling part of the complaints: the assertion that I should give my kids "all the information" and "let them decide." This is a proposition only humored by liberals, and I'm here to say: NO EFFING WAY. Civil rights are not something about which we should even be voting. Were my children to grow up racist, I wouldn't shrug my shoulders and say hey, to each his own! The devoutly religious, the homophobic: they don't (usually) suggest to one another that there might be another way, so what's with the liberal guilt around the only things that are, without question, just and true? I have no problem telling my kids, or anyone else, that some things are right and some things are wrong and my family will not participate in bigotry. For the record, I also often choose what George eats for lunch, when he goes to bed, and whether or not he can oppress his sister despite not detailing every edible thing in the house, the necessary bodily functions that occur during sleep, or what will happen when Zelda is big enough to fight back. 

    I was proud to watch the debates with my children, proud to hear what George had to say about Obama and Romney, and thrilled when he could rejoice with me in the victories we won. It's never too early to have these conversations, and never too late, either. In a country where apathy is rampant, involvement is one cure. 




    Proud of Washington State tonight. 


    team mama

    The deeper I get into this motherhood thing, the more the topics of 'making people feel bad' or 'honoring everyone's choices' comes up. In short, this all seems to fall under the blanket of TEAM MAMA: an idyllic group with matching t-shirts (the color of which is universally flattering, obviously) that gets together to talk about how great it is that we all make different decisions. On this team, there's none of that nasty, terrible thing called judgment; everyone listens serenely to others' experiences, then congratulates each other on the group's willingness to assume that everyone is doing her best. Your ideas don't have to mesh, but you'd better not make anyone feel BAD, by way of personal story or facts or legitimate questions, because then? You're a dreadful, unfeeling and vindictive person. But: no judgment. 

    I have always been a happy outsider to this group. Firm in my opinions and willing to express them calmly, I'll partake in the odd conversation about "the issues," as I find banter fulfilling and interesting (and assume, often mistakenly, that if others are engaging in a discussion with two obvious viewpoints, they do as well). About 75% of the time, this goes over like a lead balloon. Perhaps I should start prefacing my comments with "no judgment, but..." or some other hollow validation (my particular "favorite" being 'no offense' -- the universal alarm signaling that someone is about to offend you), but time and again, I assume that people are able to handle logical, fact-based debate. It turns out, this is not a tenet of Team Mama. It's actively discouraged! Encouraged, however, are apologetic half-arguments, embarrassing admissions, flippancy and a general air of well, I made this choice, but I could totally be wrong, so you know, it's whatever! 


    My question is this: what does it take, exactly, to get you thrown off Team Mama? What qualifies one for exile to the Island of Misfit Mothers? If we're under the assumption that every woman is simply doing her best (as most therapist will tell you is indeed the case, despite lots of truly shitty results), that every decision is well-researched and thought-out, as seems to be the prevailing theory, where do we draw the line? Because everyone has one. 

    I can list the unpopular issues that, if it weren't for fear of banishment, might be some people's threshold: breast vs. bottle; circumcised vs. intact; spanking vs. ...not. I still haven't come across the one thing that rallies the troops against a common evil, excepting, that is, judgment. So, if someone uses a belt on her kid's bare ass, but does it in good faith because she was raised that way and turned out "just fine" that okay? If someone submits her daughter to removal of the clitoral hood because it's culturally normal, is that okay? DUI? Allowing your son to wear a tutu? What is it -- someone please enlighten me! For reals! 

    Will Team Mama ever take a break from self-congratulation to make a stand on something? Why is holding people accountable for their choices, for presenting valid, opposing information so mean? If there's room for agreement, there should be room for debate, otherwise we're doing our children -- and, I think, more importantly, ourselves -- a gigantic disservice. If my son sees me as a person, specifically a woman, who loves to research things, who makes informed choices and likes to discuss them with people who don't necessarily agree but can counter with equally well-researched arguments? AWESOME. If he sees me as a shrinking violet with herd mentality who'd rather not offend anyone with her views? FAILURE. I was talking to someone the other day about politics being an impolite conversation topic. Lamenting that, especially for my children's sake. If we can't sometimes delve into real conversation that foments new ideas, broadens horizons, and makes people a little hot under the collar, I fear for the future. Hell, I fear for the present: there are many, MANY who take pride in their ignorance and cling to outdated information to the rest of our detriment. I've also seen firsthand the results of teaching children that no one is to ever feel bad for anything: often, it's entitled people who make excuses for their own bad behavior or irresponsibility, who have little reason to do anything difficult or take risks, who don't speak their minds because they barely have minds to speak of. 

    I'm lucky to have good friends. Good mama friends, a few of whom are torch bearers for the Team, and in some ways I envy their ability to assimilate. On the other hand, though, I'm perfectly happy with the people I've welcomed into my life. I don't feel at a loss for friends, for simpatico people to talk to, and every month, lately, brings news that a new little baby's being born to a set of radical, Radical parents in my circles. So, Team Mama, you might see me at some of your potlucks but your shirts are bunchy in the armpits and I'd rather talk about, well, anything, than the latest episode of Up All Night/Teen Mom or the Twilight saga. If you work up a hardline on something, send me a memo, but othewise I think we'll just have to agree to disagree. If you can handle that. 


    bread and roses

    ...Or, wildflowers. Today is May Day, one of the holidays I really hope George enjoys as he gets older. I'm thrilled with any occasion that combines doorbell ditching, flowers and workers' rights (okay, I've cobbled together two separate holidays that fall on the same day -- efficiency!). Using this tutorial, we made some little seed bombs

    and using George's teensy fingertips, we made some cards.

    Technically, we should've distributed our presents on doorsteps this morning before people woke, but pancakes were calling and assembly wasn't finished, so everyone will have to cut us a break this year.

    Here is my virtual offering to you: James Oppenheim's poem, which always gets me teary:

    As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
    A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray 
    Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
    For the people hear us singing, "Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses."

    As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men--
    For they are women's children and we mother them again. 
    Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes--
    Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses!

    As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
    Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
    Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew--
    Yes, bread we fight for--but we fight for Roses, too.

    As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days--
    The rising of the women means the rising of the race--
    No more the drudge and idler--ten that toil where one reposes--
    But sharing of life's glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses!