Jenée Desmond-Harris and Lauren Williams focus on a letter about microaggressions and parenting.
This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Lauren Williams discuss a Prudie letter: “Trusting Other Parents”
Jenée Desmond-Harris: Hello! So we talked about it offline and you mentioned that as the parent of two black kids with white teachers and classmates, you never cared about these things. Talk about it …
Lauren Williams: I grew up in a very white environment. I went to white schools and had white friends. It was the 80s and 90s, and while I don’t remember the specifics, I’m sure the microaggressions were way more aggressive than anything this guy’s kid could get from the well-meaning whites he’s worried about!
I was born: And you turned out okay! Better than okay – great!
Lauren: And I didn’t grow up hating myself. I never wanted to “be white”. And that’s because of your advice. That stuff comes from your upbringing. It comes from home. You cannot control the outside. Of course, I am concerned about overt racism. I have a special needs son. I’m worried he’ll have encounters with the police. I am concerned that my daughter will be discriminated against because of her gender and race. I just don’t worry about microaggressions! That would drive me crazy!
I was born: Right, and even when it comes to microaggression, I think it’s misguided that his focus on “As a black parent (and researcher) with a black son, how can I best deal with white liberal parents (and teachers) who still as if his lectures could fix them … instead of realizing that once the strange comment is made his son has already heard and he has to figure out how to fix his son.
Lauren: Yes, the focus is a little off. And the work to make sure his son is okay also happens before his son hears the comment, not afterwards. But I think he’s right in his assumption that he can’t teach everyone. And when his son gets older he will absolutely die if his father becomes the parent teaching his girlfriend’s mother who has the best snacks because she said “black” instead of “black” or something.
I was born: Right, and it won’t make him feel any better being the black boy at the white school.
Lauren: Here, too, there is so much to fear as parents. As the parent of a black son, there is so much to fear. Your energies should be directed towards making sure your child knows their worth when you send them into the world, rather than controlling what happens when you do. (Because you can’t control what people will do or say. And people will always be a disappointment.)
I was born: Every time.
Lauren: A few years ago I found a third grade diary. I went to a predominantly white school and at the time I only had white friends. The entry was a dramatic brooding over whether my mom was racist or not for not letting me buy one of those Barbie busts that were meant for hair styling (do they still do them ??) because they didn’t have black people in the house Business.
I was born: Aww.
Lauren: I literally didn’t have a white doll in my possession as a kid unless it was bought as a gift from someone else.
I was born: I love that you were so black at home that you worried about the poor white doll as a potential victim of discrimination. This is MUCH better than saying, “Oh God, my friend’s mother said my hair seemed unwieldy, what does it all mean to me?” (Welcome to my childhood.)
Lauren: Hahaha, Jenée! Thank god for YouTube [haircare tutorials], although.
I was born: Thank God.
Help! My neighbor had dog poop piling up on his lawn for a year.
Content blocked for Slate Plus members
Help! My body positive friends attacked me for training.
Help! My husband will not speak to me if I don’t pay a “tithing”.
Content blocked for Slate Plus members
Help! My wife is contradicting our child-bearing agreement.
Lauren: Anyway, my parents were incredibly aware of immersing ourselves in black culture, keeping us very close to our family, and showing off in every possible way because they knew we couldn’t get that in school. This is important. You can’t leave it to chance.
I was born: But also because it’s 2021 and teachers are complaining about “critical racial theory”, I want to encourage this father to be an idiot in the name of anti-racism when he feels moved. Just choose your battles.
Lauren: Yeah, I mean, I should say that I don’t live in an area of the country that is complaining about critical racial theory. The LW didn’t say where he lived, but it seems like he lives around a lot of white liberals. So probably not either.
I was born: Good point. This is probably more of the “wow, I’m so tanned, I’m almost as dark as you hahaha” stuff you better raise, raise a kid who thinks this is an absurd thing and laughs at it than you do put together a slide deck of why it was wrong and submit it to the PTA.