Friday, April 15, 2011

I would prefer easier to digest food... for thought. (Updated that next morning over a cup of coffee and toast smeared with almond butter)

Here's the update:  Try to not get hung up on the vocabulary- it is my belief that the author used the terminology as a way to provoke emotions. Furthermore, this was only a small portion of the book... there is a context that I did not include due to the length.  Additionally, I know of many children who are considered "trophy children" who are born to the mother and father- the athlete, the brain, the actor.  I personally don't know of anyone who has adopted that parades their child around as though they were a pet or a prize, but I think it's something interesting to consider- the "orphan child" that so many write about saving- their own version of the trophy.

Regardless, people are people.  Humans are humans.  For the most part I believe we are all doing our best to be our best.  One of my ways to do my best is to read and converse.  I grew up in a world full of white Republican German Roman Catholics- the more exposure to different viewpoints, the better for me and my family.

Now, onto the original post:

There was much food for thought in the comments received on the last post.  I recommend reading them if you get the chance.

As for me, I thought I would continue on a bit more with some insights from author and sociologist B. K. Rothman:
It's this funny Benetton ad thing:  race exists to surpass itself.  We recognize race, but only to go past it.  We celebrate race, we take pleasure in it, we overcome race.  It is a way of thinking about race that involves not thinking about race, denying its significance, its politics, its history.  We are all just people-- black, white, yellow, or, as some people like to suggest, green or purple.  Our variations, they say, are just meaningless colors.  This is both a celebration of color and a denial.  "Color" becomes "colorful," meaningless, apolitical.

This approach, or model, or image for the white parent raising the black child is to ignore blackness.  A baby is a baby is a baby.  That could not, of course, be more true.  In each and all of the daily acts of nurturance, the race of the baby is completely besides the point.  Diapers and diaper rash, breasts and bottles and baby food, early language acquisition, peek-a-boo, skinned knees-- these have nothing to do with race.

But blackness is a quality assigned to the child, even if not to the relationship.  The child has to have the oft-discussed "survival skills" of a black person.  At its extreme, the slave child has to learn how to be a slave.  The subservience, self-protection, street-smarts-- whatever it is that the white society demands of that child, the child has to learn it somewhere.  And as the child grows, larger and larger loom the societal expectations about race.

The real movement folks, those who continued to work long past the early days of marches and bus boycotts, got past that Benetton, color-blind, all-in-it-together thing pretty quickly.  In a racist system, you're not going to all join your multi-colored hands together and sing race away.  The work got harder.

And the work gets harder for the trophy children.  Just as we all have to grow up and realize we're not the best-beloved pets of the whole world-- only, if we were very lucky, our parents' best-beloved pets-- so too do children who start out as trophies have to grow up to take their place in the world.

Kind of hard to read, 'eh?  Yeah, this book made it tricky for me to sleep at night.  I found it much easier to read Shantaram, a 1,000 page mostly autobiographical novel, full of tales that leave you breathless and full of wonder.  But this one, this one I keep referring?  Its stories left me full of anxiety.  Just reread that bit above as a case in point.

When I talk about my son's hair, when I struggle with whether or not I should cut it, I am not thinking as a white woman with a white son.  If that were the case, I more likely than not would push for my son to have the wildest, craziest, mountain hippie hair possible.  Chances are high that as he aged, I would beg him to let his hair turn into dreadlocks.  Not even kidding.

But like I said, that's not how I'm thinking.  The way I'm thinking now is as a white mother, raising a black son.  Who has gathered information from stories I have heard shared from other mothers, as well as friendly conversations I have had with women who share the same culture as my son.  Whether or not I want them to be, those facts are significant to me.  On so many levels.

This book I am referring to- it isn't the be all and end all.  It's not my bible.  I don't hold every word to be the truth.  But it does give me another perspective- and if it gives you one as well, then I'd say the author is doing her job.