Presenting to you my second ever guest post! It comes to you all the way from mainland Europe, Germany, Berlin, to be precise (cos Brexit can go kiss my ass) and has been penned by the beautiful Kristin aka Frau Naijn aka Me, Myself & Child.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me wearing a couple of her tees. If you follow any of these wonderful women below, you will have seen them wearing her tees too! Yep, we cute 🙂
As you can see, Me, Myself & Child is about empowering women, but it’s also about lots of other stuff. Not only is Kristin a #mumboss, but she is also someone who truly believes in what she is doing. She wants to make a change while making a little change (see what I did there?) Many of the isms are discussed: feminism, racism, sexism. She is an advocate and member of the body positive movement. She is passionate about gender issues and has published an interview series on her blog titled #ohnevaetar on”Parenting Against the Cistem”, in which she speaks to mothers who are parenting children without cis-fathers. She is also big into music and art AND she basically has a forest growing on her balcony (remember #heyitsMRbloom?)
Not one to shy away from calling out bullshit, Kristin prides herself on offering an alternative perspective. And this is a topic on which she certainly has a perspective.
I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I did.
Frau Naijn, thank-you.
Sometimes, my white guilt takes over. Memories of all the things I did wrong. All the racist comments and microaggressions I let slide, before she was born…before I had even thought of her. And then, after she was born, during those first years. As if I could change the past. As if guilt makes anything better. Well, it doesn’t. Guilt does not bring us further in fighting racism. Learning from our past mistakes does. Educating ourselves by listening to people of colour does. Reflecting on white privilege and using it to make room for those marginalized by it.
In a discussion, someone once said that if one white person does not react to another white person’s racist remarks, chances are high that they think you agree with them. I try to never forget that. Of course, it’s not always that easy. Even here, there are power structures in place. But sometimes, it is just the simple fact that I do not have the energy to deal with this kind of ish today… But, I have learned to take less shit than I used to. I call people out. I get angry. Especially when I’m alone with other white people. It is important. Yes, even family and friends too. Yes, it might include removing people from your life.
That’s not where it starts though. It starts with acknowledging racism and the fact that we are raised in a white, hetero, patriarchal, capitalist society and that even though we consider ourselves not to be racist, sometimes we do and say racist things. Yes, even, or better yet, especially you, the parent of a Black kid, will have to deal with your own internalised, racist stereotypes. It is a life long process of (un)learning and it is hard as fuck.
I knew, even before she was born, that my daughter needed role models & heroines that looked like her, media & toys that represent her and other kids looking like her. I also knew that I needed to learn about the hair & skin care she would need. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t start looking in the wrong places first and came to false conclusions.
For example, I had to break through the common thought that thick, curly, natural hair is hard to handle. It is not. What’s difficult is finding access to the right and the affordable products to care for it. Same goes for make up and skin care…and said representation in media.
Only slowly did I begin to realize that just because a book or movie included a Black character, it didn’t mean that it wasn’t a deeply problematic character, reproducing racism & stereotypes. I could even mention some childhood favourites here (hello Pippi Longstocking, you racist piece of sh*t). Turns out that the amount of books that include Black children and children of colour, and that are available in German language, is ridiculously small. Especially if you are looking for regular, happy, adventurous children’s stories, without a white saviour, for younger, school-aged kids. TV shows & movies are easier to access – if you can overlook the often shitty dubbing or hetero gender roles etc.
Still, books and other media, that’s kind of the easy part…By now, her, and my, shelves are stuffed with stories that represent her and her friends and I exchange tips and reviews with other parents of black kids on the internet… In the end, she decides what she likes. I can only offer options and alternatives and explain why I do not like certain things.
The harder part? Public spaces, strangers with their unsolicited comments and encroachments, white relatives too, and, of course, institutions, like school. School is where it gets really tough. Not only do they start losing their toddler bonus (you know, aww – cute, chocolate baby and all that crap), but by the time they enter school, all kids have learned about power structures and are racially biased. White parents of white kids especially don’t like to hear this, but, your kids are not too young to know what racism is. Even if they do not know the words for it, they know what it is. Kids are mean. But kids are usually straight-forward and willing to learn. White teachers? Not so much. Their racism is subtle; so much so, that they don’t even realize what they are doing. It isn’t always blackface for carnival or the n-word. It is slightly lower scores. It is picking the black child out to be the problem, rather than the environment the child is in. It is white history in school books and the colonisers’ views on Africa. It is blaming it on “that temper”, rather than taking the anger seriously. It is favouring the white kids without even noticing. It is probably all of those other little things that you cannot quite put your finger on but that seem strange.
Now, I know I’m not telling Black parents anything new here, but, as a white parent, this is what you have to be aware of. This is what you have to learn and understand when raising kids of colour. Also know that you cannot protect them from racism, so you will have to educate yourself about, not only racism, but, white privilege; deconstructing the white narrative and Eurocentric views and how they are connected to other forms of discrimination. Learn how to prepare your kids. Find out about the tools to help them deal with it and always, always have your kid’s back…
You have to listen carefully, but also know that there’s a fine line between being an ally to your kid and going over their head by talking for and/or about them. You, with your white privilege will never really fully understand what it means. So you might have to give your kids access to spaces where there are others who share this experience with them – in real life, not just books and media – and acknowledge that some of these spaces aren’t for you. That this is ok too. Because in the end, no matter how much you love each other, those might be the spaces where they feel safest to be themselves, be happy and where they will gather the knowledge they need to cope. Because they will (have to) find their own coping mechanisms and find out what works best for them when dealing with racism.
Because this, this is really not about you.