Thursday, December 18, 2008

All Children Are Not The Same

Some people just love to wallow in their privilege and create others as invisible.  In an earlier post at Ann J Cooke she employed the referential black to explain the ways in which children are marginalzed.  After being called out, one would think that it would behove this woman of privilege, to examine the ways in which her arguments are offensive, but some people seem to need to take several cracks at the nut to get what for POC is pretty damn obvious.  Hello Anne the stink of privilege is getting to be a little strong.

In her latest lets support the children while ignoring the experiences of POC she decides that universalizing is the way to gain rights for children.

Last I checked, childhood is about as universal an experience as we human beings can claim. It is not as if children are only born to white, upper-class heterosexual adults with advanced degrees. The assumption that because I write about young people I belong to these categories says more, it seems to me, about the invisibility of the world’s children than it does about my own identity.** If “child” to a person who reads this blog automatically means white, rich, ivy-league-destined, non-queer child raised by white, rich, straight, ivy-league-educated parents, where does that leave the children who do not fit into that identity? Invisible? Irrelevant?

In the words of Shakespeare, we are all of woman born; however from the moment we take our first breathe the social divisions that are encoded to the body immediately become realized.  No one is born outside of discourse.

My beautiful baby Destruction will be 8 in the spring.  Though he is largely responsible for the swath of gray hair I have developed in the last few years, he is a beautiful, intelligent, loving child (sorry had to have a proud mama moment) As a baby he had no idea of his bi-racial identity.  People would often comment how beautiful he was, after of course inquiring if I the woman that gave him life was his mother.  Every where he went store owners would offer him free candy, or samples to which he would politely decline, or accept depending on his mood.

For the briefest of moments he lived with the illusion that all the world existed to adore him.  Why would he not, people were universally kind to him, his father and I doted on him, his life was a reflection of love. I remember him holding my hand thoughtfully and announcing "I am brown like you mommy".  It was a simple statement but to me an acknowledgement of his pride in not only me as his mother, but in the legacy I had bequeathed to him from my womb

Then it happened, the inevitable..he left his toddler days behind and became a little boy (this in spite of me begging him not to grow up) The same store owners that gave him treats now observe him closely to ensure that he is not stealing. The first time my baby was called a nigger and a brown boy, he was five years old.  I repeat five years old. Coming from an interracial household where race was not readily a marker of difference, the taunt hurt and confused him all the more. His father and I were always aware that we were going to have to discuss racism and difference with him, but how many white children learn at the age of five that the colour of their skin makes them less than, and worthy of such evil name calling? 

There is my beautiful child learning about the world and what does it choose to show him, but the ugliest that it has to offer.  His gender and his race work together to inform how others react to him.  When he lost his temper at the teasing as anyone would, it was not the child that verbally abused him that was stigmatized, but my boy for supposedly having a violent personality.  It seems that black boys should be born with the ability to internalize the hatred of others without complaint.

I have gone to battle with schools, parents, organized teams and all matter of people who seek diminish my son.  They will not rob him of his self pride so long as I live and breathe.  Destruction is lucky in this, as many parents disengage and leave their children to face the world alone to beaten down by their own life experiences.  His father and I are committed to protecting and nurturing him until he can fight his own battles. 

I have watched him struggle looking for role models to fashion himself after. I will always be thankful for Barack Obama for providing a positive image that he can identify with.  He knows Baracks story and the lesson he has taken is to hold his head up in the face of adversity.  My child walks proud not because of the way the world treats him, but in spite of it.

When parents are telling their children that police officers are people that they can turn to in times of need, I must tell my child that he should approach with suspicion. The law is not necessarily a friend to a black man, as I am sure Sean Bell would testify to if he could.  How many white children must learn this lesson at the age of seven?

Today when I steal a kiss in public, (yeah apparently big boys don't kiss their moms when others can see) we no longer receive the stares that we once did because his skin has darkened with age and he now looks like a black child.  This has only be replaced by the stares he gets when he is out with his father.  What does that strange green eyed six foot tall white man want with a little brown boy anyway...he is his father you idiot and your staring is rude and intrusive.  This happens every single time they leave the house together.  What is this teaching my boy but to view the relationship with the man that loves him the most as an oddity? 

There are plenty of experiences of the ways in which race complicates his life but I trust that I have made my point.  Childhood is not a universal experience.  Just like anything in life the way we experience it is highly influenced by race, class and gender.  What is occurring in Destructions life is highly different than what occurs in the life of a white child of privilege.  While the world is steadily working to indoctrinate him into believing that he does not have the right to occupy space, or live with human dignity, that same white child is being affirmed as a person of value and offered as much privilege as their race and class status can afford.

While it might be convenient for Ann J Cooke to wax on about the universalizing experiences of childhood, my boy deserves better than that.  The struggles that he has already faced in seven years deserve to be recognized.  I will fight anyone that tells me to sweep it under the rug and pretend that none of it is concrete, or important.  Whiteness as the norm is what is wrong with her analysis, and I for one am tired of POC being ignored so that white people can spin their fantastical fairy tales.  Ms. Cooke your privilege is showing please move upwind the stink is suffocating.


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