A mother of a blond haired blue eyed little boy crowed to the world on her blog that we are doing something right because
Her little boy said that that his mom said he could be anything he wanted to be and so he said he wanted to be African-American.
Posted with tags like “progress” and “lessons learned”.
She also refers to her son as “innocent and sweet”.
I didn’t comment on her post, which already had 3 five star votes, and 5 likes and 2 co-signing comments.
Because I didn’t want to ask her the questions I’m going to ask here. I don’t want to out her blog or her post either, that’s why no links.
She never said how old her son is. Never went any further on what exactly he meant by wanting to be African-American. Maybe she didn’t ask. I want to know. Was it like wanting to be a Firefighter or a more like a costume sort of thing “I want to be (fill in the blank) for Halloween”? Was he identifying with someone Black he’d seen on TV and wanted to be like them?
I will admit to going through a bad patch right now, which is another reason I didn’t say anything on her post, maybe this is just hitting me the wrong way: but I was and still am bothered by the whole thing. Which is why I’m writing about it. Maybe after I’m done I can get some sleep.
Is her son near the same age as the kid in the picture below? Will she tell her son a little bit about what its really like to be an African-American male? Has she even thought about that?
Does she understand that little Black boys don’t get to be seen as “innocent and sweet” in this country? Does she understand that she gets to not have this kind of experience:
“My aunt is one of those moms — white as me, but mom to a black man who was once young, a young black man who was stopped for jogging in his own neighborhood, a young black man for whom she would tremble a little whenever he went into the city.
Like every other parent of a young black man, my aunt knew that my cousin could be frisked, arrested, and even killed for little but his youth, gender, and skin.
White privilege is never being frightened for my son’s life, simply because of the color of his skin.” (source)
This is not progress.
I am pretty sure she has taught her son to not be prejudiced, has worked hard to make sure he doesn’t end up like this little girl. Maybe she has taught him all about being colorblind too. I dunno. Like I said, there wasn’t much to go on in the post.
But it felt like tada! Look what my son said! Yay! And we’re all good now. Sort of like how I felt when people started to bandy about the words “Post Racial” in juxtaposition with America’s first Black president. Tada! Look what we did! Yay! It’s all good. I have that same icky feeling, that I just can’t put my finger on.
Her son won’t ever have to show his papers. She won’t ever have to sit her son down and explain to him about THIS. A stranger won’t slap her son and call him racial slurs. She is operating and living in that bubble of white privilege and its not about race, racism or really any of that. It is about her being so excited about some sort of milestone achieved that is essentially meaningless on any notion of progress or even equality.
I suppose a lot of that depends on what her son meant, and I suppose we’ll never know. I’m guessing if she’d asked him, she would have put his response in the post as well. It probably never even occurred to her to ask what with all the “lessons learned” and “progress” happening at the time.
Kids want to “be” stuff they find interesting and cool. Jobs like Firefighter, Teacher, Doctor. They want to be a Princess or Batman or an Airplane or a Dinosaur. Or their favorite character from their favorite book, movie or television show.
Maybe that is part of the funny icky feeling. “African-American” isn’t a cool job or an interesting persona like a super-hero or a daughter of a queen. Or a character in a book, movie or television show. Or a thing or an animal.
I can sort of appreciate (I really can’t tho) this mom teaching her child that African-Americans are so special and so awesome that her son ends up wanting to be that special and awesome thing.
But that is just othering and emphasizing the differentness and exoticizing no matter how positive the framing. The default is still white, the norm, and everything else, is, well, everything else.