Category Archives: parenting

Race + The Netherlands: Exile

By Guest Contributor Marly Pierre-Louis

Photos courtesy of the author.

I was warned before moving to Amsterdam that there’s a term Dutch people use for kids which translates to “monkey.” They use it with all kids and it’s supposed to be a term of endearment. They literally have no context for why you can’t call a Black kid that. The thing is my son is exceptionally cute (just sayin’) and people are constantly cooing at him, especially older people. Sure, they’re all smiles and sweet sounds but are they in fact calling my son a monkey?! And if they are, what do I do about it? Curse them out in English? Memorize Dutch insults to sling at all offending grandmothers?

We were also warned that we should make sure to be vocal about our two-year-old not being involved with any Zwarte Piet celebrations at his daycare. Most schools not only have kids coloring in pictures of him but they may even consider having Sekani dress up as a Piet! Excuse my Dutch but WHAT THE F*CK!?

The Dutch are so adamant about their love for Piet that the indoctrination begins as early as daycare. When parents have tried to have their kids abstain from the festivities at school, it seems unfathomable to teachers who do everything from guilt tripping the parents, “Why do you want your child to be left out?” to turning the kid against their parents, “your mommy doesn’t want you to have fun.” I heard from a friend that a Black mother she knew went to pick up her daughter from school one day only to find her face painted Black. This is all problematic for so many reasons.

When Sinterklaas season began, I was fully preparing to go to war.
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Sharline Chiang on Smiling Selfies and Other Lies

Photo courtesy of Sharline Chiang

At Hyphen, writer Sharline Chiang tackles the stigma of post-partum depression and how her race influenced her experience with the condition.

Four years ago I had three miscarriages. “You’re not careful enough,” my mother said. “You’re too active.” While I was pregnant with Anza, I learned I had balanced translocation, a genetic condition. We needed to get lucky. Even after explaining this to her, my mother would insist: “Go on bed rest so it doesn’t fall out.”

I couldn’t risk hearing words that sounded like blame. I already felt it was my fault: I was too soft.

My grandmothers combined had birthed and raised 15 children while fleeing the Japanese, the Communists, and poverty. What right did I have to fall apart?

So I took selfies of me and Anza smiling and sent them to my parents every day.

I lied because even though depression is so common in Asian American communities, we rarely talked about it. The message I grew up with: your mental struggles are our own; it’s up to you to find the inner strength to “ren,” to endure.

The character for “ren” 忍 is the character for “knife” over the “heart.” Endure even when there’s a knife in your heart.

In my thirties I discovered talk therapy, tried to get my parents to go. Their response was basically: “That’s for white people.” “They hook you in,” my mother said. “You can never be cured.”

I wish mental illness didn’t come with stigmas. I wish I could have told my parents that my mind had broken just as easily as if I had to tell them my arm had broken.

Whenever my husband would say, “You really should tell them,” I felt that chasm again (he’s white, son of hippies). To him it was unimaginable to suffer the darkest period of your life and not tell your parents. Meanwhile, everyone in his immediate family knew. His mother and brother moved down from Canada to help take care of me.

The fact that I could get PPD never crossed my mind. I had no history of depression.

Two years ago while pregnant with Anza, I had spent thousands of hours reading about pregnancy and birth and exactly five minutes reading about postpartum depression.

On the cover of the brochure was a white woman with long brown hair. She was staring into space under the words: “Feeling Blue?” I took one look and said to myself: white woman, sad woman, that’s not me and that’s not going to be me.

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My Dad, the Feminist

My Dad, The Feminist

By Guest Contributor Sydney Magruder; originally published at Elixher

I am 10 years old, sitting in a booth at Applebee’s, and my Dad is grilling me.

“Okay, last one. Who was the first Black woman ever to enter space?”

I am stumped.

“C’mon, Syd. I know you know it,” prods Daddy.

I turn the question over and over in my head like a smooth stone unearthed from a riverbed. Who was the first Black woman ever to enter space? I bite down harder on my lower lip, considering all of the trivia questions Daddy has ever asked me, and trying to remember if he’d asked this one before. He had not.

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I remember learning about her in school, and I could see her smiling face on a picture from my 6th grade classroom. Suddenly, a moment of clarity. A flash of brown skin, a cumbersome-looking orange suit, and the NASA insignia above a gleaming white name tag: Jemison.

“Mae Jemison! The first Black woman ever to enter space was Mae Jemison!” I offer confidently.

“Atta girl, Syd!” Daddy offers me a single french fry as reward for my effort.

As was customary, we played Black history trivia every time we went out to eat together. For each right answer, I was given that crunchy, salty, coveted reward. I munch contentedly as I watched the gears turn in his head, forming another question.

“Now…who was the first Black woman ever to be President of the United States?” he raises his eyebrow mischievously.

“Daddy, that’s a trick question. No Black woman has ever been President of the United States. It’s a fact.”

(I was a serious child—a very bossy, know-it-all, matter-of-fact little girl. Imagine Angelica, of Rugrats fame, with afro puffs.)

“Ah, not yet!” he shakes his finger at me. “It could very well be you, Sydney Magruder!” he bellows in his full, rich baritone. I laugh at him, and reach for another french fry. He reaches for one too, pretending to fence with his. I best him, splitting his fry pitifully in half with my own. I chew triumphantly.

“Ready to go?” he indicates the door with his eyes.

“Mom’s gonna make me go straight to bed when we get home,” I gripe.  “I’m not sleepy yet!”

I always begged to stay longer whenever we went out. Bedtime was the ultimate hindrance to our intellectual adventures.

Sydney and her dad

Sydney and her dad (right)

“Even geniuses have to sleep, baby” he retorts rationally.

In the car, the raindrops race each other across the window. I follow them with my index finger as the Washington, D.C. skyline hung in the distance. Daddy sings along to Crosby, Stills & Nash. Out of nowhere, he turns down his favorite track. As “Southern Cross” plays faintly in the background, he turns to me.

“Y’know, I think you’d make a great president one day,” he beams. I smile at him, believing his every word.

And just like that, Daddy put roots in my heart. Roots that would one day grow into feminism.

As a child, Dad constantly reminded me that I was not limited by my gender, or by my Blackness. He celebrated them to no end, constantly praising my intellect, my wit, and my good judgment. He made perfectly clear to me the plight of women and of people of color in this country, and stressed the importance of knowing our history — my history.

The trivia games we played at restaurants when I was a child have reinvented themselves into an expected text message from him to me every April 4th and November 22nd, asking me which two famous men died that day. (Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy, respectively. Nailed it.) He still promises me french fries for correct answers. While my mom demonstrated the strength, poise, grace and tenacity of women of color in her everyday actions, Daddy proclaimed them in his words.

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New online magazine highlights Gazillion Voices of adult adoptees

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“There’s this story out there: ‘We started when we fell out of the plane. We were destined for our adoptive families, and that we are just like you — we are exceptional. We are not like the other poor, undocumented communities that we were born from. And I had questions about that, even as a 5-year-old.”

– Laura Kunder, on being adopted from Korea by a white American family

Gazillion Voices, a Minnesota-based online magazine which was scheduled to launch Monday, aims to change the traditional narrative of global adoptions, by injecting race into the discussion, according to a piece on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). Created by Kevin Vollmers, who was born in South Korea and adopted by a Minnesota family at age 7, the new magazine is designed to give voice to adult adoptees in defiance of a traditional narrative that focuses most on adoptive families and the babies they bring home, ignoring “what becomes of those babies.”

Vollmer advocates preparing white families to raise children of color, saying:

“If you are going to place an African-American child in the middle of nowhere in northern Minnesota where they are going to be the ‘diversity,’ you best make sure there are resources available for those kids.”

Listen to the MPR report on Gazillion Voices.

Trayvon Martin’s Parents are Still Co-Parenting—Through Death and Zimmerman’s Trial

 

Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's parents

Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s parents

By Guest Contributor Deesha Philyaw; originally published at My Brown Baby

A friend recently sent me an MSNBC article about Trayvon Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and the trial ofGeorge Zimmerman which began last week.  As the co-founder  of co-parenting101.org and the co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce (both in collaboration with my ex-husband), I was particularly struck by a 2012 photo accompanying the article, a photo of Fulton and Martin holding hands as they listened to the charges being filed against Zimmerman.  It occurred to me that this moving image stood in stark contrast to the image of co-parents that tends to dominate the cultural conversation about parents of children who live between two households: Combative, not conciliatory.  Difficult, not cooperative…and certainly not comforting.

The larger culture generally expects co-parents to be disagreeable with each other.  Fights over child support or one parent’s (usually the father’s) lack of parental participation are familiar reality TV show fodder.  A few years ago, I cringed while watching a scene from Basketball Wives LA in which two divorced African-American co-parents screamed at each other in a therapy session, airing all of their dirty laundry… as their teenaged daughters, also in the session, looked on.

This expectation of conflict and animosity between co-parents is so great, that congenial co-parents are sometimes viewed with suspicion; surely one of them must still be carrying a torch for the other.  I consider this kind of presumption to be a failure of imagination–and a failure to recognize that congeniality between exes can simply be a reflection of two people choosing to love their child more than they dislike or mistrust each other.

And it doesn’t–or shouldn’t–take a situation as tragic and extreme as what Trayvon’s parents are going through to bring co-parents to the point of civility.  For some parents, it’s simply an outgrowth of the love they have for their children, and a desire to spare them exposure to on-going adult drama that pulls them in opposite directions. Some co-parents get along (even if it’s just going through the motions) in order to reassure their children that they still belong to a loving family–albeit across two separate households.

There’s much “what about the children” hand-wringing over single-mom headed households and low black marriage rates, owing in part to the politics of respectability, but also in part to concern over the poor socioeconomic outcomes that many children of single parents experience.  However, as the child of a single mother, I know that these outcomes don’t have to be foregone conclusions.  And as a co-parent, I know too that having both fit, willing, loving, and responsible parents play an active role in a child’s life can lead to positive outcomes, even if the parents are not married and living under the same roof.

As co-parents, we must do the hard work required to heal from our break-ups; to recognize that child support is neither a punishment nor an admission price to see a child; and to honor our child’s relationship with the other parent, however imperfect, as separate from the relationship we had with this person. Devoted parents will speak of being willing to die for our children, but are we willing to truly live for them? Even to the point of moving past personal hurts and disappointments, for their sake?

We don’t know what Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin’s co-parenting situation was like before Trayvon’s death.  If it was a high-conflict situation, that surely doesn’t matter now.  In a very public and united way, Fulton and Martin are grieving and seeking justice on behalf of their son, as co-parents, regardless of the circumstances that ended their marriage in 1999, and regardless of what has transpired between them since.  And there’s a lesson for all co-parents in this.  Whatever happened or happens between the adults, co-parented children deserve to have both their parents loving, protecting, championing, and guiding them.  This is their right.

Despite the differences that led Trayvon Martin’s parents to divorce, there is much that they undoubtedly still share: love for the son they have lost, memories of him, grief and sadness that his young life was taken so violently, and a desire to see justice served.  They have looked beyond themselves, traveling extensively here and abroad to reach out to the families of others’ whose lives were cut short by racial and gun violence.  Looking beyond themselves and beyond their differences is what all co-parents are called to do in order to partner effectively in service to their children.  Fulton and Martin are doing this under horrific circumstances that the vast majority of co-parents will never have to face.  The nightmare they are living puts more typical co-parenting challenges into a humbling, sobering perspective.

We don’t have hold hands with our child’s other parent in order to create the respectful, mature parenting partnerships our children deserve.  We just have to be willing and committed to keeping the focus on our children’s needs and well-being, not our adult gripes and regrets.  It’s not easy; sometimes you have to be the bigger co-parent, sometimes you’re the only one willing to cooperate, and sometimes you have to fake it til you make it.  But our kids are worth it.

Deesha Philyaw is the co-founder of co-parenting101.org and co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive In Two Households After Divorce, both in collaboration with her ex-husband. She is a Pittsburgh-based mom and stepmom to four daughters.

It’s Time to Recognize All Dads on Father’s Day

Image Credit: USAG Humphreys on Flickr

Image Credit: USAG Humphreys on Flickr

Image Credit: USAG Humphreys on FlickrBy Guest Contributor Dori Maynard; originally published at the Maynard Institute

Dear Sheryl Sandberg,

You advise women to lean in and speak up. I’m taking your advice.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was in the Father’s Day feature on which your Lean In Foundation collaborated with Time magazine. Not one African-American father appears on the Time website. I know it shouldn’t have shocked me.

Content audits, such as one by The Opportunity Agenda, tell us that even in the age of President Obama, the media continue to pigeonhole black men, consigning them to coverage about crime, sports and entertainment, out of proportion with their actual involvement. Equally important, the media rarely show black men in all of their humanity as doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, politicians, and yes, fathers.

Sadly, this feature is a stark example of the gap between coverage and reality, and not just because it ignores black fathers. There were also no Asian-American or Native American fathers in Time. I note that the magazine did a good job of presenting a cross section of white and Latino fathers.

Unfortunately, the other dads of color— one black and the other Asian-American — are relegated to your foundation’s website.

The problem with portraying such a narrow slice of fatherhood is threefold.

My first reaction on reading the list of fathers was, “Oh, no.” This is why I don’t read Time very often. It’s not that I don’t like Time; it’s just that it’s rarely relevant to my life. In today’s world, I don’t think any publication wants to so visually remind potential readers why they don’t read it.

I wasn’t alone. A quick look at the comments section finds others also clearly disappointed.

A commenter identifying herself as Claire Rodman wrote:

“TIME, it’s been said, but it’s worth saying again: There are plenty of black dads with daughters, and famous ones to boot: Mr. Poitier, Mr. Cosby, Denzel Washington, etc. Did you think we were all raised by single mothers? A lost opportunity, and likely some lost subscribers/online readers.”

The second problem is inaccuracy. As Rodman and other commenters noted, there are plenty of prominent African-American fathers. The same is true of Asian-American and Native American men with daughters. Yo-Yo Ma and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the Senate’s first Native American, come to mind. Not including the wide range of fathers in this country perpetuates false stereotypes and gives readers a misleading sense of how their neighbors live and interact with family.

That brings us to the third reason. We’re in the business of giving the public credible, reliable information. A feature suggesting that only some men participate in raising daughters fails to meet our ethical and moral standards.

For those who question the necessity of diversity, this should be a reminder that having people with different perspectives in the room can help us see what we are missing. In 2011, Richard Prince, a columnist for the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, noted that Time magazine was losing its only black correspondent.

That loss increased the chance that no one at Time would flag the omissions. All of us need someone to prod us because it is so easy for us to fall in with people who reinforce our world view. It’s called homophily, otherwise known as “birds of a feather” or “love of the same.” I work in diversity every day and still find that I must push myself not to make that same mistake. Nevertheless, I sometimes do.

I have also developed a diverse network of people willing to call me on mistakes so I can fix them. That’s really why I’m writing to you. The beauty of online features means that they can easily and quickly be fixed.

Sheryl, it’s not too late to remedy this by reminding African-American, Asian-American and Native American girls that they, too, have fathers who love them and are worth noting.

Sincerely,

 

Dori Maynard

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Jose Antonio Vargas’ Documented

By Andrea Plaid

Second week of Pride Month, and I have some great documentary news!

Journalist/activist/filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas casually mentioned his newest documentary, Documented, to me when we gathered to petition the New York Times to completely stop using the terms “illegal” and “illegal immigrants.” But I thought he was in the throes of shooting or at the beginning of post-production. In other words, the movie was a long way off from being in the theater.

Well, documentary-fan me is so happy to announce that the movie will make its world premiere next Friday, June 21, at Washington, DC’s American Film Institute’s documentary festival!

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Open Thread: A Tale Of Two (Racialized) Spoofs

By Andrea Plaid

I really need to figure out why people outside of Black communities stay needing to play around with still-volatile n-word. It just doesn’t go too well, especially when folks want to use it to show how oh-so-edgy they are. Example: here’s a spoof on the going-for-a-hipper-image Kmart commercials that goes for it:

Personally, I’m not here for the hipster racism or the Black person in it as a “The Black Best Friend” justification. But that’s me.

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