Tag Archives: parenting

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The Statement We Wish We’d Gotten from the White Mother Who Mistakenly Ended Up with a Black Sperm Donor

by Guest Contributor Aya De Leon, originally published at Mutha Magazine

All parents have hopes for their children. We have concerns about the world we’re bringing them into, but somehow, in an infinite number of circumstances, we become parents. Some of us use technology on the road to our parenting. This creates a complex layer of medical and commercial issues in our experience. Recently, a woman in Ohio got the wrong sperm from a bank in Chicago.

She and her female partner are white. They mistakenly got sperm from a black donor, and found out when she was several months pregnant.

Unexpectedly, they now have a multi-racial daughter.

In her commercial relationship with that company, she has a clear right to sue for damages under the law. In spite of her lawsuit, the mom has been explicit about how much she loves her daughter and that she would not change her.

However, for people of color, particularly parents, it is painful and difficult to witness the journey of parenting brown children posited as a legal liability and a quantifiable set of damages.

Here is the statement I, as a mother of color, wish she had given:

“I had no idea how hard it is to face racism and to worry every day about how it will affect my family. I am totally unprepared for this, but I honor the work of all the mothers of black children that have gone before me. Continue reading

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

My Family: Providing Children’s Books For The LGBT Market

By Guest Contributor Monica Roberts; originally posted at Transgriot
Monica and Cheril Bey-Clarke

Monica and Cheril Bey-Clarke

When married power couple and business partners Monica and Cheril Bey-Clarke were seeking to become licensed foster parents in New Jersey, they were frustrated by the lack of materials and books available for the children of GLBT parents.The couple featured in a recent “Most Powerful Lesbians” issue of CurveMagazine.decided to step in and fill the void of books and materials for kids of all ages and backgrounds.   They sought by doing so to give the children of same-sex parents a sense of normalcy.  Their goal was also to promote the celebration of our differences, the importance of family values and reinforce the morality being taught in the home.It didn’t hurt that Cheril has been an award winning author, novelist and playwright in the LGBT community for over ten years and Monica has over a decade of experience formulating, creating strategies for and implementing business concepts.

In 2010 they founded My Family! a retail arm of Dodi Press LLC, to provide those books and materials and positive experiences for LGBT parents for generations to come.   The company went international in 2011 and has a website you can purchase their diverse multicultural line of books and products

When Leonard Lost His Spots

As I perused the site and its gender identity section I noted that Cheryl Kilodavis’ My Princess Boy is one of the books for sale on their website in addition to others from a wide array of authors that cover the various aspects of the LGBT community and the issues that would impact the children of same-sex, bi, and trans parents.

One of them was a trans-themed book by writer Monique Costa entitled “When Leonard Lost His Spots.”

So for you parents in the LGBT community looking for some quality books and items for your kids and wanting to circulate your TBLG dollars in the community, may wish to surf by the My Family! website and see what they have to offer.

My late and messy reaction to this whole ‘Chinese Mothers Are Superior’ Hubbub

by Guest Contributor Bao Phi

Father and Child

I was going to work on an essay in response to Ms. Chua’s article. I had several pages of notes, and was going to take the two or three hours it took to condense those notes into some type of narrative. Since I have a guest spot on the Strib’s blog, I was thinking about posting it there, just because I think alternative perspectives from Asian Americans need to exist – but I was also a bit wary about the energy it would take to endure the hateful comments that were sure to be leveled at me. As a parent, these days I have little time and even less patience for stupidity.

Part of me was trying to talk myself out of it. Plenty of Asian American bloggers have responded, covering such issues as whether or not the controversial Wall Street Journal excerpt really did justice to her book (see Jeff Yang’s excellent article on that subject), to whether or not raising a child in this fashion is really a good idea.

So, why should I write anything at all? This is not my fight, I said to myself. Even though there seems to be some conflation of Chinese with Asian American, and you have some Chinese blood in you besides, why throw down and risk a flame war over this? It has nothing to do with you. It’s not like Ms. Chua cares what you think – after all, it’s clear that people like me are not her target audience.

But then, don’t Asian Americans like Ms. Chua, who have a large mass market platform to express themselves, have some power over how the perceptions of me, and my family, are shaped? And if so, shouldn’t I use my own platforms to express an alternative perspective?

Damn, it’s recycling night though. It just snowed and I still gotta shovel the walk. And tonight is my partner’s night to have writing time while I watch baby…

Okay, let’s do this.

In this essay, I was going to be careful to point out that my feelings and opinions were not an attack on Ms. Chua, as she has the right to write about whatever she wants. As I have the right not to read her book, a right I fully intend to exercise.

I was going to be careful to say that my critiques had more to do with representation, rather than a debate on parenting. Ms. Chua’s reality is her reality – this is not an attack on her authenticity. I am more interested in the reaction, from Asians and non-Asians alike. There seems to be an acceptance that there is some true essential “Chinese” (and “Asian”) way to raise your kids and some “Western” way, and by “Western” it seems the author means straight upper middle class white male, and no one seems to be talking about the problematics of such assumptions. That no one is talking about how these assumptions play into very specific consumptions of Asian Americans – culture without politics, as if we live in a vacuum devoid of things like race, class, gender, sexuality. At this point in my essay, I’d take my partner’s advice and say that the idea that there is an essential, Western (male) and Eastern (female) way to raise children, and the idea that the melding of the individualist male West and the feminine East as some sort of liberating, uplifting redemption narrative is a colonialist social construct straight out of Said’s book Orientalism

Aw man, I really don’t want to write this.

Then I was going to talk about my own upbringing. How my parents literally saved my life, as a baby, as they shielded me from harm in their arms, bombs shaking the shelter we hid in with other Vietnamese families as the Communist Party tried to kill us and prevent our escape. How I grew up in America trying to understand contradiction: that people said this was the greatest country to live in, while as refugees we lived in a neighborhood made up of mostly impoverished and disenfranchised Native Americans, African Americans, Southeast Asians, and Chicano/as. How my parents wanted me to know my culture but lie about my ethnicity and tell everyone I was Chinese because they felt Americans would blame us for the war and hated Vietnamese people.

These struggles that my mom and dad (YES, my dad, America! Asian men and Asian fathers DO EXIST) faced. How my father sewed designer labels onto handmade clothes so we could pretend we were more well-off than we really were. How a group of kids stood on one end of a block for an entire hour and relentlessly shouted racial slurs and taunts at my mother as she worked outside of our house, knowing she could do nothing to them, knowing she did not have the words to shout back. How my father had to deal with the contradictions of being a war veteran invisible because of his race, and see two of his sons enlist in the American military.

And yes, those dynamics, combined with my parents’ own personalities, effected how we were raised. There were days I was scared of my parents, days I felt guilty that I disappointed them, days when I had no idea what they wanted from me, days I tried to run away from home and days I wanted to kill myself. Continue reading

Voices: On Black Parents and Amy Chua

Amy Chua — author of the controversial parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which gained notoriety recently when an excerpt from it, about the superiority of strict Chinese mothers, appeared in the Wall Street Journal — would agree that assimilation into the American system doesn’t make much sense. In many ways, her experience as Tiger Mother represents both the disease of and cure for modern parenting.

Many have inferred from her much discussed new memoir that disproportionate Asian academic success can be attributed to a regimen of no sleepovers, no playdates, no quitting, no coddling, no praising mediocrity and lots of drills. The ancient Chinese secret is, in short, demand perfection and accept nothing less. Children are not so fragile that they will break under these expectations.

This is the same immigrant work ethic that catapulted my parents from poverty in Guyana to the country-club class of North America. Ditto for my husband’s parents in Jamaica, and Allison’s husband’s parents in the Caribbean. Ditto, it should be said, for Allison’s grandparents, who, as Isabel Wilkerson’s brilliant book on the Great Migration showed, had their own immigrant experience moving from the South to Northern cities, where their achievements in culture and society forever changed America. 

But Chua is also part of the disease, because she has essentially written a manual for how to create superior sheep. But I still share many of her philosophies on the sturdiness of children, and in general have enormous respect for her. There she is, a Yale Law School professor, married to a white professor at the same school — technocratic royalty in the land where privilege was invented — and yet she has not allowed that success to be a reason to lose her identity, melting away into the American pot.

–Natalie Hopkinson, How to Raise a Model Minority

Continue reading

On Discussions of Transracial Adoption

by Latoya Peterson

Reader Carleandria sent us this LA Times article over the weekend:

The telephones kept ringing with more orders and although Duan Yuelin kept raising his prices, the demand was inexhaustible. Customers were so eager to buy more that they would ply him with expensive gifts and dinners in fancy restaurants.

His family-run business was racking up sales of as much as $3,000 a month, unimaginable riches for uneducated Chinese rice farmers from southern Hunan province.

What merchandise was he selling? Babies. And the customers were government-run orphanages that paid up to $600 each for newborn girls for adoption in the United States and other Western countries.

“They couldn’t get enough babies. The demand kept going up and up, and so did the prices,” recalled Duan, who was released from prison last month after serving about four years of a six-year sentence for child trafficking.

When we post articles about taking the time to consider children in the adoption discourse, I am always surprised at the number of comments that assume we are anti-adoption (or as one amusingly put it, leaving these poor children to rot) when we believe in listening to perspectives from adult adoptees and adoptive POCs.  The perspectives are quite different from the standard narrative on adoption.  Just check out what Paula, of the Heart, Mind, and Seoul blog had to say:

[W]hy do so many people casually accept (and perhaps even secretly celebrate) it as fate, good karma, a higher power at force, destiny, luck, etc. when a woman who is without a true, just selection of choice or is told that the only real choice she has is to place her child, and believe this to be perfectly acceptable so long as it benefits our agenda?  Our plans.  Our lifelong hopes and childhood dreams.  Why is okay for other women to find themselves in a position to have to make arguably the most God-awful and heart-wrenching, hellish choice or worse – to find themselves WITHOUT choice – when it suits us or those we love?  And why aren’t more of us or more of those we love willing to make the same kinds of sacrifices that we expect, assume, hope and accept that other women will do? Continue reading

From a Mixed Race Child: Tips for a White Parent

By Special Correspondent Thea Lim

The other day in convo with a friend, I burst into tears when he mentioned a couple he knows who are in the process of adopting. As a Korean couple, they have been discussing the potential race of their baby and whether or not having a Korean child is a priority for them.

My reaction was pretty over the top. Maybe it was because I was tired and stressed. Maybe it was because it was close to 4 p.m. and I hadn’t talked to anyone except my cat that day, and I don’t deal well with isolation. But the truth is on an ordinary day, when I hear parents talk about choosing their child’s race, or the politics of having a child of a different race, I immediately clench up.

My mother is English and Irish, and my father is Singaporean Chinese. Neither of them are particularly involved in radical race politics, and I will never know what or how they thought about having mixed race children before my sister and I were born, because (at least at this point in my life) I am afraid to ask them that question.

I often imagine that their thought process was similar to that of Nicole Sprinkle. In her article for the New York Times Magazine, Sprinkle talks about being the white mother of a white/Colombian daughter*:

When I was pregnant, the thought of having an “exotic” looking child based on our combined genetics – Jose’s inky black hair, dark eyes, and round face coupled with my waspy, delicate looks and tiny build – hadn’t really occurred to me.

Sprinkle talks about how this attitude changed after the first time she and her husband experienced discrimination as a mixed race couple:

Would her choices of where to live or travel be compromised by her looks? Or would her mixed genes work in her favor? Not being quite Hispanic-looking enough to make her a victim of racism, but enough for, say, college scholarships? Maybe she’d walk through different worlds at will, be whoever she needed to be for any situation. Nice in theory, but the idea of conveniently shifting identities to protect or promote herself left me cold.

One of the first posts I wrote for Racialicious discussed mixed race parenting, and I remember being quite moved by a comment Abu Sinan made:

Thanks for the article. As a father of two bi-racial children I try to understand as much as I can about the issues they are going to face here in America.

As the daughter of parents who, for better or worse, never discussed what it meant that my sister and I were mixed race (except to regularly tell us that we were “beautiful” and “special”), I am captivated by parents who want to talk and learn about how being mixed race might be a big deal for their kids, and even further, white parents who can admit that – even though they came forth from their own bodies – their children will have experiences that they themselves can never understand.

Sprinkle goes on to describe her family’s attempt to navigate the hairy terrain of multi-racial experience, and even lovingly accepts the reasons why her husband is hesitant to speak Spanish to their daughter, based on his own experiences of discrimination. Yet despite her initial sensitivity, Sprinkle quickly lost me.

Continue reading