Learning to be an Ally for my Children of Color
After my husband and I got engaged, someone close to me said something along the lines of “you aren’t thinking about your future kids. Don’t you think you are going to make their lives harder by being mixed race?” The words were rooted in racism, prejudice, and misunderstanding. My response was something like, “I know that they may deal with different struggles growing up, but that is something that we are willing to face.”
I thought I understood the struggles we would face. I thought I understood race. I knew I had privilege as a white woman, but I felt like I recognized that and responded appropriately. After all, I grew up with two black foster siblings, my family immersed me in different cultures, I went on mission trips locally and internationally, I had a degree in social justice (insert sarcasm). Looking back on my life before my kids and husband, I am ashamed of many things that I thought, said, and did.
What I am not ashamed to say now, though, is that I have failed miserably at times. I have said the wrong thing; I have offended people, I have asked people of color to do the work that I should have done myself. That said, But I have also grown, and I continue to learn every day.
Here are some of the things that I have learned as a white woman and mom to children of color.
- I have learned that white privilege is real and so prevalent in my life. I may have had struggles in my life, but they have certainly not been because of my race.
- I will never fully understand what my husband and my sons go through or will grow through as people of color. The best thing I can do is sit down, shut-up, listen, and learn when they share their experiences with me.
- My work as a mother to children of color and a wife to a person of color is never done. There is always more that I can do to confront my privileges, prejudices, and micro-aggressions.
- I have learned that I do not have the option to be neutral or silent. The lives of my family may very well depend on me speaking up or literally standing up for them. If I am unwilling to advocate for my family, then who will? If I am not willing to stand up for my children, then I have no right to be their mother.
- I have learned that I have some people close to me that are willing to be silent in the face of oppression of people of color. I have learned to recognize if a space is unsafe for my husband and children. If someone in my life is unwilling to have a dialogue with me about race and reluctant to make a space safer for my family, then they will not be in my inner circle.
- I have learned that, as a white person, there are times when my voice would not lend itself positively to some situations and conversations. I am learning that I have to find the correct time to step back when I am not needed as an ally, and I have to humble myself enough to be okay with this.
- I have learned that I still have a lot to learn.
As a white mother with children of color, and with Black History Month in mind, I encourage other white moms to talk about race and explore your own biases. Talk with your children about the beauty of diversity and celebrate people of color. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children about race and to confront our own biases, privileges, and stereotypes. No one is born racist. Racism is learned. It is our responsibility to stand up and say when things are unacceptable. It is our responsibility to demand justice and equality. And that starts at home.
Photo Credit for above photo: Heather Nischke Birth Services