Over the last month, I’ve had two posts dedicated to reducing plastic use in our household. I’ve got one more for ya—but this will be the last for a while (seriously, keep reading to find out why).
One of the motherhood bloggers I follow (@mamademics) recently posted on Instagram how she pissed off a bunch of White women when she said she didn’t want to ban plastic straws. I admit, I felt a little ashamed—was I one of those White women that was focusing so much on plastic as a way to feel like I did something social justice-y rather than focus on the more challenging issues like Black and Brown individuals being murdered by the police? By poisoned water in Flint? By the lack of employment opportunities that give any capacity to sustain a family? On top of that, @mamademics linked an article that talked about how plastic straws are very crucial for some disabled people to be able to drink. The author of the article talks about moving to an ‘opt-in’ system (no one gets plastic straws unless they specifically request) instead of a total ban. @Mamademics’s post was a two-fer: calling out an excessive focus on plastic straws at the expense of racial justice AND the able-bodied privilege unrecognized . She’s awesome—go click on all the ads on her page to get her some of that money.
If I’m being fair to myself (should I defend myself? Is that the typical white feminist defensiveness we see everywhere else?), I’m not focusing on banning plastic straws. I never focused on straws or a total ban, though I do talk about single-use plastic and one of those is plastic straws. I do think reducing waste is an important activity, as does @mamademics (it seems—I don’t want to talk for her). But I didn’t contextualize my blog posts in how my privilege shapes my ability to reduce our plastic use. This blog is written by a privileged mother, so almost all of its content focuses on how to channel that privilege towards socially just ends. Part of that means I need to be explicit about when my privilege is shaping my actions—like my focus on reducing single-use plastic.
Also, if I’m being honest, it did feel good to be able to focus on plastic and give myself a day’s pass on thinking about the torture and death of Black and Brown babies. I’m embarrassed to say it but it’s true. And I thank @mamademics for doing that emotional labor to educate me (I went to her page and pay-paled her a donation to thank her #paywomenofcolorfortheirlabor).
So, yes I am going to continue to reduce our plastic use as a family. I’m going to continue to get excited when corporations and nations talk seriously about how to reduce single-use plastic (as long as its not at the expense of access for individuals who are disabled). But I do not judge those who do not have the emotional energy or financial resources dedicated to the same goals that I have. And I will not let these plastic-reducing activities distract me from racial justice issues.