Charlottesville.

Heather Heyer was the child of a mother out there, who undoubtedly received the worst news of her life yesterday. There may be a small bit of solace knowing that she died with her middle fingers up at Nazis, but, honestly, for a parent who is grieving, I can only imagine that it is little solace indeed. She gave her life because of the White supremacist regime, and her mother grieves…just as millions have throughout American history.

My husband and I have brought A to a few direct actions and protests throughout his twelve months of life so far. Not enough–never enough–but some**. When my husband heard someone was killed in the counter-protests in Charlottesville yesterday, the first thing he said is ‘I get so scared when A is at rallies like that.’ I’m scared, too. Of neo-Nazis driving cars into crowds and hurting my baby. Do I have a right to bring my child to events like that, when there is a risk of a White man (the most common type of terrorist in the United States) doing something so grossly violent? After all, my goal in life is for A to be safe and healthy, above all else. At the same time, don’t I, as a White parent, have an obligation to bring him?

Yes, the events of yesterday made me scared to attend protests with A. The way that Black and Brown mothers are scared every day when they let their babies, no matter what age, out of their house. This shouldn’t be about my feelings. I can be scared, have those feelings, acknowledge them and that they make me human. And then move on and move forward. Recognize the terrorism that occurred in Charlottesville yesterday. Mourn the life that was lost in Charlottesville. And still continue to show up, with A when I feel it is safe, to events, rallies, and direct actions.

And when I don’t feel like it is safe for A, continue to show up in those small, mundane moments of parenting. Continue to show up at bedtime while reading. Continue to show up during diaper changes and during playtime. Parenting communicates social messages of power, whether you are at a direct action or not. Use the opportunities that you have.

P. S.

Before the women’s march, this article helped me decide to bring A.

**I don’t want this to sound self-congratulatory or trying to prove that ‘I’m different than all the other White people because I’ve been to a few rallies’ I don’t deserve that label White activist, and I’m sure I am complicit in supporting White supremacy sometimes, even as I actively try to disrupt it in my day to day life.

Storytime and Naming Whiteness: ‘Tubby’ by Leslie Patricelli

My son has had a favorite book for the last few months—Tubby by Leslie Patricelli. It’s a sweet tale about a baby during bath time, with a mom, dad, and a surprise dirty dog on the last page. I’m guessing he loves it because the baby’s face is particularly expressive or maybe because I make a funny ‘bbbbbb’ sound with my lips on the page when the baby is pretending to be a motorboat. Either way, it’s almost always the book he holds out to me insistently repeating “doh, doh, DOH” (which seems to be baby for ‘please read this to me!’).

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First, I want to state what I think is obvious but still worth stating: it’s not bad that my son reads books about a White family with heterosexual parents doing a sweet, mundane ritual like bath time. Being White isn’t something I want my son to be ashamed of. But the goal of this blog is to be conscious of how the banalities of parenting are some of the most powerful moments that communicate lessons around power and social identities. So, let’s take a moment to be conscious…

He sees a White family with heterosexual parents doing bath time at least twice a week (did I just admit to only bathing my son twice a week?!). The problem is not that the characters are White, but if and when he becomes exposed only to White characters. When White becomes the invisible norm that he learns not to see.

By the end of the day, when its bedtime and he’s holding out Tubby insistently–I’m tired but he’s being so freaking cute–I can’t help but read it one more time. In those little moments, I sometimes say something like this: 

“This is a really nice book about a family just like ours. What isn’t as nice is that there are only characters with a skin tone like ours, because most books written for you already show people that look like us. But there are people with lots of different skin tones in the world, so it’s not very fair that most books only show people that look like us, is it?”**

It’s my hope that these types of comments gently refuse to allow Whiteness from becoming the invisible norm against which all else is compared. Naming Whiteness is the start. It’s not sufficient, but it’s something.

Surprisingly, there’s a lot I want to say about a book with only 72 words in it (yes, I counted), so I’ve split up my comments into two posts. I’ll post ‘Tubby pt. 2’ soon.

 

Happy wiping,

Olivia

**P.S.

Yes, I know my son is only twelve months old. Yes, I know he really has no idea what I’m saying. I want to give myself a few years of practice/habit-making in making comments like this!

Can wiping butts be woke?

Can wiping your kid’s butt be an act of social justice? I guess it depends on who is doing the wiping, what type of wipe you are using, what are you saying as you wipe, how you involve your kid in the wiping process, etc. It’s these questions that keep me up at night (apart from my one-year old son, sometimes)—[How] can the daily activities of parenting be acts of social justice, particularly for [upper middle-class/cis/hetero] White parents of a White child?

To me, parenting for social justice means prioritizing critical thinking in your child about how society organizes power along the lines of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability status, religion, and other social identities. It means actively pushing against colorblindness, heternormativity, cisnormativity, rape culture , toxic masculinity, etc. in your child. Parenting for social justice is obvious when you bring your child to direct actions and rallies, but this blog is dedicated to understanding how the more banal acts of parenting (for example, butt wiping) can in and of themselves contribute to a more just world.

My son (‘A’, as I’ll refer to him here) turned one year old last Saturday. I probably changed his diaper at least three times just on his birthday (his dad had to work all day, but I know his grandparents tackled a few dirty diapers that day, too). Did any of those moments of our lives promote social justice?

Once a week for the second year of my son’s life, I am going to write about my trials in answering that question and other questions around ‘parenting for social justice.’

Let’s speak poop to power together.

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