My sister introduced me to a podcast about parenting called ‘The Longest Shortest Time.’ On a recent episode (8.30.2017), they interview the author Eula Bliss. About two-thirds of the way through the interview, Hillary (the host) and Eula have a brief exchange about opportunity hoarding as White parents. Here’s my own transcription:
“Eula: … I think quite a few of the parents in my community and in my circle actually see some version of opportunity hoarding as their duty—as what they are supposed to do for their child…
Hillary: Because, like, why wouldn’t you get them the best opportunities?”
It’s a brief 30 seconds, but the idea really struck me: opportunity hoarding [as a parent] is the phenomenon when you advocate for the best resources and opportunities for your child. There’s an almost evolutionary compulsion to want your child to have the best of everything. It’s engrained in us that we should loudly promote what is best for our child.
The problem is that my voice, as a parent with racial and class privilege, is already prioritized in society. When I compound it with a parent’s natural tendency to opportunity hoard for my child, parenting becomes a clear mechanism for the exacerbation of power along the lines of race and class.
During the interview, Eula argues that opportunity hoarding can be as simple as being the loudest parent to your child’s teacher. By drawing the teachers’ attention to your child, you are draining the teachers of the energy to focus on other parents and children. Eula has made it a personal policy to advocate to her son’s teacher only if the change would benefit more than just her son. Now, there are obvious exceptions to this—if your child has a physical or learning disability, for example—but I like her point overall. Opportunity hoarding as a White parent is a compulsion that we have to overcome if we, as parents, want our actions to promote justice.
So, my questions to myself: When have I participated in opportunity hoarding for A, particularly in the school setting? What can I do to ensure that my opportunity hoarding instinct (a natural, evolutionary compulsion, I would argue) is redirected to benefit more than just A?
Here’s one mundane example: recently, I’ve been thinking about asking A’s daycare teachers to give him seconds at breakfast and lunch. Since A moved into the toddler classroom a few weeks ago, he’s constantly asking for food when he gets home [an adorable combination of the ‘eat’ and ‘please’ signs, along with a persistent whine, repeated about a million times over]. I wanted to ask his teachers if he could be offered more food if he finishes his plate. This seems like an innocuous request, but opportunity hoarding can happen in small, mundane ways. Since listening to the podcast, I’ve altered my strategy: I’ll ask if any of the kids could be offered seconds of the food. It’s a really simple switch, but instead of advocating for just A, I’m advocating for everyone.
*P.S. Obviously this strategy as a way to promote social justice wouldn’t work if A went to an all-White, all-wealthy daycare, but choosing a daycare is a separate mess that I can get into later.