will my son be racist?

This past Tuesday I returned to the White Noise Collective, a group that looks at the intersection of race and gender. These gatherings are always inspiring and remind me of my passion for anti-racist work. The last meeting I attended, in December, raised the question of child-rearing and white mothering. It occurred to me for the first time that I was about to take on the responsibility of raising a white child. And what if it was a boy? How does one raise a socially conscious, empathetic white male? Now that Max is out in the world, and attending anti-racist meetings, I plan on finding out!

I hope to avoid creating for my son what I—and most white people—experience: the trauma of privilege. Yes, this sounds crazy. But it is the trauma of ignoring the suffering and oppression of others. We are cultured away from being caring, empathetic human beings and are instead told to embrace our privilege. Vanissar Tarakali, a somatic therapist, says that we white people create armor for ourselves that protects us from those memories of helplessness. It wasn’t until I was well into my college years that I started unraveling this armor. And it didn’t really click until I went and worked abroad, in Guatemala, where I was forced to face my own paternalism and colonialism. Racism is an ugly disease, and so of course we hide it away and pretend it doesn’t exist. What, me? Racist? No way! But in order to fight it we must face it head-on. As painful as it is, we must acknowledge our racist tendencies and unravel the mess.

Recently I found this artwork in my old portfolio. Immediately I noticed the anger and sarcasm, both of which are part of the intimate process of discovering that your world is a great big lie. I don’t want Max’s life to be filled with lies, ones that he will later on have to make sense of. I don’t want him to have to ignore the suffering of others and feel the trauma of racism. But can good parenting overcome a culture that pushes my son to be racist?

Please, send along your resources on this topic!

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