White Noise and Queer Families

Susan Raffo wrote a beautiful piece for The Bilerico Project titled White Noise and Queer Families looking at the intersections of race and class privilege for children of queer parents.

This is a conversation about being and raising a white child; about the metaphorical and the literal air that child is growing up breathing. It’s a conversation about the privilege of white children. This is also a conversation about class, about ability, and about language.

For the purposes of this article, though, this conversation is focused on whiteness – on our white children. This is something we white folks, queer and otherwise, are often afraid to talk about. Our children are supposed to be innocent, somehow untouched by the painful complexities of the world. Our white racist children.

She has a whole section which you can think of as a roadmap for raising anti-racist children in a white family. On raising a race-privileged child:

[M]y beautiful daughter’s skin is white. And that can never be neutral.

So in loving this child with white skin, my partner and I decided we wanted to pay attention to how our daughter becomes the race of white. What does it mean for her to slowly grow in to the racism and white privilege that is part of the story of that skin that surrounds her?

Paying attention to how our child becomes white is about a lot of things: and we already know that we don’t know half of them. Sometimes it means paying attention to all of the ways in which being white gives her a kind of “get out of jail free” card, a kind of free pass into an adult life of better jobs, more income, and less stress and struggle. It means recognizing her access to having something like an “innocent” childhood, to unchallenged attendance at parks, dance classes, and a lineage of belonging. It means watching and learning from what happens when she pops out of me, all instinct for survival and connection to mama, and starts to grow a personality and set of understandings about herself and the world.

I love her self-reflexiveness:

There is nothing about this work that does not reek of privilege. The choice to do the work, the choice to put the work out there, the choice to stand back and think about how we are parenting our children, the attention we get because of this work; all of this is privilege. Some of this is about our children’s – and our – whiteness but it also includes their class, the fact that they are growing up in the US with uncontested citizenship, their current able-bodiedness, and more things than we can name here.

As our children get older and enter different developmental stages with different relationships with friends, community and self, we will need to figure out new things. There will be other conversations and other learnings. None of this will end our children’s white privilege in their lifetime. None of this will make it ok that we are white people who, generation after generation, are inheriting the “benefits” of slavery, of attempted genocide, of the strategic usage of people’s bodies and cultures for profit and gain.

And to finish:

By laying the groundwork differently, our hope is that we support our children to live in the whole world, with wide-open hearts and a sense of accountability and celebration. And that in living in the whole world, they might be part of shifting the pattern so that there are more children with each successive generation who also truly have access to the whole world. What we have realized in doing this work together is that we can’t take our children’s privilege away.

But one breath at a time, one child at a time, one parenting moment at a time, maybe we can move away from focusing only on “our” children to instead focusing on all children. That’s a queer families movement that I can get behind. One focused on family liberation, recognizing that full liberation also depends on my family’s ability to work against the power that we didn’t earn but which is always there, helping us along and making the road easier for us while making it harder for so many others.

Read this post in its entirety here.

Susan Raffo also edited the book that was published over a decade ago that I would still highly recommend called Queerly Classed: Gay Men and Lesbians Write About Class.

HT to Mia Mingus for the timely tweet.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s