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.


mother poem

mother poem

by Miranda Mellis

Originally published in Queerly Classed: Gay Men and Lesbians Write About Class, edited by Susan Raffo.

pouring juice from a blue jar
braiding my hair
throwing a paint bomb at a billboard
sweeping up anguish
broken glass from a fist through a window
with her wing-tipped broom
she’s been told she leaks a poison from her heart.
i inherit the feeling, and her barricade, like a fence
that only spirits get past
she was framed and so i, unnamed
redess. because i can’t live that silenced way
-daughter of the shamed-
so i honor her.

sequence of events:
burrowing into her bare back
p o l i t i c s filet of sole j u s t i c e
blueberry pancakes p o r k c h o p s solidarity d y k e .
all those churches housing banner-makers at night
we wore gauchos and tried to feather my curly hair
cut off our barbies’ heads
while she postered/smoked/wept for sunrise tanks
consulted oracles on her children’s behalf
availed herself of the opiates of the masses
went on strike/wore combat boots/taught at high schools called
Sunshine, and Opportunity.
she had a girlfriend
named diana that
i was eleven
(something to do with retributive armed robbery
by which i was inspired to dream
of redistribution
of wealth)
diana was a goddess, right
underground like persephone (and in case you’re a cop maybe
diana’s night
Her Real Name)

third generation axis/con/artist
there is room for
all that scavenging pain, knowledge, and depression
mind a stinging hive and longing for human liberation
the mural in the hall, and the welfare check for toast today

and your voice downstairs i heard
(when politics was just a word)
she threaded my young mind incrementally
with simple values, like
always fight back
only steal from the biggest stores
work the landscape as outlaw
view it as mutable
imagination is the weapon of choice
your will is not the measure of all things
we are masked by contingencies
and revealed in action.
i perched on her bed
to drink desperation’s wisdom
precious like untold history
a circuitry
of mated worlds-tenderness, war, abuse, and resistance
vanity and insurrection, poverty and extravagance
joy and beauty in a terrible state
and despite governments
this is one who knows her mother from the frame they give her

“it has not paid to cherish symbols
when the substance is so close at hand”*
earth, beneath concrete skirt;
fill my mouth and eyes with your daughters
i am taking a very old way

*Audre Lorde, “Walking Our Boundaries,” in The Black Unicorn: Poems (New York: Norton, 1978)