So I am white. I had the great benefit of being a first generation American so I did have a culture. I was Canadian. We believed that everyone should get healthcare because it was not a privilege but a right to live. Yet, living in America as a white person, I was granted privilege without challenge. So my culture was allowed to grow and I could define it by what it was to me and my family. My culture had narratives about shared beliefs and values and when it was discussed it was these topics that we spoke about. A true privilege because my white, Canadian culture did not have to speak of the mistreatment or define itself by its experiences.
BUT I have adopted three boys. My oldest is white and my younger two are black. What I learning is that because of the abuses of race, their cultures are being defined by their scars and shame.
As I am processing all of this, I keep recounting the strange interactions that my children of color had to experience that my white child did not. "Where did you get them? Chicago. No no, I know where you are from but where are they from? Chicago. Yes but before that? Chicago." (In my head, 'you know black people are born in America everyday right?') This defines my sons of color as not belonging. Something that in the videos when talking about race, gets brought up as a unifying thread to the group of POC.
At restaurants, my white child was talked to and embraced. "He is so cute. What is your name? Such a nice boy." My children of color were talked about 'He is so lucky to have you. How old is he? Are they twins?' Their culture was defined as something to be seen but not heard. Again, a shared experience that defines Black culture and is references often by POC when speaking of their race.
This bothers me. As a teacher, we talk about never giving rules in the negative. (See right there was a rule in the negative. You are left thinking 'okay don't do that so what do I do?) The answer: You state rules in the positive so it is clear what the expectation is. Don't talk could mean whispering is okay BUT quiet mouths that is clear, everyone knows what to do. For me culture has this overlap with stating rules. Culture is not just about stating what happened in the past but what you believe and value now.
So I wonder, how do we overcome this? How do we define culture and race as more than just scars but also as beliefs and cultural values? In the 1619 podcast, it starts by saying we were born at sea. So the mistreatment is a part of the narrative to be told, by in trying to raise my children of color as a white mom I struggle to figure out what it means to be Black. I don't want to give them a narrative of being Black is only about being mistreated.
A culture should be free to define itself by what it is and not what was done to it.
So how do we open up the conversation to be both?
(Example on the side: As a gay women, I had some students saying homophobic slurs in my class. My principal heard I was not completely thrilled that their only restorative response was being pulled out of my class and he called me in. He said I had lost the battle... I was like no. I talked about all the teacher strategies I had used and planned to used to change mentalities and he said 'That's all fine but that's not what I want to talk about?' It took me a minute because I was at work so I should talk about work. Then I realized he wanted me to talk about my pain. I felt like a car crash on the side of the road that he just wanted to stare at. My culture is not the slurs that were said but the values and principles I choose to uphold. How do I make the discussion less about what happened to me in order to make room for me to talk about me, my values, my diversity? )
P.S. I have read this post over a few times, I don't like it because I feel something is wrong with it. I cannot put my finger on the error I feel is there. Drop a comment if you can help me figure out how to discuss this better.