A Letter to My Very White Daughter, From Your Mildly Racist Mother

Dear Darla,

I like this photo. You are so stinking cute in a hoodie. Every time you put on a hoodie and go walking through our gated community – I immediately think of Trevon Martin and experience a flash of thankfulness that you are not black in America today.

To be sure, there have been worse times to be a person of color. Actually, any day in the history of the United States or Colonies would be a worse time. It is my hope that each new day is a better day to not be white, a new day and a step closer to equality. The good  and appropriate rational for this would be “Racism is wrong and unfair and it must stop because we are a society who believes on doing right and being fair”. Yeah, so that is not the largest motivator for me wishing that this ugly racism would simmer down and stop being an active factor in our lives.

You are white.

whitegirl

I am white.

We are white.

We are the kind of blue and green eyed white that makes us squint at the sun and our naked feet look like bleached snow against the suburban sidewalks that surround our neighborhood. We are the kind of white that burns in a 10 minute foray into the daylight without sunblock. We are the white that is idealized in the flesh of baby dolls and Disney Princesses and most of the Congress and Senate. ( You don’t know who that is yet, but someday you will and then you will never be allowed to talk to your Uncle Kenny at dinner again).

I am the kind of white that will never experience the question of “What are you? Where do your people come from”. This is kind of sad because I have a perfect answer – snarky and accurate – just waiting for its moment to erupt into a conversation.

I am the shade white that cannot possibly understand racism or ethnic discrimination. We are the whitest shade of pale and that protects us from discrimination and inherently makes us just a little bit racist. I try to be correct about my whiteness and I tell you that your skin is “Potato Color”.

I am the degree of un-colored that labels my own brother as Vietnamese when he is in fact equally German and Vietnamese.

You fall asleep each night with a Doc McStuffins doll. I am the degree of white suburban mom who notices that your doll is black and I kind of pat myself on the back for having a daughter who wants a black doll. “Look at me! My daughter isn’t a racist!”. You killed my self-congratulating pride when you were afraid to hug our friend Nene because you were concerned her darkness would rub off on you. We had to have a whole discussion about what color Nene is. If we are Potato People, what food is her shade of skin? I am the uninspired kind of white person who could only come up with Dark Chocolate. Yes, I cringed at that.

I contemplate the cultural sensitivity you are developing. I ask people to only speak to you in their mother tongue so you learn to appreciate and hopefully begin to understand their languages and histories. I take you to museums and make sure that my adult friends are diverse and my darling, just the fact that I sit down to sort and categorize my friends (Tarry is Korean, Andrea is Mediterranean, Favia is from Argentina, Christina is Mexican and German combined) – that is flipping racist. I am not color blind. I notice. Sometimes I am hyper aware. I witness the statistics of race in crime reports and race in poverty and race in homelessness. I feel like a hypocrite for feeling outrage at the current events bringing light to police brutality and deaths of young black men like Trevon Martin – as you stand on my porch in your hoodie.

But, I tell myself, I am not racist in a bad way.

Get real. There is no way to be racist in a good way.

You will make your own choices and form your own opinions and you will grow up in a world whose attitudes are shaped by other children who grew up with more or less racist parents. Please grow up to be aware of these views and develop your own very carefully.

Love,

Mom

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