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Wed Jul 17, 2013, 11:28 AM

“We’re” Not Raising Trayvon: The Difference Whiteness Makes

While white feminists shouldn’t try to make these events and the aftermath “about” white people, but we should be on guard against white defensiveness or white dismissals of what sustains this pattern of violence. Widespread racist perceptions make it possible for police and neighborhood watch volunteers to assume the worst of Black children. Most importantly, white feminists can’t act as if these thoughts are not a big deal. They’re a huge deal.

Early this summer on a visit home, I walked through the New Orleans French Quarter on a Sunday afternoon with a white child I dearly love and her parents. While we visited on a corner waiting for the light to change, a group of about ten Black boys approximately the same age as the girl I was with approached the corner biking fast and furious. They took the street corner with expert skill. Their bikes hugged the road as they tilted at a 45-degree angle towards the pavement. The moment sang summertime to me—children free to fill their days with things so sacred they simply had to race to fit it all in. But my breath stopped short when the child I walked alongside named her perception of those few seconds, “They’re probably doing something bad.” I am grateful that her father interrupted the way she made sense of the scene, suggesting that she had no evidence to draw such a conclusion, but what was made clear was that those perceptions already live inside of her.

I don’t know how to comprehensively get it out of her. I don’t know how to know for sure how these deeply insidious stereotypes shape my own perceptions unconsciously. I don’t know how to revamp a society in which everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, is bombarded with racist messaging about who is good and who is bad, who is threatening and who is safe.

What I do know is that these perceptions don’t just shape our thoughts and ideas, they find their way out into the world. They travel from the brain through the nervous system to the musculature of the index finger and into physical world through the barrel of a gun. These perceptions rip open the bodies of Black children and the hearts of parents who fear such outcomes for their Black boys and girls too.


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Reply “We’re” Not Raising Trayvon: The Difference Whiteness Makes (Original post)
ismnotwasm Jul 2013 OP
Tumbulu Jul 2013 #1

Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Jul 17, 2013, 07:59 PM

1. How interesting

but reading that I would think any boys riding bikes fast around a corner would be into something - certainly my daughter would think so. This is indeed something very different about upbringings and not necessarily about race at all. But more about gender and parenting style.

In my daughter's 6th grade class a bunch of boys chased kindergardeners into walls and poles- one had to go to the hospital with a concussion (on the very day all those children were shot at the grammar school in Connecticut no less!). The girls mostly behaved in physical ways that were controllable and fairly safe, the boys mostly did not. I think this popular parenting style which I call "let your boys run wild" thing is somewhat to blame for it out here in the west.

I don't know if it is a real thing in other places, or if it is only associated with children of color rather than privilege as it is here.

I think that it serves no one, allowing kids to behave in wild ways in public. I think that it sets them up in life for problems and trouble. I am no fan of the idea that boys should be "wild" as children so that they can grow up to be kind men (as though it will all get worked out as a kid). But, I don't have a son, and so really, I should just leave other parents alone.

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