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Hey White Parents! tw: racist abuse of children, internalized racism, assimilation, desensitivity to racism
Hey white parents!
Hey, yeah, I’m talking to you! You right over there, you specifically! You!
You need to teach your brown children about racism.
Now, let me guess your first reaction:
You probably even have that same horrified, bloodshot face!
Now let me explain why.
I’m a person of color; I’m a mestiz@, and I am gay/polysexual, disabled, genderescent, and half-white. I have a white mother whom I adore, and a Latino dad whom I also adore.
My parents didn’t teach me about racism.
I know they meant well. Don’t even act like I don’t know that. My parents are good people and they love me. But they bought into the insidious, stupid white lie that colonialism always tells brown parents: raise your children white, and they will be white, and they won’t suffer like you did.
This is wrong. Factually wrong, immediately wrong, morally wrong, and intuitively wrong. It’s also one of the biggest pieces of propaganda advanced by colonialism. It’s evident in the reward systems set up to incentivize assimilating and whitewashing brown children under colonial and white supremacist structures.
Guess what? I’ve grown up under not one, but two of these colonial structues. And they are toxic, abusive environments for brown children. They are designed to teach brown children how to suffer for, work for, and ultimately die for white children and adults.
Now for the hard facts.
If you’re a white parent of a brown child who has a brown parent, odds are that your co-parenting partner will have read this far and gotten this. It doesn’t mean that you necessarily won’t, but you might.
If you’re a white parent of a brown child who has no brown parents, what the fuck are you doing? I mean that seriously. You are essentially deciding that you are qualified to raise a brown child and odds are that you aren’t. If you want to raise your child well and without emotional scars, you need to listen—not just to me, but to people of color who are willing to share their experiences of having white parents.
Now, no matter what, I’m assuming from this point on that you are not an abuser and you love your child. If you are an abuser and/or don’t love your child, kindly make sure that your child has a better parent and find yourself a soul.
Now the first reason why white parents react to my statement with the horrified “no” is because white supremacy teaches white people that if people of color know anything, then it will be regurgitated and flavored with patriarchal enlightenment through other white people.
The second reason—and the first reason white parents will be willing to admit to—is that you want to preserve your child’s “innocence”.
That’s noble, idiotic, and impossible.
For starters, I question the notion that children have “innocence” of pain and hurt. Children know what physical pain feels like early on; they know that people get sick for no reason and hurt; they know that not everything goes well and it hurts; they know that bad things happen and they hurt. If your child is exposed to any white Western media at all, they will have seen violent imagery of people hurting one another.
Assume your brown child has some form of innocent after this. I do remember being a child and not understanding, for example, what death was, or just how scary life could be, or what racism was.
Now innocence is all well and good when your brown child doesn’t need the intimate knowledge of how to survive in a world designed to keep them dying, miserable, subservient, and powerless.
That’s not for long.
Parents teach children how to trust their fear of people for good reasons: because children need to trust their instincts because danger exists. Parents teach children to not touch fire, to stay away from sharp objects, to not climb onto unstable objects, to stay close to parents, to look both ways before crossing the street. Teaching a brown child how to recognize racism and how to put the racism that they will/are/have experience/ing/ed is the same thing as any other danger, because it is dangerous for brown children to not understand racism.
Now suppose you’re a noble idiot and you don’t teach your children about racism.
They will still learn about what racism is.
The first real memory I have of knowing what race was is this: I’m standing (more likely cowering) against a classroom wall. A white boy is throwing a chair at me. He is screaming something horrible that I’m fairly sure is “spic”. He is screaming spic at me while I am cowering against a wall and he is throwing a chair at me.
Yes, this really happened. Don’t ask me about this memory. Don’t try it.
Now, see, this is not a normal memory. This is a fragmented piece of a memory. As a matter of fact, the only time I even recalled this was earlier today when I saw a thread of people of color discussing their first memory of race. And reading that triggered that memory, which in turn triggered a delayed reaction of violent self-hatred, internalized racism, and silent crying. In other words, a memory of being physically assaulted because of my race triggered an emotional breakdown which I am still not okay from.
Do you want this to happen to your child?
The thing about this particular traumatic memory is that it stands out in only one aspect: it is so obviously physical assault and clear danger. I have a lot of memories of racism, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, and ableism, many of which are traumatic when added together, and some are traumatic on their own.
The only real difference between the years of abuse being piled on top of one another and this incident is that nobody has ever denied that this was assault and dangerous. Having a horrifying supercrip burnout with depression and family circumstances is not considered to be dangerous; being groped and asked invasive sexual questions by heterosexual girls is not considered to be assault and harassment.
I do not want this to happen to your child.
I do not want this to happen to any child.
Now, as for how to do it:
You cannot teach your brown child about racism if you do not understand racism yourself. Corollary to this: you cannot teach your brown child about racism if you do not understand how racism relates to people of color.
White people’s relationship to racism seems to be one where white people love racism. White people worship white supremacy, call it “badass” and “efficient” and “funny” and “a civilizing influence”. When white supremacy kills, white people either celebrate, or don’t seem to give a shit at all. Some white people with a basic sense of morality may feel guilty for racism, and many will offer useless apologies that are not backed by action and solutions. Even white people who genuinely desire to not be racist often are ignorant and unwilling to learn; the few white people that desire to not be racist and are willing to learn are first ignorant, and second of all must overcome their whiteness as a barrier to them understanding the true scope of and the unbelivable horrors of racism.
People of color’s relationship to racism is so complex that I could not express it if I gave you everything ever spoken of or written on racism by people of color.
The fundamental difference between how even assimilationist people of color relate to racism and how even basically decent white people relate to racism is this: people of color feel racism and feel its effects, and white people think about racism and know its effects.
White people can often rattle off lists of hate crimes, mountains of theory, and dozens of racist slus and jokes; people of color can quietly, with soft voices and powerful words, bring a whole room to inconsolable emotion by telling one of our stories.
Even the most educated, the most vigorous, and most determined white people will define racism by and remember it as “a system of social inequality and violence where white people oppress and destroy another racial group”; even the most academic, the most assimilationist, and the most verbal people of color will define racism by and remember it as “the fact that a white boy threw a chair at me and screamed that I was a spic that should just die and he got away with it”.
I would recommend that white parents of brown children begin with the most “radical” people of color, the people of color who do not write in academic jargon or sugarcoat the horrors of racism. Personally speaking, Haunani-Kay Trask, bell hooks, Toni Morrison, Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherrie Moraga, Subcomandante Marcos, and others whose names I do not know are, quite simply, the greatest people to break through the opaque wall of racism in the mind and dispell the hideous myths of white supremacy.
And all you need to tell a child to start with is this, taken from my earlier emotional breakdown:
“something went very wrong with this one group of people
and they taught each other to hurt each other and hurt other people
and now they don’t know that hurting people is wrong”
And from there on out, your brown child will understand a few very important things that I did not: that being hurt is not normal, is not your brown child’s fault, is not a simple fact of life, is entirely the fault of the racists who hurt your brown child, and is not a random event that dropped out of the sky.
Now here’s another thing that I don’t ever want to happen to your child:
I don’t want them to say “It’s okay, I’m used to it”.
Because that’s what I said, what I thought, and what I justified my institutional and interpersonal torture with: It was okay, I was used to it.
It was okay being called a spic or a p*ki, I was used to it.
It was okay being told to go home and kill myself, I was used to it.
It was okay being groped and called a whore, I was used to it.
It was okay being called a whale and disgusting, I was used to it.
It was okay hating myself, I was used to it,
It was okay growing detached from my own face, I was used to it.
It was okay burning myself out, I was used to it.
It was okay to want to kill myself, I was used to it.
Don’t do that to your brown child. They should not get used to it.
Hey! What do you know about the resulting effects of abuse and neglect on brain development? I know about Perry's work with Romanian orphans. Anything else? Also, why are Romanian orphans so widely cited in psychology work? Or am I just noticing something that isn't there?
Funny you should ask because that’s actually what our lab studies. We use naturalistic and experimental animal models of early life abuse in rodents and study the later life neurobehavioral outcomes. I was lucky enough to get to present some of our data in the Early Life Stress and Behavioral Development nanosymposium at the annual Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting. In rodents, early life abuse engages the amygdala, alters the development of the HPA-axis (stress system), disrupts social behavior and results in a depressive-like behavior during adolescence and adulthood. This area of research is very popular and prominent figures/labs include:
- Martin Teicher (studies effects of childhood maltreatment via human neuroimaging)
- Nim Tottenham (studies how early life experiences shape brain development and responses to social stimuli in childhood and adolescence in humans)
- Mar Sanchez (studies how early life abuse changes brain structure and function as well as neuroendocrine development in primates; she is particularly cool because she does longitudinal studies)
- Regina Sullivan (employs paradigms of early life abuse and studies the infant response to abuse as well programming effects of maternal care related to social behavior and depressive-like behavior)
- Michael Meaney (king of maternal care and epigenetic programing related to stress responses and hippocampal development)
Click here for a review that includes work from Perry as well as some of the people mentioned above. If you are more interested in additional reviews, I would check out some by Heim and/or Nemeroff!
Considering I usually do not read papers published in psychology journals, I’m not sure :X
card of time.
‘here, mommy, look! i made you an anniversary card! see it, see it?’. six year old’s are so easily excited.
the estranged woman sighed, grabbed a hold of the card and began to read.
‘do you like it mommy, do you like it?!’. the child tried her absolute best to refrain from bouncing out of her seat.
the woman snarled, rolled her eyes and squished the paper into a tight wad of lost hope. ‘what is this?’. the woman spoke with a stern and demeaning voice. ‘you’re nearly seven years old and you can’t even spell ‘anniversary’ correct. what the hell is wrong with you?’. the woman glanced at the girl’s father, sitting across the room. ‘of all the possible children we could’ve mistakenly birthed, we get stuck with the stupid one.’ the child’s eyes gleamed with fear; she knew what lied ahead. ‘i’m sorry, i’m sorry! i tried my best, i promise, i really did!’. the child made an attempt to run but was snatched up by the mother before her insufficient length of legs got her very far.
‘you’re so stupid’. the woman proceeded to slap the child across the face and then shove her into the wall.
the little girl’s world went numb; she’d only had good intentions in the giving on the card. she didn’t mean to make mommy angry.
the man and woman upped and left the room, the little girl left lying sprawled against the wall.
the card of lost hope would remain within the house for many years to come.
But your parents gave you life! You owe them! You're so ungrateful!
Actually, I didn’t chose to be born so I don’t owe my parents anything. Children are human beings, not insurance policies or investments or cheques that you cash 18 years after their birth. If you decide to have a child because you want someone to take care of you in your old age you are an asshole.
So, with one grandmother now dead and the other (maternal) basically gone due to Alzheimers, I was able, this past weekend, to have frank discussions with aunts and uncles on both sides of the family and discover that basically everything my (borderline bipolar narcissistic) mother told me about my early childhood are fucking lies.
She told so many different versions of reality to everyone that none of us know what is true or not (at least until I was fourteen and mature enough to be really cognizant of what was going on). I do now have copies of court documents, and letters my mother wrote to family about me, but I would honestly have to hire a private investigator to sort out what the fuck really went on when I was a child and why my grandparents had custody of me for so long.
I am who I am, regardless, but now I’m left wondering… I’m not even sure what. I don’t know, and never will, how much of my young life, based on my mother’s telling (both to myself and others) is or isn’t partial or total fiction.
Submitted by: Anonymous
In Recovery From: Childhood Abuse
#1 Reason To Recover: To love life.
Why Did You Decide To Recover:
I’m sick of living like this, a mess of tangled emotions.
Best Things About Recovery:
It gives me hope.
Hardest Part About Recovery:
It’s excruciatingly slow. It takes a lot of time to undo a lifetime of damage.
Don’t give up.
Be featured on Survey Thursday! Submit your own recovery survey by clicking here.
so most of you + a lot of my friends don't know this but
i am a survivor of sexual abuse.
from the age of six til i was twelve, i was raped almost daily by my stepfather.
i’m telling you this, anonymous kingdom of tumblr, because i want to offer any advice or just a listening ear to anyone who’s suffered abuse, incest, rape, trauma or anything that they want to get off their chest and talk about to someone who’s been there in the trenches.
you’re not sick. you’re not tainted. you’re not disgusting. someone will love you someday, even when you don’t love yourself. there are many, MANY side effects and behaviors that are created when abuse happens, and it is COMPLETELY NORMAL. i’m emphasizing this because it’s been brought to my attention by other people suffering their scars in silence that they may have thoughts or feelings caused by what happened that they may view as sick and twisted. what they need to know is that they’re not disgusting creatures, they’re human beings who have been hurt by extremely traumatic events, and the best thing they can do is talk about what they feel with someone who is equipped with the tools to help them.
i’m in no way saying that i myself have those tools, i’m simply here to offer any advice or help i can with what my experiences have given me.
first of all, just take a deep breath and repeat after me:
i am not alone. i am not alone. i am not alone.
I just did the scariest thing I've ever done in my life.
I don’t know how I feel about it yet… I think, maybe better? A bit worried still too. But I told my parents something that I’ve buried down deep almost for ten years… I won’t say what, but I was betrayed by people that you should be able to trust: family. And now it’s all coming out, the whole family’s here, and my parents are downstairs talking to them. I am losing my mind sitting here waiting like this… for what, I do not know. For salvation or justice, or maybe just peace at last from this horrible nightmare.
If anyone out there can save me, now would be a good time.
It’s hard to deal with the fact that my abuser was a family member and that I might have to deal with him for the rest of my life. And even if I don’t, we still share DNA. We will always have a connection, a bond, something that will tie us together. I can never forget him and he will haunt me for the rest of my life. Does he not realize that he has ruined a life? He might as well just have killed me because he killed the person I could have been the moment he lay his filthy hands on me.
Content warning for discussion about child abuse.
I think the idea of children being innocent is largely a concept of our society. A concept that ends up shaming the children who aren’t innocent.
When you talk about children needing to learn about abuse, what’s not okay, and how to spot such signs you are met with cries of “let children be children” and “but they’re too young to learn such things!”
I hate this culture. This idea that you need to be a certain age before you learn about the world. The concept that youth needs to be protected and not told anything.
I was protected. I wasn’t told anything. Do you know what happened? I grew up in an abusive household. I was taught fighting between siblings was normal, even violent roughhousing. Not because it is normal, but because no one wanted to look, no one wanted to break that illusion of innocence. I thought my life was normal. I thought it was just how the world worked, even though I was terrified and didn’t feel safe at home.
The real reason children need to be taught about such things? The reason for breaking innocence? Because it’s already being broken. Because kids like I was are suffering and hurting.
Because if you force silence, force people to not look for keeping the sake of normalcy and the appearance of innocence, you continue a lie and deception that hurts victims and survivors.
So please. Break the silence.