Sunday, May 3, 2009

Becoming an Anti-Racist Parent; A Case Study

So here's my reality. Being an anti-racist parent takes practice. I'm working at it, and it is work. I'm often not aware of all of the ways my white skin and accompanying privilege and power works against my personal practice of being an anti-racist.

Here is an example of the places and ways I practice. I'm calling it a case study and really hoping if you visit my blog you'll leave a comment conveying your understanding of the "simple" comment/observation made today.

Scene: Soccer tournament in Rockford, Illinois
Me: Sitting on a bleacher in earshot of some fathers, but not in conversation with them.
Dad 1: "Did you see the game before this?"
Dads 2 and 3: "Not really."
Dad 1: "The Red Team played the White Team, a mostly Hispanic team, and it was a vicious game."
Me: Silent, but all of my radar is whirring and I am thinking about what's wrong with the comment, and what I might say if I were part of the conversation and/or sitting close enough to offer an observation/point of view.

What's wrong with this comment? I asked that at our family dinner table. We had a robust conversation. There was a lot of dialogue about "intention" and the outright question, "was it a racist comment?" What do you think?

Here's where I am in my thinking:
1.White is normalized in the comment. The Red Team is a team that can be assumed to be mostly white. This is what being invoked as the "norm" means. There is no need to identify race for the Red Team. Race doesn't exist for white players as it is established as the "norm."
2. The White Team is "othered;" race is the identifier when mentioning the White Team.
3. Hispanic is problematic as an identifier as it means primarily people from Mexico. Ummmm..not sure how the speaker could know this from merely a visual or identifying through spanish language or appearance.
4. There is a connection, potentially, between Hispanic and vicious. (The game was very physical on both sides, but the speaker made that opaque in his comment).

I'm working on this - what do you think?


Liz said...

I'm not sure I would call it racist, but it is definitely an example of white privilege at work, for the reasons you list - the race of the White Team being mentioned but not the race of the Red Team, so that "white" is assumed to be normal. I have been noticing things like this lately too, and I have to admit that I have said things like this in the past before I started becoming aware of race and privilege.

By the way, I've never heard that Hispanic means primarily from Mexico, I thought it meant someone from any of the countries where Spanish is spoken (or their descendants).

M and M said...

Liz, thank for you comment. I am using an indigenous source to flesh out the meaning of Hispanic. My source (friend) tells me that Hispanic refers to those once under the rule of Spain and is mostly used by people of Central and South America to refer to Mexicans. But, language is important here, right? So, my interpretation of the use of the words Hispanic, Latino, Latina are hugely influenced by my Mexican friend. Words...I'm going to do some reading on the use of Hispanic as a term to identify people. Thanks for calling this to my attention.

Anonymous said...

I find this type of thing in and of conversations...and I wonder if it is how other races describe white people? For example, someone was talking about an incident and said well the one guy said to the black you assume that the "one guy" is white and the story teller is white. When black people talk, do they say well that white guy blah blah blah?

I don't know if I feel that it is racist but it for sure makes a person uncomfortable...I have already questioned it and usually get a look from the other person of confusion...and then some lame reason about why they had to identify the color of the person they are talking about it.

amy said...

That last comment was me - Amy

Kat said...

If I overheard this discussion, I would assume that "vicious" was not being used in the actual sense of the word. I would guess that the men stereotype Hispanics to be good soccer players since they're Hispanic, so in this case, "vicious" means that the game was a blowout.

The whole idea that the other men would know what he was talking about since the players were Hispanic (i.e. that they were good), is interesting, and unfortunately, that stereotype abounds.

Waiting for Zufan! said...

Hey there! "Hispanic," in my experience of living in this hispanic household, means anyone Spanish-speaking, including those from the Iberian peninsula (Spain).

Kind of fun to google the definitions.

Anyway, I think that (meaning the conversation between those guy) is markedly racist. I would have been offended, but I wouldn't have said anything to them, either, since there is no way either of the two would have had the insight to see the racism in their "innocent" observation.

Nice post. :)

Julia said...

Hi there,
A "case study." I like it. Because it's so hard to figure out--in the moment--what is going on. At least, I find that.

Here's my reaction:
Why is it necessary to identify one team is "mostly Hispanic"? Why does the father feel the need to point that out? Pointing it out makes it seem as if it carries significance--but it's not clear what that significance is meant to be...

I just talked myself into a corner, but maybe it will be of some help to you :)

Anonymous said...

Meghan, I think you are right on the money. Tough having your radar up about this all the time, isn't it? Just the other day, I saw a photograph taken (by a professional photographer) of a group of around 12 or 13 folks in my office at an event they attended. The first thing I noticed was how the people were grouped from light to dark, in rows and everything. Literally the lightest (blondest) white person, next to the brownish haired white person, next to the dark haired white person, next to the very light skinned black person, and so on. It was bizarre, and when I pointed it out to my friend who's picture it was, she was surprised and hadn't noticed it before. Noone else did but they all agreed with me when I mentioned it. But it's the first thing that I saw, and I am sure it's being the parent of my son for the last year plus that has me on such high alert.

Anyway, thanks for keeping the conversation going.


D said...

Here's another one for you. My co-worker has complained to me on two occasions that they only teach Spanish at her kid's school. She thinks if foreign language is going to mandatory, they need to have choices.

I reply that Spanish is likely to be the most useful language to her son (as opposed to the German or French she proposed). I asked if they might teach Chinese (sorta to piss her off).

By the way, her kid is in second grade. Yes. Second.

What do I say to this (I know she's gonna bring it up again.)?