Posts Tagged ‘Parenthood’

Black and white ways of child-rearing

September 23, 2014

Brittney Cooper, who is black, wrote for Salon about why black parents are often so authoritarian and white parents are often so permissive.

In college, I once found myself on the D.C. metro with one of my favorite professors.  As we were riding, a young white child began to climb on the seats and hang from the bars of the train.  His mother never moved to restrain him.  But I began to see the very familiar, strained looks of disdain and dismay on the countenances of the mostly black passengers.

They exchanged eye contact with one another, dispositions tight with annoyance at the audacity of this white child, but mostly at the refusal of his mother to act as a disciplinarian.  I, too, was appalled.  I thought, if that were my child, I would snatch him down and tell him to sit his little behind in a seat immediately.

My professor took the opportunity to teach: “Do you see how this child feels the prerogative to roam freely in this train, unhindered by rules or regulations or propriety?”

“Yes,” I nodded.

“What kinds of messages do you think are being communicated to him right now about how he should move through the world?”

And I began to understand, quite starkly, in that moment, the freedom that white children have to see the world as a place that they can explore, a place in which they can sit, or stand, or climb at will. The world, they are learning, is theirs for the taking.

Then I thought about what it means to parent a black child, any black child, in similar circumstances. I think of the swiftness with which a black mother would have ushered her child into a seat, with firm looks and not a little a scolding, the implied if unspoken threat of either a grounding or a whupping, if her request were not immediately met with compliance.

So much is wrapped up in that moment: a desire to demonstrate that one’s black child is well-behaved, non-threatening, well-trained.   Disciplined

I think of the centuries of imminent fear that have shaped and contoured African-American working-class cultures of discipline, the sternness of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ looks, the firmness of the belts and switches applied to our hind parts, the rhythmic, loving, painful scoldings accompanying spankings as if the messages could be imprinted on our bodies with a sure and swift and repetitive show of force.

I think with fond memories of the big tree that grew in my grandmother’s yard, with branches that were the perfect size for switches.  I hear her booming and shrill voice now, commanding, “Go and pick a switch.”   I laugh when I remember that she cut that tree down once we were all past the age of switches.

via The racial parenting divide – Salon.com.

I think there is a lot of truth in this.  How parents bring up children depends partly upon whether they see the world as a harsh and dangerous place, or whether they see the world as a place of opportunities to be explored.  (I’m writing now about normal families, and not about messed-up families without any real parenting).

The differences are not just between black and white families.  Blue-collar families, of whatever race, tend to more strict than upper-crust families.  Contrary to the stereotype that some black people have, not all of us whites are affluent, college-educated professionals.

I think there also is a generational divide.   Looking at the generations in my own family, my grandparents were much tougher disciplinarians than anybody would be today.   That was because of the customs of the times.  Nobody then would have thought that slapping or spanking a child was a form of abuse.  But those customs were a product of a much more demanding and unforgiving world than the one I grew up in.

One of the problems of the children of the Baby Boomers was that so many of them were raised to live in a kinder, gentler world than the one the found themselves in.

I think it’s tough to be a parent.   I don’t know how you strike the right balance.

The passing scene: Links & comments 9/16/14

September 16, 2014

Ukraine Offers Amnesty to Rebels by Mike Shedlock on Mish’s Global Trend Analysis (via Naked Capitalism).

President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine made a peace offer to separatist rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk, consisting of amnesty to helps, help in rebuilding, free local elections Nov. 9, limited self-rule for at least three years and the right to use Russian in official documents.

To me, an outsider ignorant of internal Ukrainian politics, this looks like a reasonable offer.   But it is opposed by Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who came to power with the backing of neo-conservatives in the U.S. State Department.

Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent by Nick Bilton for The New York Times.  (Via Mike the Mad Biologist)

Most CEOs of Silicon Valley companies set strict limits on how much time their children can spend in front of computer screens or use social media.  Instead they encourage their children to read printed books and engage in face-to-face conversation.   Consumers of their products should follow their example.

Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks by Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams and Nicholas Confessore for The New York Times. (Via Avedon’s Sideshow)

Non-profit research organizations such as the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Atlantic Council are supposed to provide expert and objective advice.  But how objective can they be if they take money from foreign governments?

John Crawford Shooting: Open Carry for Whites, Open Season on Blacks by Albert L. Butler for The Root.

Doubts cast on witness’s account of black man killed by police in Walmart by Jon Swaine for The Guardian.

Police in Ohio shot and killed a black man in a Walmart store in Ohio because they thought the toy gun he was holding was real.  But Ohio is an “open carry” state.  If he had been carrying a real gun, it would have been perfectly legal under state law.

The passing scene: Links & comments 7/17/14

July 17, 2014

And now: The criminalization of parenthood by Radley Balko for the Washington Post.

The day I left my son in the car by Kim Brooks for Salon.

The late A. Powell Davies, a Unitarian minister, wrote a book called The Urge to Persecute.  It seems as if the urge to persecute, when denied its historic outlets (gays, Communists), looks for new outlets (cigarette smokers).  Parenting is another example.  My parents felt free to leave me to my own devices without being second-guessed by busybodies and the police.

We May Be Approaching Peak Porn by Brandon McGinley for The Federalist.

I don’t believe in going after people who read and view pornography in the privacy of their own homes.  The ubiquity of pornography, even for those who prefer to avoid it, is another matter.

I clean high school bathrooms, and my new $15/hour salary will change everything by Raul Meza for the Washington Post.

Affluent and middle-class Americans ought not begrudge a decent wage to the people who do the work that makes the quality of their lives possible.