A letter to my white partner after our daughter said she wishes she were white
I need you to step up. Race is a thing. That could not be more obvious today. You don’t need to be a social justice warrior, but you need to be my coparent. You have children of color. You can’t truly believe that our daughter is the one person in the world that won’t absorb white supremacy and will remain completely untouched by the glaring and systemic differences in this country (and planet). I want to you watch the videos I made (Dear White Therapists) so that you’ll know what I mean when I say white supremacy. Because I know that term sounds so extreme, like something that only exists at KKK rallies. But you know, you KNOW this world is for white people, that white reigns supreme. The world is understanding this concept in a different way, and as parents to non-white children we need to keep up. I need you to start listening — to people of color and white people — with a WIDE-open mind. (Why don’t you want to give it a try? What do you have to lose? What are you afraid will happen if you just listen?)
Our daughter exists in this world as a brown female. Our son will move through this world as a white male. They are both in danger.
I said, “We have a problem” in the hopes that you would say, “I’ll talk to them.” You are their father, their white father. Do you know how much influence you can have on them? I’m trying to be patient, but when it comes to our children, we can’t fuck around anymore. Our daughter is black. We cannot pretend we forgot that fact. If we wanted to ignore her blackness, we should have never adopted a black child. And regardless of her genetic makeup, she exists in this world as a brown female. Our son will move through this world as a white male. They are both in danger. And I don’t mean their bodies are — although you can’t guarantee me that a brown woman with ethnic hair will always be safe from hateful white people, which you know exist. You know all about Trumpets — but their lives are. I need you to show up. To hear me when I tell you that I always hated my hair and still do. (I don’t CARE if you hate your balding hair more than I hate mine. Your situation has nothing to do with race. Mine does. Our daughter’s does.)
My aunt told me and my little sister that if we rubbed our noses down every night for long enough, they would get thinner (= acceptable).
I need you to hear me when I tell you that my father’s sister taught me and my little sister that if we rubbed our noses down every night for long enough, they would get thinner (= acceptable). And we did! We tried! And we failed, of course we failed. We didn’t stand a chance. Can you please imagine what that does to a child, to a child’s self-esteem? Incidentally, my aunt is very light-skinned and has a very thin nose. And that’s what she told her brown nieces to do.
Our daughter’s a smart kid, a very intelligent kid, in fact. And society is constantly pounding into her that white is better. In a way that she won’t even be conscious of. In a way that even you are at this moment refusing to recognize. You are very smart too. Stop fucking around. Our beautiful little daughter won’t be immune to absorbing that any more than I was immune from noticing that being male was a much better deal than being female. In my culture, as in this one. Facts. Figures. Men dominate women.
I’ve always been “one of the good ones.”
I know you think I’m late to the game, and trust me, nobody is more ashamed of that than I. But that’s what white supremacy does. It teaches us that this is normal. And we just accept that that’s how things are. Better not to question it too much or think about it too hard. What would be the point? What a depressing and hopeless reality. But things are changing, and I’m here, so I’m learning from it. I am very intelligent too. At least I’m trying to figure this stuff out now. What can I tell you? I’m growing up. Try to empathize. I’m realizing just how fucked up this system is, while constantly second-guessing myself or at least my right to be involved in this fight. I’ve always been privileged, and I’ve always been “one of the good ones.” (Would your family and friends still accept me if I was the NYC version of Puertorican/Dominican? If I was still me but I dressed, talked, moved differently or louder? Maybe you’re thinking that I couldn’t be a psychologist, or any kind of professional, and behave like that. What does that say about race and ethnicity and what is right, acceptable, appropriate. If I was NYC-Hispanic, I would have had a whole lot more of assimilating to do in order to be accepted in those White spaces. Yes, White. The white-collar world is White. Stop playing around.)
I was just talking with my sisters yesterday about how my hair’s too kinky for a short cut. This morning the scale said I was a pound heavier than yesterday, which was a pound heavier than the day before, and I got sad. Well, more like mad with myself for not being restrictive enough with what I eat. And I’m a small, slender person! What could I possibly have to feel bad about? I can’t tell my mom, much less my dad, that I’m queer. And I AM. I have to do extra work, like the Patreon account, (by the way, now that video is due), because being the Hispanic therapist keeps me from making enough money.
So I know this stuff is hard to look at. I need you to start doing it anyway.