How Black Parenting Is Sabotaged By White Supremacy
White Supremacy minds all Black folks’ business, all the damned time.
Black Parenting For White Comfort
As a Southern Black mother of sons, trying to parent my Black sons out of the eye shot and ear hustle of White Supremacy was damned near impossible. White Supremacy doesn’t allow Black parents to raise Black children. It insists on raising our kids for us. White Supremacy undermines Black parenting by influencing how we see ourselves, how communities see us, and how we see the communities we are born and raised in. Hardly anything we do with regards to our children is done without White White Supremacy being involved.
The moment my sons arrived on this earth, I was planning on giving my sons a fighting chance. White Supremacy demands my boys engage in countless unfair fights just for those chances which often felt like I was playing in a lottery. My investment couldn’t guarantee our Black asses anything, especially living in racist, poe dunk South Carolina. Those fights left my boys confused, scarred, traumatized, isolated, ostracized, alone, and afraid. It’s not right for young Black children to grow up this way.
I see clearly now the impact all those fights with White Supremacy had on my sons today. It’s difficult to describe watching my sons struggle navigating all the things we have taught him. I never realized how free we weren’t until I had children of my own. Every ounce of our being as Black parents goes towards raising obedient children White folks could tolerate, children that were often much better behaved than White children.
Raising Non-Threatening Black Children
From the time our Black children can walk, Black parents are grooming little White adults and/or Black people who aren’t threatening to White people. Regardless of whether it’s the former or the latter, the desires of Black parents are always secondary in a White Supremacist society. Black parents like myself raising Black boys often work on modifying our Black children’s behavior throughout their formative years so not to strike fear in White people, because they’re always afraid, and as my father once told me, “Black men are the White man’s boogeyman.” We want our children to have as few negative interactions with Whiteness as possible, because we know where those interactions can lead our sons, and their families.
The way my Black sons played and where they played was always predicated on what White people might think of them. As we parented, back then and even now, we’re overly worried about what White people will think of them and how their thoughts influence how they are treated. For example, one study proves what my Black sons had been coming home from school and telling me for nearly two decades. White teachers, who over-represent in public education, are more likely to punish Black students for misbehavior than White children, which is problematic in integrated school settings. White teachers engage in White Supremacy by using classrooms to criminalize Black youth, in particular Black young men. Black parenting has nothing on White bias.
Another factor Black parents must contend with when raising Black children is deal with biased White men, who are over-represented in every career field related to disciplining and punishing Black people. This over-representation of White men in our nation’s institution’s and structures has meant an over-representation of Black men being touched by the criminal justice system. White Supremacy influences how we discipline our own children in the homes in order to prepare them for the actual world, the White-run one.
Additionally, White men are over-represented in top management positions. This over-representation means Black parents must groom their Black children to go before White men for employment opportunities, men who have grown increasingly hostile and intolerant of Black bodies, especially Black men. From my own personal experience, I was constantly fixated on things my sons needed to do to impress White people for a job, like dressing to the standards and specifications of White men, ensuring their hair was cut in non-threatening factors, and grooming them in accordance to White workplace standards, even if it meant neglecting our own Black cultures and norms.
White Supremacy is everywhere, and it’s always looking for ways to play a role in Black lives whether or not we want it to. White Supremacy informs Black parenting. As long as rich White men rule this country and middle-class and poor White people manage it for them, Black people will parent in ways which ensures we aren’t raising Black adults that threaten White mediocrity or give credence to any Black boogeyman myths. Those boogeyman myths are the kinds that get young Black boys with all the potential in the world like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis killed.
Black parents must always be concerned about our Black sons being non-threatening to White people, and this concern drives who we control our children’s behavior. Even when they are the ones being provoked. Even when they are minding their own business not thinking about White people. Even as they are growing up as minor children. Black is synonymous with threatening when you live in a White Supremacy society.
One of Many Experiences With White Men Influencing Black Behavior
I’ll never forget once when I was a really young mom in my early twenties and my sons were three and four years old, my father took us all out to dinner one night on one of my rare visits back home. One of his favorite places to dine in the 90s was a seafood spot in West Columbia, South Carolina, a town that has a notoriously racist past. You’d think things would have gotten better in the 90s, but hell no, it’s South Carolina for goodness’ sake, home of secessionists and the prolific forms of racism this country has ever experienced. I believe South Carolina taught America how to be racist.
We had been seated at the restaurant and dining quietly for about an hour. My family and I were having friendly conversations as we normally did. My children were well-behaved, just as I’d been grooming them to be sitting in their high chairs. There was an enormous party of White people already seated behind us who were a little loud, but not unusually so for such a sizeable group of folks. As their night wound down and the people from the White party behind us left, an older White couple stopped by our table to comment on the behavior of my sons.
The older White gentleman commented about how quiet my boys were and how well-behaved they’d been during our visit. His comments struck me at the time, although it would take me years, damned near decades to get to the root of what he meant by his comment. (FYI: White people commenting on the behavior of Black children is racism, especially when you’re making a habit of watching us in public spaces. You’re not the Black behavior police.)
While I thanked the man for the weird, off-the-cuff comment, my father wasn’t pleased and his typical pro-Black daddy response showed. He knew exactly what the White man meant by his comment. My dad asked the gentleman, “What did you expect them to act like, animals?” At the time I was so embarrassed by my dad’s terse remarks, little did I know he was standing up for his grandchildren against White Supremacy and the controlling White gaze. The man of course noted he didn’t mean any harm, and in his mind he probably didn’t. He was just being his usual old racist self, engaging in the forms of racism most White people have normalized.
I never forget that day. It showed just how much White people watch us, even when we are minding our business, even when we’re not focused on them. From that point forward, I was informed that White people would always critique my sons’ behavior, and there was an acceptable way Black boys must behave to avoid labeling or worse.
We expect the behaviors Black men to model silence, meek, non-threatening, defenseless, and kindness in our White society, no matter what White Supremacy does to us. Black kids don’t have the privilege of acting like White kids. Black children and their Black parents cannot demand exceptional grades for mediocre performances, and we surely don’t have White teachers expected to accommodate our mediocrity. Black parents don’t get the same grace and excuses White parents get. Our children aren’t allowed to misbehave, speak their minds, or be rude to White teachers and White police as we exercise the same rights and liberties White people are afforded.
There is a penalty for not following the White prescription for Black behavior.
Black parents teach their little Black children to model behaviors that comforts Whiteness, allowing our loved ones to see another day. Black parenting to comfort White people is not fair, it’s just White Supremacy, and nothing about White Supremacy is ever fair.
Black parenting skills have had to evolve and adapt like White Supremacy does. It’s the only way we all have been able to survive it. We parent our precious babies the way White Supremacy has taught us to — denying us the right to instill values and cultures in our children we believe are invaluable.
The Disrespectful Overreach of Whiteness Into Black Households
As I’ve aged, I’ve had many regrets about the way I raised my children, more guilt than anything. I was married to someone who loved dancing a jig for the White gaze. My ex-husband loved being the only Black person in the room. He was his White employer’s indispensable negro. Looking back, I guess he was doing what he had to do to provide for our family, but it sent so many mixed messages to our sons. Even when we as parents were uncomfortable, we went against what was natural for most Black parents, to teach the things that would appease White Supremacy. We denied our own heritage and culture. We signaled our sons that being ourselves was bad and that being pro-Black was bad. As they’ve aged, they found in the places we worked to undermine, Black spaces and Black people. We put our children in White spaces, damaging them for life.
The messages about Black parenting are crystal clearer today. White Supremacy runs Black homes and raises Black children, even when we don’t realize it’s happening.
The disrespectful overreach of Whiteness into Black households has had devastating effects on Black people, especially Black men. While I’ll admit teaching my sons code-switching was helpful, teaching my children to live as chameleons with split personalities looks and feels now like betrayal. How does one make up for teaching their children to put another culture before their own? You spend the rest of your life dismantling it; I suppose. I think it’s important for those of us raising Black children, and those considering have them to realize how little control we have over our parenting if you’re unaware about how White Supremacy influence Black thought, including what we believe Black parenting should be.
By allowing White Supremacy to inform and dictate Black parenting, I sometimes taught my sons they needed to cower when they should’ve been standing tall. I asked them to apologize when they did nothing wrong. I taught them they needed to let fights with bullies go, when they should have been taught to finish what the shit they didn’t start.
We’ve silenced our daughters when they needed to be speaking out loudly, teaching them to embrace movements and messaging that wasn’t meant for them. We’ve taught them to believe working with Whiteness will eventually reward them, when the truth of the matter is there is never a reward for helping Whiteness. The reward for Black women is more work with a side of more waiting.
As Black parents, we have altered our children’s trajectory in Blackness to accommodate the fragility and disrespectfulness of Whiteness. We’ve put ourselves down in order to lift an undeserving Whiteness up.
Undoing this will take time, and lots of effort. It requires lots of conversations, hugs, and apologies for things we didn’t know. We’ve denied our most basic Black instincts about what’s best for our children to teach them about what’s best for White people and White Supremacy. While it’s been a necessary evil, White Supremacy all up in our parenting should’ve never been a thing in our homes.
Now that my sons are adults, I spend a lot of time working to undo the damage by parenting while Black in America. We have open, honest conversations about what I did wrong, and we talk about what I did right. I’m so thankful for the unapologetically Black men we’ve had in our lives over the years. My sons saw Black resistance modeled by Black men, even in its most tapered form. It’s been a necessary life skill, and I’m so appreciative for the brothers who saw my sons and could understand what it was like being in their shoes.
A Black Parent’s Job Is Never Done
I have so many regrets as a mother about how I parented my sons, especially after living these last years of Trump Crow (the new, NEW, Jim Crow). I talk to my sons often about their feelings because so often their feelings aren’t validated anywhere. There is no space for Black men to vent, not without something. Whether it’s fire and venom, threats, online attacks, or the usual Black man slander that occurs today by White Supremacy, Black men are often bullied into silence.
That’s where Black parent’s come into play again, this time by undoing the damage done not only by our own Euro-centered parenting but also by the White Supremacy they experience at every turn in their lives. Living with White hostility and White rage is abnormal. I’m teaching my sons how to get through it, letting them know it’s not us, it’s them. Them being White people.
At this stage of my life, my Black parenting is a little different. I’m undermining White Supremacy. I’m taking back what they stole from me, from us. The things that I can control, things that we can’t put a monetary value on, I’m learning to take control and being comfortable with it.
My Black parenting now includes finding peace in loving us as we are with all our complexities. I find peace teaching my sons in standing up for themselves against White Supremacy. I teach I will always have his back, and we can get through anything because we are the descendants of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and men like Nat Turner. I extend and accept grace for my past Eurocentric parenting, giving us time to fix what we’ve broken in ourselves and our children by going against what was once natural to us.
Raising Black sons who respect and appreciate their culture is damned near impossible thanks to the almighty overreach of Whiteness. But we’re trying. The last few years have showed we need to do better about how we parent Black children. Getting them ready for the world shouldn’t mean living for White gazes. As Black parents, we need to be more intentional about raising Black children fully capable of living between the two worlds of Black and White. We can’t afford to continue raising kids who grow up learning to accommodate White fragility before they learn how to liberate themselves from White Supremacy. We’re never going to see any changes if we don’t change.
We can’t keep raising children to fit into a White square peg because the truth of the matter is they’re never going to fit in. Most White people aren’t interested in changing. They aren’t ready to let go of their bogus Black boogeyman theories. They aren’t ready to stop teaching their children to not be racist and disrespectful to Black people. We can’t continue parenting, hoping they’ll change.
While Black parents must teach their kids to deal with and navigate racism, we must retire Eurocentric parenting values. Black parents are often concerned that teachers and professionals who work with children and families will assess our parenting skills from an Eurocentric perspective, with little consideration for the impact of racism and White Supremacy on our daily lives. We end up punishing our children, sending mixed messages and scarring them most times for life. It’s time to give parenting for White gazes a funeral.
My sons feel betrayed by society. Sometimes they are angry with me, their grandparents, other Black people in their lives they believe sold us all out, or at least sold them a lie. It’s difficult for us all to process, but I feel I need to do the work now so that when my grandchildren grow up. They shouldn’t have to go through the same things their father’s experienced coming up.
Black parents are going through changes right now. There are some things we gotten wrong, and we’re going to have to let those things go. I just want you to know there is no shame in realizing what we’ve done wrong, especially when our intentions were good. But because intentions don’t matter sometimes, perceptions do, we must work to repair the harm done. Life is about learning, and sometimes we don’t get things right, but I’m committed to fixing the things I’ve broken.
Every day, I’m working hard trying to determine the truth from the lies, and the freedom from the oppression.
I know I’ve parented for White gazes, White comfort, White fragility, and White Supremacy, and for this I have apologized to my children. I’ll apologize to my sons until I take my last breath. No one should have to be born in such an oppressive state. I didn’t understand it then, but I know better now. When you know better, you do better, and I’m committed to not spending the last part of my life parenting the way I did the first part of my life.
My Black children and grandchildren deserve better parenting. So do I.
Marley K. in Quarantine 2020
Follow me @ https://marleyk.medium.com/
Be safe, stay home, and wear your masks please!
If you enjoyed this essay, please check out this essay about a Black father sharing how he shares with his son how to shrink himself to make White people, in particular White women, comfortable.
Read: “Raising While Black: A Survivor’s Guide”, written by G Correia. For more intelligent Black thought, please follow him.