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    Sociologist Margaret A Hagerman, who studies the role white families play in racial inequality, discusses the delusion of ‘colorblindness’ and racial divides


    Are you a well-meaning white parent who perpetuates racism?

    Sociologist Margaret A Hagerman, who studies the role white families play in racial inequality, discusses the delusion of ‘colorblindness’ and racial divides

    Donna Ladd @DonnerKay

    Sat 15 Sep 2018 12.00 BST


    was having a mid-morning breakfast at Whole Foods in Jackson, Mississippi, when a young white mother I knew from around town walked up wearing workout clothes and pushing her youngest daughter in a stroller.

    “I wanted to tell you that after I read the story you ran in your newspaper about Jackson’s school integration history, I decided to send my daughter to public school,” she said, referring to her kindergarten-age child. After tons of research, she had decided that her daughter could get a good education there – and it was the right thing to do. It didn’t surprise me; her family also attends an integrated church with a black pastor.

    But her timing was auspicious. “You should read this,” I said, reaching into my tote bag for the new book, White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America by Margaret A Hagerman, PhD, a sociologist at Mississippi State University. “She can help you avoid mistakes as a white parent in a majority-black school.” She looked excited to read it.

    A few hours later, I was sitting with Hagerman in her office 110 miles north to talk about her book. The soft-spoken woman with long, straight hair and bangs emanates more of a cool co-ed vibe than that of an academic who, in her book and press appearances for it, is bringing the ethnographic heat about how affluent white families across the country are promulgating white supremacy in America – whether they intend to or not. After spending two years with 30 families in three interconnected midwestern communities, she reports that delusions of “colorblindness” provide cover for ongoing structural racism.

    As our conversation began, I told Hagerman about the young mother back in Jackson.

    What would you tell her to avoid the racist pitfalls you describe in your book?

    I would absolutely be very supportive of her decision to send her children to integrated public schools. It’s an important first step, for sure. I would then draw from my own research about some of the white parents’ pitfalls that come with this territory—things like feeling the need to dominate the PTA meeting, or needing to be the leader, the one making decisions about what’s important in the school.

    I would encourage a reciprocity by partnering with parents of all the kids at the schools to really understand some of the challenges she might not be aware of as a white person going into that school, the class differences and so forth. She should try to build meaningful friendships with other parents and recognize that even in integrated spaces we can see all kind of racial conflict. The work’s not done just because you send your kids to an integrated school.

    I saw a white mother walk out of a conversation recently about the societal costs of private-schooling their kids after declaring that her “kids aren’t guinea pigs”, a dehumanizing phrase you interrogate well in the book.

    I talk a lot about this tension many families face. You can really see it with school-choice issues, but it’s actually bigger than that. People get very defensive about choices made. On the one hand, they want to be good citizens and feel like they’re contributing to a just and equal society. They don’t want to be considered a racist because they genuinely believe they’re not. On the other hand, they feel the need to be a “good” parent. A lot of scholarship around school choice looks at race and find that many people believe that a better school is one with more white children.

    Other parents really thought it was important for children to develop an entrepreneurial spirit, start businesses, make money and think about college as a place they’re going to get something that would get them a good job.

    The third group was more invested in their children becoming members of a diverse democracy with tools to talk about inequality and experiences that would help them and resist these forms of inequality. They don’t do it perfectly; I’m critical of all of them.

    In a majority-white Seattle suburb, a public high school used the Confederate flag for years as its emblem and still call themselves the “rebels”. After a petition to change it, the student body voted to keep the nickname. You write about communities where racism is considered the “past”; do such educational holes make it harder for families to confront continuing racism?

    Some of the children really believed in meritocracy. Their understandings of inequality were that people who were successful and rich worked hard; those who where unsuccessful and poor were lazy. Without understanding the history of racism in America, that explanation that the kids are offering would make sense for them. They haven’t learned about the history of redlining, the history of slavery, the genocide of Native Americans, the relationship between the United States and Mexico. If they’re not learning this multicultural history, when they look out at the world and see that people who look like them are successful, it must be because they’re better, they work harder and their parents care about them more. That has dangerous consequences.

    Source : www.theguardian.com


    Author Gayle Kirshenbaum discusses what it means to be a white parent raising the next generation of white people and the responsibilities that come with…

    It's Time for White Parents of White Kids to Bring the Resistance Home

    By Gayle Kirshenbaum

    “Get Organized Brooklyn” community meeting (Photo Credit: Demetrius Freeman, The New York Times)

    Recently, I joined more than 1,000 people in Park Slope, Brooklyn at a community meeting convened to resist Trump’s agenda. One of the speakers was Hebh Jamal, a 17-year-old Muslim student who led a citywide student walkout to protest the travel ban and Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

    She’s also a leader in the movement to desegregate New York City schools, among the most segregated in the country.

    She looked out at the nearly all-white, upper-income crowd — which included many parents — and asked us to recognize ourselves and our children as beneficiaries of a rigged educational system. While this is a known and somewhat lamented fact in our liberal community, the silent room got a little more silent as we contemplated ourselves as both new resisters and longtime collaborators.

    ​We’re now past the 100-day mark of an administration infused with the spirit of white nationalism. I feel myself to be living a split-level life: upstairs, in the public realm, I continue to call my representatives and go with my family to protests; downstairs, on the subterranean level, I’m wading through the muck of my own whiteness.

    This is not a place I want to be.

    What do you like about being white?

    This was the question posed to me and other participants of a workshop I attended a month after the election, which was called Undoing Racism. Although I’ve been engaged in social justice work my entire adult life, it wasn’t until the Black Lives Matter movement that I started to fully reckon with myself as a white parent of a white child. In our household, I’ve spoken with a whole lot of concern about racism — but not with much urgency.

    And during my nearly 16 years of parenthood, I’ve rarely spoken with other white parents about what it means to be raising the next generation of white people.

    Post-election protest (photo credit: latimes.com)

    In the workshop, we sat in a tight circle for two days. The trainers were as diverse as the room, some of them middle-aged or older. Trump, to my surprise, didn’t command their attention. They talked about race in this country with a fierce kind of equanimity, a degree of remove from the present moment.

    As people began to describe what it’s like to move through their lives as black, Latina, Chinese-American, or white, I also felt myself detach from the headlines and begin to quiet down. I understood why the emotional temperature of the room was so carefully, expertly regulated. Silence was respected and humor welcomed, though this was not group therapy. It was a process of collective witnessing, of watching each other begin to tell the truth.

    What do you like about being white?

    I was expecting, at this training, to wholeheartedly acknowledge my white privilege. I’ve been very good at this for years.

    But I wasn’t expecting to hear myself say, "I like that I can use the bathroom wherever I am. I like that I can walk into any building I want to. I like that as a white woman I’m never perceived as a threat and that I’ve been smiled at my whole life."

    This, I’ve come to know, is most usefully experienced not as a confession of sin, but as an acknowledgment of fact. I’ve been learning to depersonalize my racism in order to take responsibility for it. To locate it in the institutions that have shaped me. To understand white superiority as an inherited condition, a mindset not of my choosing but that I have been socialized to carry and to transmit. It feels less a source of personal shame, than a thing that I can hear and see and smell. I think of my whiteness as a still active construction site, which was set up the day I was born.

    As it was for my child.

    Gayle and her child, Aaron


    Just before the election, a friend of mine who is raising an African American boy told me of her overwhelming pain when watching him attempt to play in a Minneapolis playground and be shunned by the white children whom he’d approached. This was not the first time she’d seen her child, the only child of color in a play group, excluded in this way — an exclusion that was not noticed or challenged by the attendant white parents.

    “My son already doesn’t like his skin color. He’s five.”

    We’d never talked about this.

    My friend is a white woman married to an African American woman and they have had many discussions about race with their child.

    When she told me about her son’s experience on the playground, I wanted to imagine that I would have been the “good” white parent, the one who recognized what was happening and stepped up in some way. But I very much doubt it. I would likely have told myself I wasn’t seeing what I was seeing so that I wouldn’t have to figure out what to do about it.

    When my child was five, we weren’t yet discussing race head on. My husband wanted to start the conversation, but I wanted to do more research. I wasn’t sure what the right time was. I wanted to do it the right way. Looking back, though, I see as much complacency as anxiety. I never did the research I planned to do. As part of a family embedded in a progressive community, I gave myself a pass. I seemed to believe that the necessary conversations about race and racism would be transmitted to my kid by osmosis.

    Source : www.embracerace.org

    How to Teach White Kids About Race

    The sociologist Margaret Hagerman spent two years embedded in upper-middle-class white households, listening in on conversations about race.


    How Well-Intentioned White Families Can Perpetuate Racism

    The sociologist Margaret Hagerman spent two years embedded in upper-middle-class white households, listening in on conversations about race.

    By Joe Pinsker

    Gretchen Ertl / Reuters

    SEPTEMBER 4, 2018

    When Margaret Hagerman was trying to recruit white affluent families as subjects for the research she was doing on race, one prospective interviewee told her, “I can try to connect you with my colleague at work who is black. She might be more helpful.”

    Modern-day segregation in public schools

    To Hagerman, that response was helpful in itself. She is a sociologist at Mississippi State University, and her new book, White Kids: Growing Up With Privilege in a Racially Divided America, summarizes the two years of research she did talking to and observing upper-middle-class white families in an unidentified midwestern city and its suburbs. To examine how white children learn about race, she followed 36 of them between the ages of 10 and 13, interviewing them as well as watching them do homework, play video games, and otherwise go about their days.


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    These kids and their parents display a range of beliefs about race. “Racism is not a problem,” one girl tells Hagerman, adding that it “was a problem when all those slaves were around and that, like, bus thing and the water fountain.” Meanwhile, the girl’s mother nods along. Other parents in the book have educated themselves better, but often, intentionally or unintentionally, still end up giving their kids advantages that, in the abstract, they claim to oppose. (White Kids is not, as Hagerman writes at one point, “a particularly hopeful book.”)

    I recently spoke to Hagerman, and that second group kept coming up in our conversation—how, despite their intentions, progressive-minded white families can perpetuate racial inequality. She also discussed ways they can avoid doing so. The interview that follows has been edited for length and clarity.

    Joe Pinsker: One reading of your book is that the way white parents talk about race with their children does matter, but that what you call the “bundled set of choices” they make about what types of people their children encounter every day might matter even more. Can you talk about that set of choices and what it determines?Margaret Hagerman: I use the phrase bundled choices because it seemed to me that there were some pretty striking patterns that emerged with these families in terms of how they set up their children’s lives. For example, I talk in the book about how choosing a neighborhood leads to a whole bunch of other choices—about schools, about the other people in the neighborhood. Decisions about who to carpool with, decisions about which soccer team to be on—you want to be on the same one as all your friends, and all these aspects of the kid’s life are connected to the parents’ choices about where to live.

    I’m trying to show in the book that kids are growing up in these social environments that their parents shape. They’re having interactions with other people in these environments, and that’s, I think, where they’re developing their own ideas about race and privilege and inequality.

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    Pinsker: Some of the parents in your book may see the problems with choosing mostly white neighborhoods or schools, but the explanation they usually provide for those choices is that they just want what’s best for their children. This rationale is generally considered understandable, even honorable, but can you talk about its dark side?Hagerman: One of the things I talk about in the book is what I call this “conundrum of privilege,” which is that these parents have a lot of resources economically as well as status as white people. They can then use those resources to set up their own child’s life in ways that give them the best education, the best health care, all the best things. And we have this collectively agreed-upon idea in our society that being a “good parent” means exactly that—providing the best opportunities you can for your own child.

    But then some of these parents are also people who believe strongly in the importance of diversity and multiculturalism and who want to resist racial inequality. And these two things are sort of at odds with one another. These affluent white parents are in a position where they can set up their kids’ lives so that they’re better than other kids’ lives. So the dark side is that, ultimately, people are thinking about their own kids, and that can come at the expense of other people’s kids. When we think about parents calling up the school and demanding that their child have the best math teacher, what does that mean for the kids who don’t get the best math teacher?

    Source : www.theatlantic.com

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