By Amy Bazan, YWCA Children Programs Director
When I was first asked to write a blog about mother’s day I thought of many angles for the piece. I could write about popular gifts, parents as first teachers, mother/daughter relationships, etc. As I thought more about it, reflections of my own experience as a mother of two daughters surfaced and a topic emerged that fits well with the YWCA mission – what is it like for a white mother to raise a biracial child (white/Latina)? In preparation I read different types of literature on the topic and noted quotes which were particularly moving to me. Ultimately I realized a blog is about one’s personal experience and is not academic in nature so here I share with you some of my experiences as the white mother of two Latina daughters.
My mother and I accompanied my oldest daughter on a field trip to the space museum in Alamogordo when my daughter was 8. From there we decided to cross the border to Juarez and do some shopping. On the way back into the United States we were stopped and asked to produce a birth certificate for my daughter. When I explained I didn’t carry it with me we were detained by security and she was asked many questions about the United States. When I asked why she was being questioned they informed me they were trying to decide if she was really my child and should be allowed to return with me. We were eventually allowed to cross back into the states but I was warned that I should carry appropriate documentation if I planned to continue to travel with her. I had previous experiences such as being asked if I was babysitting her or if she was adopted but this event was pivotal in cementing in my mind the outward differences between her and me.
As a woman, a person raised in Albuquerque and someone in a long time marriage to a man with a large Hispanic family I feel I am relatively well equipped to relate to my daughters’ daily challenges. Like most mothers I try to shield my children from harmful events, misconceptions and false judgements. However, frustrating as it may be, I have discovered there are things they will experience as Latina women that I will never fully understand and can only walk beside them through those experiences. My reality of being powerless to change their reality is frustrating and at times frightening. White privilege is something I began to hear discussed in my younger years but frankly didn’t want to accept. The turning point for me was when my older daughter (she was in her late teens at the time) and I arrived on a weekend at my office where there had been a recent break in. The police were there and as we turned the corner she said, “Mom, we need to leave”. I assessed the situation and told her we were safe because the police were on site. She turned to me and said, “Mom, we need to leave because the police are here.” It was at that moment that I realized what white privilege really is and that I could neither deny it, nor wish it away and that my precious daughter and I were on different ends of the issue weather I liked it or not.
Recent events emphasize that race remains a complex issue and continues to be a source of division and violence. Working within the confines of “blog” space I have shared with you a snapshot of my personal struggle as a white mother to accept my limitations in parenting Latina children. I am sure each of you has your own unique experiences with this topic. I long for a time that the YWCA’s “eliminating racism” mission is obsolete. Until then I leave you with a quote from the law scholar and thinker john a. powell, “There is a need for an alternative vision, a beloved community where being connected to the other is seen as the foundation of a healthy self, not its destruction, and where the racial other is seen not as the infinite other, but rather as the other that is always and already a part of us.”