White Privilege Begets White Privilege – Smart Media Magazine

White Privilege Begets White Privilege

My good friend, who is white, is raising her young biracial daughter as a single mother. She is a loving mom, but in my opinion, she has not given enough thought to helping her daughter form a healthy self-image as a person of color. My friend is not a racist, but she was raised in an insular white community, and she has not reflected sufficiently on her white privilege. As a childless white woman, I am not the best person to give advice on parenting or racial sensitivity. But I would like my friend to reflect on these issues soon. Is there a supportive way to tell her this?


Let’s not start a white privilege contest — what would the prize be? — even if it’s one you may win. Who are you to dictate how a loving mother raises her child? I have no doubt that you mean well. Still, weighing in on these delicate issues, on your own steam, suggests some unexamined entitlement that can hardly be separated from your race. Go gently, B.D.

Don’t make assumptions about your friend, either. Unless you read minds or spoke with her on this topic, you may not truly understand how she (or her daughter, for that matter) thinks about the child’s racial identity or whether she has discussed it with someone else. I’m pretty sure, though, that receiving a parental to-do list from you will not help anyone.

The gentlest way to handle this is in the form of an honest question: “Is it complicated raising a biracial child as a white woman?” Then listen, and don’t breathe a word of advice. This query invites your friend to share her parenting strategy and may ignite further consideration. It remains her call, though, whether to take you up on your offer to discuss the issue with her.

CreditChristoph Niemann

My boyfriend and I are getting engaged soon. So are his older sister and her boyfriend. She has strong anti-vaccine views. I have made it abundantly clear to my boyfriend that I do not agree with her position, and I will not allow our (future) children to be around her (future) children until they are up-to-date on their shots. The other day, she told my boyfriend that she would only let me be a bridesmaid at her wedding if I changed my views on vaccines. What do I do?


You know those avocados at the market that are still as hard as rocks and not nearly ready to eat? Your two sets of hypothetical children are like that: They are not ripe for squabbling over yet. Don’t say another word about vaccines to your future sister-in-law until at least one of you has given birth.

Of course, I hope she joins the scientific mainstream and has her future children vaccinated. (It’s a matter of safety for everyone!) But there’s no point arguing now.

If she establishes an anti-vax litmus test for her bridesmaids, simply pass politely on the opportunity. But don’t throw gasoline on this fire, either. The hypothetical conflicts I worry about the most have a strange way of rarely coming to pass.

I live in an apartment building, and I own a dog. He has a neurological condition which requires medicine, and the medicine has caused him to gain weight. A neighbor got on the elevator with us and said: “Your dog is getting chunky.” I explained his condition and told her he’s on a prescription diet to manage his weight. I responded calmly, but her comment was rude and hurtful. Should I have fought back?


I’m sorry about your dog’s health. I get how identified we can become with our pets and how rude comments can sting.

But I’d give your neighbor a pass. Elevators are a breeding ground for awkwardness among people who feel compelled to make small talk. (A smile and nod are plenty!) I bet she asks kindly after your dog the next time you see her. If she mentions his weight again, say: “Let’s change the subject to something that doesn’t upset me.”

I am the oldest of four girls and named after a flower. Growing up, the fancy family china had the same flower on it. My mother often commented that it would be mine one day. This china has a lot of sentimental value for me. My mother is now in her 80s with dementia, and my father has suddenly grown attached to the china, though he doesn’t use it. (It’s in a box in the garage.) I shouldn’t put my father through a tug-of-war over it, right?


First things first: Is your name Rose or Lily?

Don’t quarrel with your father. He owns the china, even if he’s not using it. This may be a good time to suggest a family estate plan, including stuff in the garage with sentimental value. (A good one can prevent much heartache.) But if your father is not up for that, talk with your sisters about the importance of that floral china to you. (Peony?)

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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