About a month ago, I had an op-ed in The Boston Globe about the rise of single motherhood and what it means for fathers — ironically, at a time when equal parenting as an ideal has been making a lot of inroads. A couple of days later, there followed this commentary from Shannon LC Cate on the Strollerderby parenting blog. I meant to reply to it sooner, but first I was busy with other things and then I decided to put it off until Father’s Day. So, here is it.
Ms. Cate’s post is titled “Unwed Motherhood on the Rise; Paternalists on the Warpath.” Evidently, to point out that in general, children are better off having a father (and that, among other things, the glorification of the mother-child family unit takes us back to the not-very-feminist notion of child-rearing as women’s work) is to be a “paternalist on the warpath.”
The other day, I was browsing Lisa Belkin’s “Motherlode” blog on the New York Times website when I stumbled on this post, discsussing the saga of an alleged racial faux pas by “momblogger” Jackie Morgan MacDougall. Apparently, a year ago MacDougall shared the story of how her three-year-old son, brought by her husband to see her at the office, saw her African-American co-worker and blurted out, “Mommy, why is her face brown?”
I was completely mortified. What was I doing wrong that he would he say something like that? Aren’t we all supposed to be colorblind and not notice the differences in people? But as soon as I got over myself, I quickly realized that his asking about her skin was no different from him pointing out I have blue eyes, and not hazel like his or why I have “dots” (aka freckles) on my arms.
I asked my co-worker to field the question because I was interested in hearing how she’d like it answered. She explained to him that people come in all colors and her skin is just darker than his. He waited a beat–thought about what she said–and then asked if we could watch Toy Story 2 for the ten thousandth time.
What I learned from my preschooler that day is that recognizing differences in each other is not harmful, racist, or prejudice–it’s natural. It’s when you judge or treat someone differently because of those differences that’s hurtful. And that was the furthest thing from his sweet three-year-old mind.
The post sat there quietly for nearly a year with only two comments (the first quite positive, praising MacDougall’s wisdom, the second neutral), until it was discovered by another blog in May and became fodder for debate. Champions of “anti-racist parenting” flocked to MacDougall’s blog to accuse her of “white privilege” and call her post “disgusting.” She was castigated for everything from punting the question to her co-worker — and thus forcing a person of color to be a spokeswoman for her race — to having the temerity to think that being “colorblind” is a good thing.
There was more criticism after Belkin publicized the debate. Well, now, MacDougall offers profuse apologies that brings to mind the “self-criticism” sessions of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, as well as the horror of a character in George Orwell’s 1984 who learns he’s been guilty of “thoughtcrime.”
This caught my eye of National Review‘s blog, The Corner:
Momma Mia!: The Case of Candace Parker [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
A married 22-year-old is subject to scorn for embracing motherhood.
The link is to a column by Colleen Carroll Campbell, described as “an author, television and radio host and St. Louis-based fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.” Campbell writes about 22-year-old Women’s National Basketball Association star and Olympic gold medalist Candace Parker, a player for the Los Angeles Sparks and wife of Sacramento Kings forward Shelden Williams who recently announced that she was pregnant. According to Campbell: