Sunday blogging against racism #34–baby shower shopping in black and white

26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.                                 
              –Peggy McIntosh, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.

 Yeah, this topic again. Same baby shower . . . and as someone who values the things we can learn from books, I was so determined to find the perfect “first-time parent” book for my friend who will be having her first baby, D.V., in a little over a month.

As I looked for books for her, I was after two things:

1) books that would speak specifically to the African-American experience of childbirth and raising children.

2) books for her (and for her baby) that would speak to universal issues of parenting and yet not represent 98% of parents/babies visually as white.

Here’s some of what I noticed:

  • The “baby faces” board books may have one brown-skinned baby, sometimes even two, but in most of them, the majority of the babies are white.
  • Greeting cards, gift wrap, etc. will almost always show a little pink-skinned baby. (I think my favorite baby gift wrap was from Hallmark, quite a few years ago, and it was a montage of baby faces in a variety of skin tones and facial expressions–but too often, this type of thing is hard to find.)
  • The “mommy” books will primarily have diagrams/photos of white women and white infants.

I could go on, but it’s late and I’m tired . . . however, it strikes me that I am not nearly as tired as some people must be after years, decades, a lifetime of searching in vain for products that reflect who they are . . .

and we as white folks, having long stopped noticing the weight of that invisible knapsack because we’ve carried it so long that it’s become almost a part of us, are bewildered and naively keep asking, “Why do ‘they’ need to have black churches/black bookstores/black clothing lines/black ______?! If I asked for a “white” bookstore, I’d be called a racist!” And we are utterly blind to the fact that, in reality, we already HAVE white churches, white clothing, white books, white EVERYTHING. “White” is the default, and until we get invited to that baby shower for a black or latina friend (and sometimes, maybe not even then), there’s no reason we even have to think about it.

And that, my friends, is a white privilege.

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