This week we’re running a fascinating conversation between LiteraryMama contributor Deesha Philyaw Thomas and CUNY professor of sociology Barbara Katz Rothman, author of (most recently) Weaving a Family: Untangling Race and Adoption.
- DPT: You have what is, in my experiences with white people, a not entirely popular view of white-skin privilege. You observed that such privilege can be taken for granted but “adoption, mothering across racial borders . . . give[s] you perspective,” makes you aware of it. It’s easy to see why those benefiting from white-skin privilege can be oblivious to it, but why do you think some people deny or are even hostile to the idea that they enjoy this privilege? And, particularly for white parents raising black children, what is the significance of recognizing such privilege?
BKR: It’s very easy to not notice the privileges we have — people don’t think of themselves as, say sighted, until a blind person enters the room. Then the social privilege of being sighted — the ways that we have organized our social world around assumptions of sight — becomes obvious. If you have a blind friend coming to your home for the first time, or a blind colleague coming to your office for a meeting, the social privileges of sight start becoming clear to you.
This is much the case with the privileges of whiteness — when you are sharing your life with someone who does not have those privileges, you will come to see what they are. When that someone is your child, you had best be one step ahead, seeing what privileges might be denied that child, and working to smooth the way. Sometimes that means becoming politically and socially engaged, but it also means the daily things you will learn.
Read the entire, thought-provoking interview here.