Race and Band-Aids. Does it Matter?

2 Jan

I got hooked on mommy blogs in 2008 when I watched my niece and used my brother and sister-in-law’s computer. My sister-in-law had a few of these blogs bookmarked on her computer. I didn’t even know people blogged about being a mom.

I’ve read mommy blogs about parents who lost a child, families managing care for a child with a disability, and one where the parent is working through struggles of their own. Many moms are amazing photographers with beautiful pictures of their children doing crafts or going to the beach.

All of the blogs I have read are written by white women. White moms.

They are all in the top 100 mommy blogs of 2012, according to babble.com. I read somewhere that out of the top 100 less than five talk about race. They are all blogs written by Women of Color.

Whiteness for me is so normalized that I didn’t realize that motherhood is synonymous with whiteness. Of course these women are popular. They are attractive, wonderful photographers, compelling writers (although that is debatable in some cases), and almost all have triumphantly made it through a challenge with grace and dignity.

Needless to say, I didn’t think much of it. Until last year.

Disney Princess Band-Aids

These bitches gotta share the box!

A very popular mommy blogger wrote an article about Band-Aids. I cringed when I read it.

The gist of the blog was that she had gone to the store to buy Band-Aids and one box had three of the Disney princesses–Belle, Aurora and Cinderella, the white ones–and the second box was just Tiana (African American) from The Princess and the Frog. Anyways, she was upset that the princesses were in different boxes and wanted to know why they couldn’t be together. She called it “Band-Aid segregation.” She didn’t understand why the two boxes couldn’t have been marketed together. Why did the white girls have to be separated from the black girls? She actually wrote, “Didn’t Disney teach us all to paint with the colors of the wind?”

Seriously?

Then came the comments. Some readers totally agreed, saying “Why can’t they all be together?” and “This is a shame!” and “What is Disney thinking?” Others chalked it up to marketing. Some people talked about how Pull-Ups had all the girls on their product, and some people complained about the cost of the Band-Aids. Some said it didn’t matter–they’re only Band-Aids, after all.

Then there was me. I never comment on blogs. I get really nervous about making spelling errors or sounding dumb. I think that’s why I’ve put my own blog off for so long.

The author wrote that her solution was to buy both boxes, take them home and mix them together in an effort to show her daughter that all the princesses are equal.

I summoned up the courage and wrote a comment referencing Peggy McIntosh’s article on the Invisible White Knapsack, which includes Band-Aids in a list of things white people don’t have to think about. For white people, finding a Band-Aid that’s the same color as their skin is easy. I linked to this article and said it was important that an African American girl be featured on her own on a box of Band-Aids. There are many white princesses (with different hair colors!) and all of them have been able to shine at some point. Kids need people they can identify with, even Disney princesses. I also said that arguing about $4 Band-Aids was a privilege in itself.

I nervously clicked published.

One woman agreed with me, but no one else commented on what I said. I felt like I did in college when someone asked why BET was its own cable channel and if white people had WET (white entertainment television) we would be called racists. I raised my hand and said, “All channels are WET.” Everyone in the room stared at me. I went to a predominately white college after years in schools that were evenly mixed.

I realized something that day–white people do not think about race in the same context as People of Color. We ignore race or choose to be colorblind whenever possible. We ignore our own privileges.

The post about Band-Aids made me think. How do I teach my own child about race? Do I choose to buy all the boxes and mix them up to show we are all the same? Do I ignore race as I have the privilege to do and only buy the white box? Do I buy the box with only the Black character and make my daughter believe we are somehow not racist (the “But my best friend’s Black, so I can’t be racist” syndrome). Or, are they really just Band-Aids?

How do I teach my child that regardless of what society tells her, she must pay attention to her whiteness?

What do you think? How do you (white moms) talk to your children about race?

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14 Responses to “Race and Band-Aids. Does it Matter?”

  1. PJ January 2, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    Yay for this blog! I’ve also noticed that mom blogs are predominantly by white, relatively privileged women. The nauseating Mommy Wars are privileged women fighting amongst each other over which behaviors will ensure whether their children will ultimately be in the top 3% or the top 1%.

    When it comes time to teach my daughter about race, the first thing I will do is acknowledge that race exists. Kids are not colorblind, and studies have proven that.

    There’s nothing wrong with seeing race. It should be acknowledged! If you sweep everything under the table, you leave children to come up with their own conclusions.

    You also can’t say things like, “Everyone is equal,” without defining what you mean by “everyone” and “equal.” Such statements are euphemisms, steeped with context and meaning in our wink-and-nod cultural approach to talking about race. It’s confusing as heck to a kid to hear a sentence like, “everyone is equal.” Wtf does that mean to a five year old?

    Children need language straight up and delivered in an age appropriate way. I like sentences such as, “People come in different colors!” … “Thanks to adoption, families come in different colors. The white mom of that black boy is his “real mom” because she is the one who loves him every day and takes care of him. She is different from his birth mom.”

    Some close friends of ours asked my husband and I to be God parents to their sons. Our friends told their sons that we were, “family.” But my husband and I are white and my God sons are of Chinese descent. Our five-year-old God son asked, “How can they be family if they are white?”

    What a wonderful teaching moment! Kids are not blind.

    • White Mom January 7, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

      Thank you for your comment- I’ve already been blown away by the competitive nature of (white?) parents. Someone asked us if we were considering language immersion for our daughter- I was like seriously? She’s 4 months old- and people pay for that?? It is important to acknowledge race with our children and more importantly ourselves. If we can’t be honest about our own biases it’s going to be difficult to teach our children otherwise.

  2. demogirl06 January 2, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Wow… I never realized how early we drill racial prejudice into our kids. Flesh-colored band-aids never crossed my mind. Not once.

    • tlhumphries January 27, 2013 at 6:19 am #

      I am really liking this blog. Several years ago I started working for a residential home for troubled teens and found myself immersed in a culture I had no idea existed. Looking at it from the outside is very different from living in it as an outsider. I immediately realized how white privileged our society is, and started making comments about it. I work with some hard-working, committed individuals who are grossly underpaid and under-valued for their service. But it is normal for the “uneducated” (no college). The job was a stepping stone for me, but I stood out because I was white. Right now, 100% of the staff providing “house-parent”-type care for this diverse group of kids is black, many of whom also have other jobs to make ends meet. It seems white people would not put up with the verbal abuse (from the kids) for the low pay. And when I started paying attention to the media aimed at the culture of my co-workers, i was appalled! It is so scarce compared to white media, and much of it is detrimental to their society. I commented to several of my co-workers, “If I was a black parent raising children, I would be livid! What is held up as “normal” to aspire to is “thugs and ho’s” or professional athletes.” There is little attractive middle ground. Is it art imitating life or informing it? And black people are judged by their culture negatively if they reject that. I don’t know if my coworkers understood my outrage because they didn’t grow up with my “privilege”. I didn’t recognize it either until my perspective was broadened.

  3. P-Mom January 7, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Children don’t hear what we say as much as they watch how we act. If your child sees that you have friends of different color and culture, they will experience this as normal. I think this is how children learn best.

    I grew up in a turbulent time of desegregation in the south. I witnessed a lot of anger and hostility – both from black and white. My mother taught me that we all bleed red. So I tried to believe that we were equal. But we are not. No matter how much we try (as a white person) to understand what it is like to be black, we will never experience hatred and prejudice as a black person does.

    What we can do is try to treat all people with dignity and respect. There have been changes since the 60’s, but we have a long way to go. Opening lines if communication will help.

    • White Mom January 7, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. It’s interesting to think that the 1960’s were 50+ years ago and we are still struggling with race. I think as a society we think that time heals all wounds but it doesn’t. I look forward to hearing your perspective as we talk about this further.

  4. Chantilly Patiño (@BiculturalMom) January 9, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    I second P-Mom’s comment. We have to show our children what inclusion and respect looks like. It simply makes no sense to tell them about diversity and then spend our days in a whitewashed world with limited contact to anyone different from us.

    I’m so glad that you decided to start this blog and thank you for sharing it with me. This post speaks volumes about white privilege and I’m looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

    Congrats on starting your blog…this topic intimidates many, but I think it’s so important that more white moms take the leap and leave behind the fear of being alienated or corrected. It’s an amazing opportunity for learning. ♥

    • White Mom January 9, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

      I think I’m going to have to repeat time and time again–we have to talk about this stuff even if it’s hard. If we’re not uncomfortable- we are not growing. Thank you again for your comments!

      p.s P-Mom is actually my Mom 🙂

      • hillarycartigan February 16, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

        “I think I’m going to have to repeat time and time again–we have to talk about this stuff even if it’s hard. If we’re not uncomfortable- we are not growing.” -White Mom

        This is the piece that resonates with me most strongly right now. I’ve avoided talks with my kids and I’ve had really really uncomfortably awkward (for me) talks with them too. I’ve talked with their teachers about it (which has been helpful). And I worry about how to continue to move forward as they grow. I am heartened to think that this may be a forum where we can discuss such struggles.

  5. emily douglas January 25, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    This is an exceptional post. I’m not a mom and freely admit that I have absolutely no interest in “mommy” branded stuff. But this blog just changed that for me. I work in education. I work with kids. I work with animals. Issues of race, class and gender touch everything I do and think about on a daily basis. Bravo for prioritizing the issue.

  6. travels with mary January 27, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    I think “daddy blogs” are becoming the next wave of mommy blogs… but I’ve noticed most of them are white, too!

  7. charlotteward83 January 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    My daughter got a similar box of band-aids at Christmas. I hadn’t thought much about which Princesses were or weren’t on the box (thankfully, my 3 year old doesn’t even know the names of all the Princesses.) until I read this post last week. I went and looked at our band-aid box – sure enough, it’s just the 3 white ones. Well today, we needed a band-aid. I opened the box, pulled out a band-aid, and it was the black princess (like I said, we don’t know their names). Hmmm…that’s weird, I thought. Why wasn’t she on the box? I flipped the box over, and there she was! There were 3 princesses on the front and 3 on the back.

    So I don’t know if Band-Aid has different types packaging for their Disney Princess line, or if they have changed their marketing strategy to include ALL the princesses in one box….but we got one with them all together.

  8. monikadrinkstea February 3, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Such an interesting and well-written post. I don’t think I have ever thought about “flesh tone” bandaids all being beige. Although I do remember as a primary school kid, we used to refer to the light beige/off white crayon as “skin colour”. We didn’t know it was politically incorrect :-/ Thanks for the eye opener.

  9. get wso March 13, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    Keep up the fantastic piece of work, I read few posts on this web site and I think that your web site is real interesting and holds sets of fantastic info

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Bicultural Familia

Celebrating familia & culture in South Texas.

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