Aug 7, 2007

Racial Incongruity, Women and Children

Okay, so I've noticed the following assumptions I have about women, children, and "racial incongruity":

1) Woman of color with white child. Domestic worker/nanny situation. Major class difference between the woman and her charge.

2) White woman and child of color. Adoption situation. Doesn't matter what the white woman looks like, or where we are, but I've become programmed to think that she's the kid's adoptive mother.

3) Latina woman with Asian children. This is a newer phenomenon, but I honestly think I assume that the kids are adopted by a white third party, and then they've "contracted out" for the care of the kid.

Here's where some of these things come from. First, it's damn hard to adopt a white baby, so I just don't assume that's what's happening when I see the first situation. It's also, clearly, the way that the work of women of color has been commodicized to this extreme level that we just assume that the woman must be taking care of the kids.

For the second and third situations, it seems like I just assume that people of color abuse hire other people of color for this specific role. Co-ethnics, usually, from back home. We have a way of being the most cruel to people who theorists think we can relate to the most easily. Yeah right. The key reason why organizing on the basis of race/ethnicity alone seems much more difficult than based on system/oppression that the people are facing.

But it's interesting, because even with the Latina taking care of Asian kids, I just assume that the desi couple with money will hire a desi nanny, because they can get the "bonus" of language training, cultural competency, and hell, let's just make her cook for us too. Perhaps adding to the leisure of their own parents (not that I advocate for grandparents to have to take on the role of caretaker because that definitely can be a form of elder abuse). It's kind of crazy, the way that people think it's totally cool to add so much to the load for

But what I started with on this post is just the assumptions that filter the different things I see, especially in affluent neighborhoods. Part of me gets annoyed at my jumps to conclusions, and another part is just like, yo, that's fucked up.


stacey said...

as a disabled person, if i am with a woman and she is asian or white people assume she is my mother/caretaker no matter the age.

if i'm with a person of color who isn't asian, they assume she works for me. they never expect me to be just with friends.

messed up huh?

Rage said...

Totally. Thank you for sharing... I just think it adds too many layers to what's already a tense/misunderstood area of assumptions/personal baggage and whatever else.

kactus said...

What about white woman with child of color where the child is hers? I do know mixed children who don't look mixed at all.

Eh, but I carry my own baggage about that, and my own kid is mixed. Funny how we can make ourselves the exceptions to the assumptions we make about others, isn't it?

Rage said...

kactus: Good point, and another really good way to check my own assumptions. thanks for tuning in and voicing up.

kactus said...

no problem; I'm a long-time lurker :)

Rage said...

Well then thanks for coming out of the reader's circle and commenting!

Sarah said...

This comes up so much among conversations with my friends.... many of us are in "mixed marriages" in which one partner is a different race.

Think about how the assumptions affect the parents, depending on what perceived color/race (and ethnicity I think based on language spoken/accent)the child is vs. the parent: One friend is Peruvian (and has dark hair and definitely tan/light brown skin) and her husband is white (and blond, blue eyed, fair skin). When parents inquire about her two blond boys at the playground, she first says,"These are my sons...." because so many times it has been assumed that she was the nanny. And it ticks her off!

I'm a white woman (fair skin, blond) who has been asked where I "got" my light brown baby from (my husband is filipino), though it has not happened for a while (though now that my second son, much lighter in coloring, has been born, I was asked if they were from the same father!).

Isn't it interesting what people assume? I do it too, but my experiences and those of my friends have probably changed how I see those situations.

Rage said...

Sarah, I definitely appreciate where you're coming from. I think it's a sad state of affairs when people can easily make these assumptions, but I think it happens all the time. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences, and for turning in.