Updated: May 8, 2020
Dear white “parenting expert” friends,
First of all, let me thank you for doing what many consider important work. As an emerging voice in the field of parent education and coaching, I have benefited both personally and professionally from the work you’ve done, the books you’ve published, the cute and encouraging Facebook posts and Instagram graphics you’ve created for people to share. I’ve often shared them myself.
Secondly, let me again thank you, albeit a bit facetiously this time, for contributing to the conditions that led to the creation of Latinx Parenting. You see, it had been years that a frustration had been steadily growing in me. Yes, I appreciate you as I mentioned above, but I want to share an observation that has become increasingly clear and frankly unacceptable and later follow up with some clear requests.
Let me be clear that this bone I’m about to pick dry belongs not only to me, but to countless other non-white parents, families, and parenting experts of color that I’ve had an opportunity to engage with, and often on the back of this shared qualm. Some of us have even created whole damn conferences to address this systemic foolery in the parenting world.
The disappointment is this, and I’m just gonna say it:
The parent coaching and education world is too. damn. white.
It's true. Everywhere I turn, there’s another digital conference with no speckle of melanin in sight. Or maybe one speckle. It is never above 10%. I’m very serious, I count the number of speakers, then the number of non-white speakers, do the math, and feel my chest tighten. We are not seeing ourselves represented. And it’s more and nauseating each time.
I’ve tried to tell myself that it shouldn’t bother me, that you’re not to blame, that you don’t know any better. I tried to convince myself that you mean well and that’s all that should matter.
But that’s NOT all that matters.
What matters are our voices. What matters are our stories. What matters is that you hold yourself and the organizers that invite you onto their stage accountable. It matters that you don’t let us continue doing all of the heavy lifting, all of the equity work, all of the labor to bring the perspectives of Latinx & Black, Indigenous, People of Color (or BIPOC as is commonly used, for my unknowing white friends in white worlds).
We have been driven to build our own tables now because it’s clear we’re not welcome to sit at yours. And that’s okay. And... it’s also not okay, because we need you to dismantle white supremacy in this field too. And if you have a platform with an audience of any color and you’re not using it at least partially to do that.. I’m side-eyeing you. 👀
To quote my friend Trina Greene Browne, founder of Parenting for Liberation, in a podcast episode which was a part of a “Parenting Decentering Whiteness” series hosted by myself and Cindy Wang Brandt of Parenting Forward:
“I AM asking a lot.”
Yes, we need you to do more. A lot more. We need you to use your privilege to hand the mic over to someone who hasn’t spoken yet. We need you to stop assuming that all families have the resources, capacities, privileges to do things the way you expect parents to do them. We need you to do this even though it’s not going to make you any money. We need you to acknowledge your privilege. We need you to wield it in support of parents, families, and children that look very different than yours. We need this now.
By now you’re probably thinking “Heavens to Betsy, you’re right, Leslie! I never noticed! What ever can I do to prioritize equity and be an ally in my field?!”
I’m so glad you asked. To save you from too much head scratching, I wanted to offer you some support and free Latina labor.
First, lets make sure we’re on the same page about the facts: If you’re invited to be a part of a panel, summit, conference, parenting expert conga line, WHATEVER, and you look around and see that most if not every other panelist/speaker is also white— THAT’S A MIGHTY BIG PROBLEM.
Now, here are JUST 10 (not all of the) WAYS YOU, AS A WHITE PARENTING PROFESSIONAL OR WHITE PATRON OF THEM, CAN USE YOUR WHITE PRIVILEGE TO BE AN ALLY TO NON-WHITE AND MARGINALIZED PARENTS AND FAMILIES (unless you really DGAF about non-white marginalized parents and families or racial justice which is also possible and is a bigger problem and I hope you get yourself some anti-racist education.)
Tell the organizer this fact: parents want to hear from diverse voices, and you’re noticing that there’s no seasoning in this meat loaf. If you’re the organizer, this should be an easy peasy lemon squeezy fix (see number 9).
Tell the organizer it’s NOT enough to have one or two token people of color, if there even are that many. A good rule of thumb is: there could always be more.
Straight up refuse to participate if you have been the one invited unless there is more representation from various cultures, races, and SES perspectives. You may be given some side eye, but those of us who see your allyship will invite you to our prima's quinceañera.
Be critical about the language used in the invitation and promotion. “For all parents”. Really? What is “all parents”? What kind though? Let’s be real-- if a panel of 12 parenting experts in a summit looks like an episode of Friends: it's not for all parents, it's for parents who look like they also hang out at Central Perk.
Ask the organizer what steps can be taken to use this as an opportunity to dismantle not only adult supremacy over children, but white supremacy which, if you haven’t noticed or had your spectacles off this entire post, has problematically seeped into the parenting world by virtue of the continued lack of representation.
This one is important and has less to do with the micro-aggression that is exclusion in parenting conversation spaces, and more to do with the macro-aggression of perpetuating racism by not talking about it. Encourage your white and class-privileged coaching clients and parents to talk about privilege, inequities, and social justice to the children in their homes. That’s part of good parenting too. It’s not just about wooden toys, organic snack plates, kids yoga and a calm corner for little Bryce. Little Bryce needs to understand systemic oppression, so help parents understand how it’s their job and their children's to dismantle it for a more racially just world.
Recommend parenting books by non-white Latinx & BIPOC parenting experts. If you can’t find many, fund them. (My Venmo is @latinx-parenting.) And while we’re here, recommend children’s books by non-white authors about non-white characters. Those you CAN find a lot of. The Conscious Kid can help.
When you see a line up you’ve been invited to or are considering buying into, instead of thinking “Yippee! I get to be a centered story AGAIN!” think: “Wait a sec, who isn’t being seen here? Whose voice is being silenced by omission? In what ways am I benefiting from this exclusion?”
Reach out to non-white Latinx or BIPOC and ask them if they would want to join your tables. To be fair, we may not actually want to if we sense tokenism and refusal is our right, but you can definitely try!
If you don’t know any non-white parent coaches or experts (another massive problem), I invite you to familiarize yourself with some of the incredible voices from the non-white parenting world I’ve had the privilege of meeting over the last year, in addition to Trina and Cindy who I mentioned above:
Jasmine & Mo of Parenting is Political
Iris Chen of Untigering
Krissy Coggins of Krissy's Couch
Andrea Landry of Indigenous Motherhood
Sylvia Poareo of Connecting Within
Stacey Patton, author of Spare the Kids
Melissa Carnagey of Sex Positive Families
Yesenia Mendoza-Menchaca and Pablo Menchaca of Somos Padres
Gabriela Blanco of Healing Parents
...and those are just the ones off the top of my head (!) and it isn’t even close to all of them (!!). The point is-- WE OUT HERE!
We exist right next to you and are now inviting you to turn your head and look at the richness and possibility that could exist in the line-ups you create or are invited to be a part of.
If, so far, this letter has somehow triggered you, made you feel offended or threatened, or caused you to feel an urge to call the police or call your sister to complain the way you might about burnt tuna casserole, I encourage you to be reflective about why it is stirring you up and and whether it’s a cognitive dissonance flare up. For some of you, it may not feel good. For others, it may have created a welcomed awareness.
What I hope, though, is that you have taken this as a necessary call to action. My fingers and toes are crossed that you have been able to put yourself in my huaraches and hold this call to make a shift with value and empathy, the way you ask parents to hold the needs of their children.
I look forward to seeing the mosaics you demand to see in the parenting world and begin to wield your privilege to uplift our voices, our stories, our offerings for families in the same, or more pronounced, way that you uplift yours.
From my soft heart & my fiery gut,
Leslie Priscilla Arreola-Hillenbrand
Founder, Latinx Parenting
p.s. If you're reading this and want to add a Latinx or BIPOC parenting coach or influencer onto this list , please comment under this post with their name and contact details below!
p.p.s. if you are looking for a way to stay connected to parenting support that is rooted in nonviolence, social justice, decolonized ways of being in family, and cultural honoring and sustenance, subscribe to my mailing list HERE.
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