As America is consumed in fiery protest over police brutality and the murder of George Floyd, Avital Schreiber-Levy, a peaceful parenting expert known as The Parenting Junkie, posted an old video about raising race-conscious children to social media.
The video is rich, well-sourced, and well-researched. Avital talks about privilege, diversity, and confronting difficult topics with kids. She quotes Black women thought leaders. She says all the right things, as per usual.
Except for the time a white supremacist infiltrated her Facebook group and she said nothing.
Modern parenthood has yielded an amendment to the old adage “It takes a village to raise a child”: In the absence of the village, log on. As a mom raising children in a country and culture not my own, I have leaned heavily on my internet mom friends for advice, inspiration, and commiseration. When I had a problem, I found some answers in a course created and moderated by Avital.
…A white supremacist infiltrated her Facebook group and she said nothing.
Her work has received considerable praise and positive press, especially at the onset of COVID-19 and pandemic-induced homeschooling. She is fluent in peaceful parenting techniques. She demonstrates its principles and has actionable, specific steps on how to incorporate them into your parenting so that you may have your ideal relationship with your children, whatever that may be.
I was glad to put money up to get behind the paywall. Besides the content, there was the community, a Facebook group called Present Play. It was encouraging and lively. Nothing was too intimate to discuss within that space. Everything was on the table: Divorces, meltdowns, spankings, abuse, menstruation, family battles, mental health. There was only one thing no one wanted to talk about: race.
Racist Propaganda Goes Unchecked
One night an article popped up on the mommy group’s feed.
“For those of you who have boys, can we discuss this?” queried the original poster.
I don’t have boys, but I thought maybe I could learn or contribute something. I clicked and started reading. What follows is what I remember from the “article.”
“Attachment parenting is ruining our boys. We are too soft and permissive. We no longer beat the alpha out of them, and it’s creating a generation of spoiled brats.”
Ridiculous and wrong, but I pressed on.
“White boys are vilified for showing aggression.”
I peeled my back off the couch. Sat up straighter. Read it again from the beginning.
“We are in danger of extinction by Third World tribes.”
A white supremacist article dominated the group discussion for hours. Our parenting expert was radio silent.
I scrolled back up to check the title of the website. (It was something generic. I wish I’d screenshot it). I kept reading, somehow hoping that if I could get to the end, the conclusion wouldn’t be what it indeed was.
“We must give our boys an outlet for their natural aggression, and channel it into healthy alpha behavior. You can be certain that Third World tribes are teaching their boys just this.”
This wasn’t written to make sense of parenting, obviously, because it made no sense. The women in the group feverishly denounced the sexism of it. They “not-all-boy-and-some-girls”’d the heck out of the comments section.
But the racist propaganda went unchallenged. A white supremacist article dominated the group discussion for hours. Our parenting expert was radio silent.
I waited a day to see if anyone else would notice. Then I wrote an email to the group moderator. She replied, “I did not read the article and did not realize these ideas were implied, and I would have to agree with you that sounds like it could be racist propaganda,” but that sometimes we just had to know when to scroll past.
“We don’t want to outright censor any topics,” she wrote, hiding behind the First Amendment as though she couldn’t work out the difference between censoring hate speech and confronting it.
So they shut down the comments, but left the link and the discussion. I stopped participating in the group, checking in every once in a while only to be disappointed every time I saw that article just sitting there in my Facebook happy place.
What It Takes To Finally Address Racism
Almost three months later, Charlottesville happened.
The alt-right and their Neo-Nazi comrades came together in Virginia to protest the removal of Confederate monuments. A Neo Nazi drove his car into the left-wing counter protest, killing Heather Heyer, a young white woman like the majority of the women in that group.
That’s what it took.
Our parenting guru finally showed up.
White supremacists are not so different from ‘normal’ white people… Both crave dead bodies.
The video about raising race-conscious children appeared. A couple of posts encouraging members to share “their culture” garnered over a hundred responses. The page was scrubbed clean of the article, the clueless discussion that followed, and the member who started it all.
Only a dead body could make my former parenting guru face the realities of racism.
This passive macabre goes beyond white silence. This is dangerous and fetishistic, teetering on necromania.
White supremacists are not so different from “normal” white people who, according to themselves, are “not racist.” Both crave dead bodies. (Normally Black or brown, but really any will do.) White supremacists need them as proof of their superiority. White non-racists need them as proof of white supremacy’s existence, even as they share beds, blood, and Christmas dinners with white supremacists.
And as Amy Cooper reminded us, many white non-racists are only white supremacists who haven’t yet weaponized the power their color affords them. Cooper, a white woman in Central Park who called the police on Christian Cooper, a Black bird watcher who asked her to keep her dog on a leash, is reportedly a liberal Democrat who has said firmly, “I’m not racist.”
I believe it is possible she had never weaponized her whiteness before the moment that a Black man dared challenge her.
If this can be true, then how can white women help but raise children who have the capacity to weaponize their whiteness, if they haven’t been taught to disarm it?
How do you teach a child to disarm their whiteness if you can’t acknowledge it as weaponry?
How can you be trusted not to raise white adults who will kill Black adults? Or need them to be killed in order to prove the existence of white supremacy?
There is no place for peaceful parenting that does not include the active disarmament of white bodies. Peaceful parents do not ignore, and therefore perpetuate and cultivate, systemic violence and oppression.
I unsubscribed from the group right after Charlottesville. But apparently my former peaceful parenting guru has learned nothing. She recycled that old race-conscious kids video as the nation burns, then immediately took cover behind her paywall.
As a Black mother, my own walls don’t provide adequate protection from racism. I will not hold my breath for an acknowledgment from white parenting experts of that reality.
Too many of us out here can’t breathe as it is.