Next week, I’m honored to be a speaker at the inaugural Dad 2.0 Summit in Austin, Texas. I’ll be part of a panel called “Pack Mentality: Dads and the Power of Community,” moderated by Bobblehead Dad Jim Higley with Chookooloonks writer/photographer/teacher extraordinaire (and one of the first people I “met” in the parentblogosphere) Karen Walrond, NYC Dads Group founders Lance Somerfeld and Matt Schneider, and National Fatherhood Initiative President Roland Warren. Before summit co-founder Doug French asked me to be on this panel, I had put together some thoughts on the issues of dadbloggers of color and diversity in the parentblogosphere. I am happy to be able to talk about the intersection of race, fatherhood, and community at Dad 2.0, and with the conference a mere week away, I thought it’d be a good time to share those earlier notes.
On Dadbloggers of Color and Diversity in the Dadblogosphere
In the scant few hours after I received your Facebook message about my idea for a diversity/dadblogger-of-color panel at Dad 2.0, I saw these items surface in my FB newsfeed:
• A mother of color, whom I knew as a progressive activist and artist during college, posted that her 7-year-old biracial Dominican/Filipina daughter came home from school saying that she wished she were blonde.
• A parentblogger of color posted that upon visiting her biracial daughter’s Southern California public elementary school, she overheard two white staffers complain that a diversity of shades of makeup made it harder for them to find makeup for white people and heard her daughter’s classmates call the peach crayon “skin color.”
• Mothers and fathers of color continued to chime in on a thread started five days ago by a dad of color asking for recommendations for non-stereotypical dolls of color for Christmas.
• A parentblogger of color and public education activist linked to the Huffington Post’s article about a study showing that Black and Latino parents overwhelmingly wanted education reform in their communities but also overwhelmingly placed responsibility for said reform on themselves versus government or the private sector.
I started reading and writing parentblogs because I was a new SAHD looking for community. While I found what I was looking for first in the nascent dadblogger and SAHDblogger community, I soon found that I gravitated toward other parents of color, both moms and dad, and parents of children of color, whether by adoption or intermarriage, even if race wasn’t a primary topic. I co-founded Rice Daddies, a group blog by Asian American dads, with the only two other Asian American dadbloggers I’d been able to identify at the time (including Pierre “MetroDad” Kim), and joined the group blog Anti-Racist Parent (now Love Isn’t Enough) to deepen the conversation. I contributed to an online dialogue on race and diversity in the parentblogosphere, spearheaded by prominent writers of color like Stefania Pomponi Butler, Kelly Wickham, and Kristen Chase, after the first moms-of-color-and-marketing controversy at BlogHer 2007. While such discussion has recurred online and at conferences since then, the conversation is by no means over. Witness the ongoing discussion at Kelly Wickham’s MochaMomma blog spurred by BlogHer 2011 as just one example.
In his addendum to Babble’s Top 10 Group Dad Blogs on Dadding, Jason Avant cited Rice Daddies’ race/ethnicity-based p.o.v. as a reason to read it: “Let’s face it: the dad-o-sphere is still dominated by white guys. Rice Daddies provides a valuable perspective on fatherhood that manages to be both unique and universal.” As the perennial discussion vis-à-vis diversity in the momblogging community underscores, presence and representation is important. Much as contemporary parenting often gets painted as focusing on mothers while giving lipservice to fathers, so too does it get portrayed as monolithic in terms of race, class, and sexual orientation. Just as the media-created frenzy over “the mommy wars” was based in a firmly white middle-class motherhood to the exclusion of the concerns and realities of mothers of color and working-class mothers, current discussion of parenthood in general and fatherhood in particular online and in the mainstream media continues to be monochromatic. While diversity has been a discussion topic in the community for some time now, I believe that the basic starting-point questions of where the dadbloggers of color are and why is it important that their voices are heard are still valid places to start our discussion.
Recent posts give a window into how dadbloggers explore the intersection of race and fatherhood vis-à-vis their own identities as men of color and the lessons they wish to impart to their children in a world where race still matters. Shawn Taylor recounts at Daddy Dialectic the experience of his relationship to his own lighter-skinned child being questioned in public due to assumptions made based on his appearance as a large black man and how he faces explaining the encounter to his child. Tomás Moniz talks about how race, phenotype, culture and politics collide in raising two multiracial children who choose very different ways in which to identify themselves. I write at The Good Men Project about why, as a multiracial father of multiracial children, race is always, contrary to some parentblog readers’ beliefs, a parenting issue. Jim Lin writes at The Busy Dad Blog about how his own experience with racism growing up is different from his son’s. A little further back in time, Pierre Kim writes at MetroDad about his daughter’s early experiences with racism and how he tries to teach her and mediate pop-cultural messages, while at the same time dealing with a pop culture machine that would recast his own, unique parenting experiences with white actors.
Not all dadbloggers of color talk about race all the time, but presence is important. It’s important that blogs like Mocha Dad and Makes Me Wanna Holler are out there, putting an African American face on fatherhood. It’s important that PapáHeroes, a predominantly Latino group blog, was named on Babble’s Top 10 Group Dad Blogs list. Keith D. Morton of African American Dad writes in his sidebar, “This blog is about fatherhood. Black fatherhood to be exact. But it’s also about how no matter our race, gender, political affiliation (or whatever it is that can potentially separate us), good parents are all connected through parenthood. Our shared experiences are what bind us, not to mention our love of a good story.” The specific and the universal are both important, and we cannot have one without the other.
Dadbloggers of color can and do deal with, in life and on their blogs, issues that people of color and parents of color have always dealt with. We can talk about how, by our very presence and example, we grapple with and fight against stereotypes, just as dadbloggers in general fight against stereotypes of fathers and men in families: the distant and strict Asian father; the absent African American father; the patriarchal and sexist Latino father; the invisible Native American father. We can talk about how race and masculinity intersect, and how we see ourselves as men of color. We can address how race is a parenting issue, and how it should be seen as such for all parents, not just parents of color. We can talk about how race is a factor when mediating and advocating for our children’s education. While by a momblogger rather than a dadblogger, Liz Dwyer’s recent post and video at Los Angelista about her sons’ experiences with racist name-calling is an example of the direct, didactic discussion about race and what it means to be people of color, raising people of color, in this society that parentbloggers of color can and do do, in a parentblogosphere that too often either sees race as a non-issue or, just as bad, someone else’s issue.
We can also talk about how we pass down not only lessons about racism and survival to the next generation, but lessons about pride and culture and identity. We can talk about raising the next generation to fight for justice, and how all oppressions, whether based on race or class or gender or sexuality, are interconnected. We can talk about building alliances and how we can all be allies for each other.
I don’t know if this is all too nebulous, but I think that at a ground-breaking conference like this one, a dedicated discussion about race and diversity in the community, a continuation of a conversation that is always on-going, would be invaluable.
I look forward to continuing this conversation in Austin with friends new and old (especially those who I’ll get to meet IRL for the first time!).