‘She Sees Me Wield My White Privilege Like a Blunt Instrument’
Carrie and Andrew are an upper-middle class white couple in their early 40s. They live in Harlem and have professional jobs. A year ago they became foster parents to a nine-year-old girl they call Blitzen, and they blog about it. Blitzen is African-American and has spent much of her life in fostercare—they don’t share details of her background beyond that it has been unstable and traumatic (“I am sure a lot of you are wondering what the hell happened and I am not going to tell you. It is part of Blitzen’s story, maybe she’ll tell you sometime”) but even with details unknown, the story of their little family is compelling and page-turning. The honesty and vulnerability that Carrie and Andrew is beautiful—parenting a child in pain seems so, so hard, and they’re so, so good at it. One thing I love is that Carrie and Andrew do not shy away from talking about race and class.
Here’s Andrew responding to Blitzen hating her hair: “I’m pissed about the recordings in Blitzen’s head: ‘You’re not pretty. You’re not smart. You’re not lovable. You’re not able to make it.’ Those are the voices of institutional racism, and they’re not from 1850, they’re in Blitzen’s head right now as she stands at the mirror with a hair dryer and a brush hoping that her hair turns straight.
“What I’m really pissed off and embarrassed about is my role amplifying and reinforcing the voices in Blitzen’s head. Blitzen moved into a home where every single photograph on the wall was of a white person; it’s pretty clear what I value. I’ve worked exclusively for culturally white institutions, even when, damagingly enough, I’ve been ‘serving’ primarily kids of color.
Blitzen sees me wield my white privilege like a blunt instrument every time I sidestep the line, every time I casually break a rule knowing it doesn’t apply to me, every time I tell our agency or our school exactly what I need. My white privilege has gotten me jobs, credit, housing, access to power, and the opportunity to raise another parent’s brilliant child. I don’t have to use words to tell Blitzen it’s better to be white. She notices everything, and my internalized white superiority isn’t that well-hidden anyway.”