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Raising a Brown Baby in the Age of Trump

By Patricia Valoy, Science and Social Justice, Contributing Editor

There is very little that an 11-week-old baby needs, but I find myself ordering a poster on immigration for my baby daughter’s room. I tell myself that she needs to be raised seeing political art by people of color, because I want her to know that her people, Black and Brown people, are valuable. I do a lot of that these days, finding ways to teach my baby about the world I have brought her into and ease her into the activism that I am so engrossed in. My daughter doesn’t talk yet. My parenting doesn’t extend beyond breastfeeding and diaper changes. And still, I think it’s important that I learn how to raise a baby in the age of Trump.

image of nursery with crib, dresser, and social justice art hanging on wall
Social justice wall in Patricia’s nursery

I always knew that I would strive to raise any child I have as a feminist and I would teach them about intersectional radical activism, because I know how important it is to understand the complex socio-political issues that govern us. But having a baby right now, while Trump is president, has definitely changed how I plan to parent.

Last fall, when I was still pregnant, I wrote about having a Brown baby in the age of Trump. I was full of doubts about what motherhood would do to me and to my activism. I felt guilty for bringing a child into a world that had turned from what felt like a bad place to a downright dangerous place. It’s still hard to explain the deep fear that befell me when Trump was elected president and how that fear nearly crippled me when I learned I was pregnant. But I am part of a vibrant community of activists that reminded me that they will never stop fighting with me and for me, so I allowed myself to feel some relief. I chose to stop watching the news so that I could enjoy my pregnancy.

But I can’t do that forever, and although I hid behind my postpartum bliss and taking care of my newborn for some time, I know I’ll have to come back to the real world very soon. I’m already on that path, and although I want to recoil when I read the news, I have chosen to step back in and continue fighting. Having my daughter has taught me that I can’t ever take a break from fighting injustice because it affects us far too greatly. This was made urgently clear to me when I read that Trump had terminated provisional residential permits for 200,000 Salvadorans, forcing them to leave the United States, their refuge country, and return to the war-torn country they escaped from. I immediately thought of the families that would be torn apart and couldn’t help but see our own family possibly facing the same predicament. I still wonder how long it will be before this administration turns its attention to our family and friends that are in the United States seeking asylum from persecution. I once thought being naturalized citizens protected my husband and I from deportation, but now I can’t be quite sure. I don’t want to live in fear, so I continue to be outspoken about the injustices of this administration, and I keep writing, and marching, and when I can’t physically do something I donate to activists that are working toward social justice causes.

bookshelf with blocks, teddy bear, a photo of Angela Davis and radical children's books.
Radical book shelf in Patricia’s nursery

The difference between now and when I was pregnant is that my daughter reinvigorated my passion for social justice. I can’t describe what I feel now as fear, because it’s more like a fire. I want to fight harder than I have ever fought. If I hesitated in telling a Trump voter my thoughts before, now I make sure they know how much they have negatively affected my family. My family has ended friendships with Trump supporters after their refusal to admit that a vote for Trump was a vote for white supremacy. I am suspect of anyone who claims they didn’t know any better, because Trump has always said he would do exactly what he is doing now. His racism and sexism have been publicly known for decades, so I can’t accept ignorance as an excuse.

My daughter is Latina and Arab living in the US, which means that she’ll grow up at the intersection of three cultures. She’ll have to navigate multiple languages, and multiple ways of life, and she’ll have to do so in a country that sees her as foreign and sometimes as a threat. One day soon I’ll have to explain to her why so many people in this country don’t want us here. I’ll have to tell her that there will be places where speaking multiple languages as a Brown person is seen as a mark of inferiority. And I’ll also have to tell her that although our people have fought these barriers for many years, recent events have empowered racists to be more aggressive than ever. All these talks will have to be accompanied by empowering messages of people just like her who resist and inspire every day, because I don’t want her to live in fear.

I’m not sure yet how I’ll be able to navigate the thin line between telling her the truth about this world and protecting her from it. Sometimes I want her to stay little forever so that she never has to know. But I know that she already has dozens of people who know and love her as they carry on the work to ensure that she grows up in a better world. She has a community that is there for her, and that fills me with a deep sense of relief. When I don’t let fear lead my parenting, I look forward to the day she’ll teach me how to keep fighting, because one day my ways will be old-fashioned, and she’ll have new tools and different struggles. Her revolution might be different from mine, but I hope to have laid the proper foundation for her to continue to fight.

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