Recent events have underscored the harsh and, at times, tragic consequences of gendered racism for African American children in the U.S. How do African American mothers address these challenges? Through sixty in-depth interviews with African American middle- and upper-middle-class mothers, I examine how gendered racism influences these mothers' concerns for their sons and daughters and how they parent their children in light of those concerns. For their sons, participants were principally concerned with preventing perceptions of them as criminals or “thugs” and protecting their physical safety. Participants described using four strategies to navigate the challenges they believed theirs sons would face. Two of these strategies — experience and environment management — were directed at managing characteristics of their sons’ regular social interactions and two — image and emotion management — were directed at managing their sons’ appearance. By contrast, participants were principally concerned with protecting and building their daughters’ self-esteem and self-value. Participants described using three strategies to navigate these challenges. One of these strategies — peer group management —focused on managing their daughters’ social interactions and two — toy and media management—focused on managing their daughters’ exposures to entertainment. By examining parenting practices, this research illuminates the strategies these mothers use to prepare their children for the different societal reception they believe they will encounter. This research also sheds light on how these mothers prepare their children to address gendered racism through managing the expression of their gender, racial identity and class status.
About the Speaker:
Dawn Marie Dow is an assistant professor in the Sociology Department of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Professor Dow earned a Ph.D. in sociology from University of California, Berkley and a J.D. from Columbia University, School of Law. She is a Faculty Fellow in both the Institute for the Study of the Judiciary, Politics, and the Media and the Humanities Center. Professor Dow's research focusses on the intersection of gender, race, and class within the context of the family, the workplace, educational settings and the law. She is currently preparing a book manuscript that examines African American middle- class mothers' views and decision- making about work, family and childcare and how they approach parenting their children.