Well friends, as per the usual, you are in for a treat. Annie Rim is pure joy, and she’s someone I’ve loved getting to know and getting to learn beside for a few years now. So, pull up a chair and enjoy her thoughts on the intersection of parenting and justice during this “Listen, Learn and Listen Some More” series. Proceeds from today’s post go towards Preemptive Love.
In the spring of 2015, I was pregnant with our second daughter and driving to a conference on race, reconciliation, and immigration while listening to the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death on the radio. My normally quiet baby started kicking furiously as I listened and I paused at a stoplight, hand on my belly, to pray for this little girl—that she would have a heart for justice and reconciliation; that she would help form a world of listening and love rather than of fear and hate.
Early in my mothering journey, I learned that I had a choice in how I interacted with these small humans. I could try to learn from and do better than my parents and their parents, which seems like a natural hope. Or I could shift my mindset to redemption. I realized that simply “doing better” meant building a foundation on generational wounds. But to redeem those wounds and shift our family’s narrative meant doing harder work, shedding more tears, and asking forgiveness again and again as I learned from my daughters.
I had already started dismantling my perception of my role in “saving the world” early in my teaching career. After getting a master’s degree with an emphasis in Urban Education, I quickly realized that no amount of reading could replace the real experience of working with families whose children were not represented in our curriculum. Teaching at a charter school founded by white homeschooling families in the aftermath of its transition to a school that reflected the surrounding inner-suburban neighborhood meant asking questions about my own motivation and practices. It made me confront my own role in societal fears around success and color in what should be an educationally leveled playing field.
I was seven months pregnant with our first baby and seven years into my teaching career when I read the news of Trayvon Martin’s murder. This incident, which sparked national conversations around race and justice and unearthed the myth that we were in a blissful post-racial society made me look at my own journey and complicity with new eyes.
I had to make a choice on this journey toward unlearning what I so proudly thought to be best practices toward becoming a more enlightened ally. I had gotten a degree proving that I was racially aware!
Again I learned that no amount of reading or research can dismantle systemic injustice.
I want to have a checklist of ways to fix this problem of injustice. I like to think that if I can read enough books, I’ll fulfill my duty extending an offering of peace toward the future. I’m learning that this isn’t enough. Yes, I’ll continue to read the books—they have given me stories and pushed my thinking in ways that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. But I also need to put myself in the uncomfortable place of proximity to these conversations. As a white woman with the privilege of childcare support and intentional finances, I have been able to say “yes” to some of these opportunities.
From big choices, like attending the Ruby Woo Pilgrimage, where I listened uncomfortably as the formidable Lisa Sharon Harper dismantled my ideas of what white women actually contributed to the fight for suffrage. I realized I hadn’t done the work of digging past my own perception of history.
To quieter decisions, like weekly putting myself in a position of listening and learning as I sit beside the immigrant mothers whose children attend my daughter’s elementary school. We work on grammar and past tense verb conjugations and I listen to stories of loss and struggle during our coffee break.
Because my journey as a mother and my journey in this world of reconciliation so closely coincide, I draw easy connections between the two. Will I ever stop reading parenting books or books on race and justice? No. This is an important part of how I process information.
Just as I can’t simply read a book on parenting without implementing some of the advice, I must make sure I am intentionally putting myself in places to help dismantle racism. In this season, it often looks like buying a ticket, showing up, and listening.
Sometimes it feels like so little but I’m remembering to not be content in simply “doing better” than the previous generations. I want to be part of a redemption story that lays a new groundwork for my daughters to build upon.
Annie Rim lives in Colorado with her husband, two young daughters, and a feisty dog. An educator, she has taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now focuses her attention in the playroom. She teaches English to immigrant and refugee families at her daughter’s school, facilitates a book club for SheLoves Magazine to bring readers into the intersection of faith and social justice, and spends her pockets of free time writing and reading. You can connect over at her blog: annierim.com or on Instagram @annie_rim.