By Julie Obradovic
There’s a theme playing out in our society, and it’s not a good one: white suburban moms are the enemy.
It started a few months ago with a tweet from Dr. Nancy Snyderman. She was addressing the fact that studies have shown the parent most likely to refuse or question vaccinations for her children is a highly-educated white mom.
She wanted everyone to know that we are a well-meaning bunch, but that we are wrong.
It was ridiculously condescending and reeked of racism. Are we seriously to believe mothers of color don’t have questions about vaccines either?
But for the most part the tweet and what it implied…that we stereotypical silly little college-educated white moms are seriously misguided and endangering our children and society…went unnoticed outside of the vaccine-safety movement.
But it has happened again, and this time, not in the form of a tweet most people will never see or pay attention to. This time, it came from the federal government; specifically from the mouth of Department of Education head, Arne Duncan.
While addressing criticism of the Common Core, he speculated what was behind it:
“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan said.
Now I’ve been an outspoken advocate in perhaps one of the nastiest controversies out there for almost ten years. I’ve heard and read an awful lot of insults during that time, Dr. Nancy’s not withstanding. Anything from being a “flat-earther” to being so stupid it’s no wonder my special-needs child has problems.
I try not to pay attention to those things anymore, but every once in a while something catches me off guard. Mr. Duncan’s comments did just that.
It wasn’t just that as a teacher with 17 years experience and two master’s degrees in education that I know first hand what the real concerns are from both sides of the desk, and that it has absolutely nothing to do with worrying about the perceived brilliance of a child or value of a school. It was that his comment is so far off from reality that it’s not just insulting, it’s frightening: he’s apparently completely disconnected from what teachers and parents are actually worried about.
And that’s what’s really got me. Once again, an “expert” in a position of influence and authority completely missed the message, and not only missed it, but missed it so badly that his only explanation for resistance was that the opposition must be insecure. Or selfish. Or misguided. Or well-meaning but just plain wrong. And that race actually has something to do with it. Just like Nancy.
It’s not the first time mothers have been blamed for something that was not even slightly their fault while being simultaneously dismissed by authority and ultimately proved right. (Can you say, autism?) And apparently, it won’t be the last.
As a member of the post-feminist generation, I find this shocking.
But then again, maybe I shouldn’t.
We are the generation that was raised to believe we could become anything we wanted, and we have. We are the generation that never once had to worry about playing sports in high school, and boy, did we play. We are the generation that was raised to be an equal partner in business, in marriage, and in politics. I believe we will see a woman president in my lifetime.
In short, we are the first generation of women in this country to be raised from day one with the idea that we are just as smart, just as worthy, just as capable, and just as equal as anyone else. And we believe that.
How naïve of me to think indoctrinated institutions would naturally embrace our independence in thought and behavior as mothers. This blatant misinterpretation of our resistance to their authority is Exhibit A in our prosecution.
Nancy and Arne, let me save you some trouble.
The current resistance to vaccination is based in a mistrust of what is being passed off as comprehensive, accurate, unbiased science; a complete dismissal of the story of thousands upon thousands of parents around the globe who followed your advice to their children's detriment are telling you; the idea you believe a neurotoxin that if dropped on the floor of the doctor’s office requires a Hazmat team to clean it up, but is and has always been safe and responsible to inject into a baby; and a policy that puts the importance of the greater good and profits over their individual child…to name a few things. Trust me, there’s more.
Likewise, the resistance to Common Core comes from the same resistance that educators and parents have always had: like vaccination, they don’t want kids to be experiments; they don’t trust the business model as a way to run education; they are wary of the corporate and political influence involved in the process; they are sick of standardized tests being used to value a school, a teacher, and a child; and for the love of God, they are tired of having initiatives thrust on top of them without them even being sort of ready to be implemented…to name a few things. Trust me, there’s more.
The bottom line is white suburban well-educated moms are not the gullible, vulnerable, selfish, misguided, weak little women who just won’t go with the program because we believe our kids are gifted geniuses, as you would have society believe.
We are, rather, your worst nightmare.
We don’t take crap from anyone.
If we think you are wrong, we’ll tell you.
If we think you haven’t done your homework, we’ll find the research for you.
If you won't help our sick children, we'll heal them ourselves.
And if you mess with our kids, well, you better just watch out. Hell hath no fury like a mother of this generation scorned.
Just because you don’t know what to do with us doesn’t make us wrong, or weak, or silly, or misguided. It does, however, make us pretty powerful.
And for what it’s worth, you better brace yourselves. If challenging medical and educational authority scares you today, just wait until our daughters grow up.
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.
(PS) Arne Duncan is said to have issued an apology for using "clumsy" words - and the as of this posting, the Twitterverse is NOT accepting the apology, calling it an insult to white, suburban Moms. The apology was also on morning TV.