The "Woke Parenting Guide" Was Harmful Appropriation. We're Fixing That.
In response to concerns raised by our staff writers, we've changed the name of our monthly resource guide.
Previously titled "The Woke Parenting Guide," we've changed it to "Raising Kids Who Aren't Assholes." SKEW managing editor Shannon Dingle, who created the guide, and staff writer Rachel Virginia Hester, who bravely and generously first called out the problem with our guide's name, explain this change below.
Rachel: You may have noticed that all of a sudden SKEW’s Woke Parenting Guide is gone. It isn’t. We just changed the name to Raising Kids Who Aren’t Assholes. We changed the Woke Parenting Guide because of the widespread appropriation of the term “woke” by white folks.
Although I am a black writer, the column is written by Shannon, a white person, who undoubtedly will most likely attract a white, Christian audience. After all, we often tend to attract those who are like us. I believe that the use of “woke” to characterize this parenting guide was appropriative, because cultural appropriation is characterized by a more powerful group benefiting from a cultural artifact belonging to a marginalized group; a cultural artifact that would typically not be seen as valuable when being worn or performed by the marginalized group to which it belongs. If we are honest, SKEW, as a publication of Level Ground, is part of a white-led and predominantly white institution. A “Woke” Parenting Guide provides some edge to our magazine and perhaps to Shannon’s predominately white audience, but black Americans continue to struggle with censorship of their expression and struggle to maintain ownership of the things we create.
But there are ways to be creative without having to resort to acts of appropriation.
To be clear, I didn't say anything about the name at first, but it became extremely jarring when the May Issue came out and a very white Barbie was juxtaposed with the previous title of the column, The Woke Parenting Guide. This same week, a popular white male Christian writer had expressed that he thought "woke" was the invention of young white hipsters, reminding me how rampant the erasure of the black origins of popular slang is.
This made me feel sad and distraught and I began to consider how alienating this could potentially be to other black readers of SKEW. I struggled with why I didn't say anything before. I had just started my time at SKEW so I didn't want to rock the boat too much. That's how women of color often get told that they don't "fit the culture of the work environment" after all: by rocking the boat. However, by issue three, I felt like I trusted my coworkers enough to believe that if I said anything, they would hear me. So I said something.
Shannon: I'm a managing editor here at SKEW. I'm the only member of our team who is a parent, so the idea for the monthly feature formerly called the Woke Parenting Guide came from the intention of providing resources to others who are raising kids to be aware and conscious in this world. Impact matters more than intent. Again, for the people in the back, impact always matters more than intent. If I hit you with my 15 passenger van, saying "but I intended to drive down the road, not to hit you" doesn't change the impact of my huge van slamming into you, right? For white people or people with any other privilege granted by societal systems of oppression and supremacy (male privilege, abled privilege, cishetero privilege, citizenship status privilege, and so on), we act like intent is what matters most.
My spouse Lee and I have a parenting motto that our two aims are to raise kids who love Jesus and who aren't assholes. We joke that if we fail at one, we'd rather fail on the Jesus one because the world already has too many people who love Jesus and still act like assholes. We don't need to raise any more of those.
(Ideally, we wouldn't have to have two goals, because loving Jesus would mean not being a jerk, but [insert name of the latest Christian jackass] shows us that isn't always the case.)
As a nod to that idea, we're renaming the feature Raising Kids Who Aren't Assholes. That's what the tools offered are meant to help you do.
We also took the word parent out of the title, because plenty of people who aren't parents are involved in raising kids. Our family couldn't flourish without others who play their own role - from teachers and coaches to neighbors and extended family - in raising our children.
As a white editor writing this regular feature, it was an asshole move to use the language of wokeness to describe what we were doing. It's a common error, but that doesn't make it acceptable. Rachel was generous enough to point this out. Part of raising kids who aren't assholes is owning up to it when we engage in asshattery, apologizing for it, and changing course. That's what we're aiming to do with this name change.
We're applying the name change retroactively to the previous three pieces formerly named Woke Parenting Guides. This isn't to hide our mistake. We don't want a tidy erasure of our poor judgment here. No, we're changing the name retroactively because so much of the content in these pieces is evergreen and will come up in internet searches. This is both an effort to do no harm and a model for other folks (mainly my fellow white progressives) that we can and should own our shit and make it right. On each one, we'll be including a link to this piece explaining the name change, as an acknowledgment that we were wrong.
In the words of unequaled Maya Angelou, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." Thank you, Rachel. Thank you to others who risk rocking the boat, even when their labor isn’t acknowledged or appreciated. I am sorry for the impact of my title choice, and I promise to do better.