Farrah Alexander on "Raising the Resistance"
- Interview By
- Ariel Foxman
Why write this book specifically for moms and not for say, moms and dads?
I focused on moms because I am a mom. Also, I had noticed early on, back in 2016, that the resistance movement was being led by mothers. 3 out of 4 of the co-chairs of the Women's March were moms, for instance. There were just so many moms across the country who were becoming politically active for the very first time.
There are a lot of guides out there for parents. Why write a manual about “practical activism”?
There are a lot of books, and they are primarily about breastfeeding and pregnancy—very, very traditional ways of becoming a parent, of being a mom. The focus for moms is often about making everything fun and perfect. That Pinterest excitement of packing lunches. There wasn’t a book out there that asks, What’s going on with you, Mom? What do you think about what’s going on in the world? And, what do you want to do about it?
The book covers so much ground—racism, the patriarchy, privilege, sexualizing children, and more. Is there one issue, though, that you believe is the biggest issue facing parents and caregivers responsible for raising the next generation?
It’s important for all of us to prioritize our own key issues because nobody can effectively focus on everything. And I understand that it can all feel so overwhelming right now. But, no question, in this moment, the one issue that we all really need to focus our attention on is racial justice. This is an historic time in our country right now. We have an enormous responsibility to be anti-racist—especially white parents, to practice anti-racism and talk about these difficult issues. We cannot turn a blind-eye or take the “colorblind" approach and think that we're doing the right thing. Examine your own biases and break these cycles because something has to change. Something has to give. And right now, a lot of people are hurting and we need to listen to them.
You talk about how it’s best for white parents to defer to Black leadership when it comes to taking action. Why is this so critical?
White parents, white people need to defer to Black leadership in our own community and listen. To take their lead. All over the United States, there are Black leaders who have been working on racial justice issues for decades. Find them. Follow your local Black Lives Matter chapter. Or join Showing Up For Racial Justice, that is primarily white people. In my experience, the Black leaders will put out calls to action that are practical, and that are appropriate for white people.
What about the white mom who just wants to take charge?
This is not the time for white moms to try and center ourselves. White people, in general, who want to make a difference in the realm of racial justice have to understand that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. I have had to catch myself at times, too. I carry this kind of inherent notion that we're going to be able to “fix” things. It’s a total mom thing, but it’s also a total white lady thing, too. I remember hearing one Black Lives Matter leader talking to white moms, and she was like, ”I need you all to use that PTO, Karen energy responsibly.” We can be really enthusiastic, and we just want things fixed now—and that’s just not going to happen.
What are some of the things moms are being asked to do in the fight for racial justice?
I am a white mom based in Louisville, Kentucky. I’ve been asked to do everything from attend a protest and stand in front of the line—to use my body to shield Black protestors from rubber bullets and tear gas—to bail out protesters. Where I live, there is a really active bail support system, and there will be minivans that show up to jail to get protestors out, give them bottled water, and take them home. One ask I got from Black leaders in the community was to collect books for Black children, in which they were represented and had empowering messages. Because the schools and libraries were closed due to COVID, and access to books was so limited. So, I did a collection, and other parents sent books to me on Amazon. It was a relatively easy thing for people to do, but it made a huge difference. We were able to provide these really beautiful, powerful books to children in the community who didn't have them.
Is there a daily practice parents can establish to make sure they are parenting from a values-centered space?
More than anything, treat your children with kindness and your partner with respect. And expect your kids to do the same with whomever they come in contact with. That makes a tremendous difference. It completely influences your children’s worldview.
Why include a chapter on self-care in a book that is so focused on improving things for others?
Self-care is fundamental to activism. As Audra Lorde has explained, in a society that doesn't always value you, self-care and self-love is a radical act. It's important to check in with yourself and love yourself and accept yourself for who you are. Fighting for justice is really, really difficult work. It’s hard, and it's full of loss. We need to take care of ourselves to move forward, so we don't get caught up in just feeling hopeless. And it's not just about a bubble bath or drinking wine and hiding from your children. I think all of that is kind of cliché and not always productive. Rather, moms need to take a breath and ask ourselves what we need and what we want, and honor our own spirits and wishes. It is completely necessary.
What would you say to the well-intentioned mom who might not be comfortable rocking the boat or who might be worried about making others uneasy by her activism?
That is a really common problem. People are apprehensive about getting into activism. I know, at first, I was very afraid of offending other people and making waves. I was just one of those people who wanted to please everyone, didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. And the answer to that: practice.
Accept that it is going to be uncomfortable to take a stance that you know others are going to disagree with. I remember I got so much backlash after I posted on Facebook about attending the first Women's March. I was really proud of myself for taking a bus overnight just to be there and for putting myself out there a little bit. The backlash, though, was really hurtful. Especially when it’s coming from people that may be family members, or people that you have always respected and know well. So I understand, but I can also tell you, it gets easier. Fall back on your conviction and know that you're doing what is right.
Is your activism rooted in the hope of changing the hearts and minds of people who don’t see things as you do?
It depends. At my core, I do believe that it's possible to change the hearts and minds of people. And that just helps me be able to live in this world.
But, I know, too, some people can be very stubborn and stuck in their own convictions. And when you can’t change those people, you need to protect your own heart, and move on. Focus on the work that does make a difference.