From the President: What My Daughter Teaches Me about Equity

Cate Wilcox
President, The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs
Maternal and Child Health Manager, Title V Director, State of Oregon

I am a white, heterosexual, cisgender woman. I have a good, stable job. I have affordable, stable housing. I have health insurance that covers vision, dental, and mental health. I have access to and can buy nutritious food. I was able to afford child care. I have all the privilege that comes with being part of the dominant culture.

My two daughters are women of color. Their story is different. To show how, I will share a bit about my elder daughter.

She is 16. She has many friends. She is quick with a smile and a pun. She enjoys writing, crafting and rafting. She identifies as LGBTQ. She lives with depression, Social Anxiety Disorder and ADHD. She attempted suicide last year.

She has often told me about how her sixth grade school bus was full of racists. I didn't understand. We live in a nice neighborhood and surely those kids didn't come from families that condoned racists beliefs. 

I was wrong. My white privilege was and continues to be challenged as I struggled to see the world through their eyes and experiences. To truly reach a state where we can change the impact of historical systems that create inequities, we need to act globally —making lasting, deep changes to structural barriers;  locally — because real change in our own communities can spread to other communities; and individually — because we are all impacted on a personal level by the injustices any one of us experiences.

The articles in this edition of Pulse touch on a few of the many of experiences and interventions we can make happen for the children and families we serve. I hope you will read them with thoughtfulness, reflection, and openness for change.

The good news is my daughter is doing very well. She has discovered her inner strength and feistiness. Recently, while waiting at a bus stop with her friend, a white man asked my daughter's friend what she was. What she was, asked the friend? Here is how my daughter recounted the rest of the conversation:

 "Yeah, what are you? Korean, Mexican, Chinese?"

The friend stuttered for a moment and said, "Well, I guess Chinese."

"Are you sure you're not Mexican?" the man said. "You look Mexican."

She said no, she is not Mexican.

My daughter turned to the man and asked, "What are you?"

He said, "What?"

She repeated, "What are you?"

He said, "Uhhhh … American?"

"No, she said. "What Are You?!"

He thought a moment and said, "I guess Polish and Finnish."

 "No you're not!" she said. "You're British. You look British."

I was proud of my girl finding a way to flip the conversation. I hope she helped that one person for that one moment think differently about race, racism, and its impact on individuals.

As I watch my girls grow, I hurt with them, I laugh with them, I learn from them, I am humbled by their strength. I am also energized by them on a daily basis to work toward making the changes needed — globally, locally and individually — so their life experiences are  inclusive, supportive, and more equitable.