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The 'Nuclear Family'... *GROSS*

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

This realization that the nuclear family isn’t a natural 'default setting' seems obvious in hindsight. Of course the structure of individual households being their own entity where the man is ‘head of household’ is a mini structure of white supremacy. Duh!

This concept sets an expectation of how one is supposed to live their life. Reminds me of the coded terms, “All-American”, “Anytown USA”, and “your average middle-class family”, all inferring whiteness, and therefore, safety.

It is important to address the categorically false assumption that any person, ESPECIALLY white men, are purely rational and therefore can, and should, own their households and all the people in that household, without exception or question. As an undergraduate Economics major I remember the moment we learned about the assumed rationality of humans and the multiple economic crises that have resulted. How are we still doing this?!

The value of vulnerability and the flawed nature of humans is not acknowledged in white supremacy and is even rebuffed as an indicator of weakness. Being white means inherently being right and confident about your stance. This is such a problem, I don’t know where to start. Watch any true crime documentary and listen to the white male police officers discuss their decisions. Regardless of factual evidence produced, you will be hard pressed to hear acknowledgement of any wrongdoing on the part of the police force. It is a deadly result of enforcing and rewarding a fixed m


When a mistake is made, there is minimal effort put in to addressing or learning from that mistake. Instead, the energy is put into reinforcing the position, and explaining away past faults. This has been rewarded with 'success' for centuries - imagine the toll that has taken on the white male psyche. Now, imagine the imposition of the nuclear family reinforcing the concept that white males are superior wherever they are, and their value is in how well they own, dominate, and present their possessions.

For me, the scariest part of the nuclear family is the extent of privacy afforded to these families. By design, others cannot (or at least should not) question the practices of another family, making it difficult to notice changes in children or have another family's practices to compare to. I was watch

ing a cult documentary (surprising, I know) and a former cult member reflects on the first time she was interviewed by police and they asked her, "Are you being fed properly?" And she responded in the affirmative because she said (paraphrasing), "I was alive, so I thought, yeah I'm being fed properly" because she had no way of knowing what was proper.

For communitie

s of color, the nuclear family is not average, common, or expected. I didn't hear much about it growing up, or see many examples. I don’t know what that has done societally, but I can’t imagine that has a positive impact on our self-esteem. Communal living creates and builds community and, therefore, shared experiences that we can discuss, expand upon, and grow from.


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1 comentario

Matt Biltz
Matt Biltz
17 oct 2021

This is a great piece. In Africa a "nuclear family" is much more expansive. The family includes multiple generations and extended relatives. In the book Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, author W.E.B Dubois laid out the case that in Africa WOMEN are the core of the community and family. It was women who domesticated African society by tilling the soil and creating community. In the USA Black women seem to receive criticism from all sides about their assertiveness and centrality to the family. When there is a sense of village community there are no dark family secrets that are protected by a male-dominated nuclear family. Do you think that some in the US Black community have internalized the dominant…

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