the only one

I’m trippin’ these days off of thinking about having to put my kids in “real” school. My son will be 3.5 next summer, and it will probably be best to put him in a more structured environment. But around here? I just don’t want to do it.

There are like NO black people that live in these parts. Everywhere I go, store employees ask, “Have you been here before?” They remember my name. I know it’s good business to remember names, but my point is that it’s easy to remember mine because I’m the only black face they see all week. Not only am I often the only black face in my classes (which is a whole nuther issue which needs a whole nuther post but I probably should keep my complaints to myself and I’m not always the only one) but I am often the only black face in the parking lot, in the coffee shop, in the grocery store, walking down the street, etc. etc. And quite honestly? I don’t want my kids to experience that.

It’s not as if I feel anyone has treated me poorly because I’m black. But let me ask you this – how do I evaluate people who have chosen to live in an area where 95% of the people look like them? How can you claim that to “not see color” when you’ve set up your personal space to not have to see any other color than yours? I remember when I was choosing colleges, I specifically didn’t want to go to a HBCU because I didn’t want to only be around black people. I chose not to live in the black dorm my freshman year because I didn’t want to only be around black people. In retrospect, they may not have been the right reasons to make these decisions, but my point is, at 17 I knew that I wanted my world to be larger than my own group. It really BUGs me that adults don’t have thatsame impulse, that same instinct, to say that a lack of diversity is NOT a good thing.

And I don’t want to subject my son, my beautiful black boy, to the kids of these people, or these people themselves. My children have never been in the care of a white person, nevertheless around their kids when I’m not there. Kids who know nothing of people unlike themselves except what they see on TV. And as much as they (maybe) have been told that all people are alike and everyone should be treated equally, they can’t see for themselves the reality of those words. And the number of times I’ve been told here, always with the best of “intentions” (the road to hell is paved with good intentions…) that I should use my race to my advantage to “get some color” up in some place, and that my kids will be okay without getting into some gifted program anyway because of “affirmative action”…

So I’m trippin’ really hard on this, and feel like I don’t really have any choices in this extremely wealthy area where educational choices really abound. All I can do is get involved and be involved – I’m volunteering at a preschool fair being held this weekend, and am thinking of applying to a diversity committee here on campus to deal with some of my campus-specific issues. But everytime I think about it, my stomach starts to hurt. I really don’t want him to be the only one.

3 thoughts on “the only one

  1. My husband & I were having a similar, although entirely hypothetical, argument the other day. There’s a university that is courting him re: a job in the next couple years that is in a very diverse (both in terms of SES & race) city. The public schools are only so-so. There are a few private schools that are “better” in terms of academics — but they’re overwhelmingly white. I don’t want my kid going to an overwhelmingly white school if I can avoid it, and would sacrifice some in terms of academics to make that so. My husband disagrees completely. The *actual* situation is completely hypothetical at this point, but the principle isn’t. I find the whole thing really frustrating.

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  2. You know, my husband is like your husband – he’d rather my son be the only one then sacrifice anything in terms of the quality of education. And I guess I do have some choice – there is a minority community right next to this one, although I don’t know the rules on where your kids can go to school.

    On a related note, I have thought about this some more, and I realize that there is not as much residential choice out there as I wish there was. I actually have more choices, right, because chances are, wherever I live will not be majority black because there aren’t that many of us. I also think my perception is skewed because I come from Philadelphia, where it’s like 50/50 and I although most of the public schools are segregated, there are some that are not. And the neighborhood we lived in, and I’ve lived in all my life, is one of the most integrated in the nation. So a lot of this is homesickness too…

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  3. Move to Evanston!

    I am sorry about this — there is a great family that comes to our church a lot — white parents with adopted Haitian kids who want to come all the time but they alternate with a black church because they don’t want their kids to be in environments where they are the only black kids (made even harder since they are white). Our church is starting to do better, but man, racial segregation in church is a tough nut to crack. Luckily our school and neighborhood are very diverse. And, the church is doing better (where we also do mindfulness meditation, Gradmommy!)

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