Tuesday, November 21, 2006

So i'm not the only one

i am so amazed at all the racial issues that i continue to experience which gives me something to write about. between my racial insecurity issues, conversations and experienes with people, there's never a shortage, is there?

Yesterday in portland the rain finally letup and the sun came out. it was nice. i took the kids to the park. i ran into one of the few other black moms i had met at an indoor park once. like me, she's married to a white guy and has biracial boys. i dont know her very well, but when we see each other, we always say hello. since our kids were at the park playing, we stood together and talked. we talked a lot about being black women married to white men (more on this later). then we talked about the schools our kids were going to. i was shocked at things she said. not really shocked at what she said, really, but that our feelings were so similar.

without turning this post into a mini book, our conversation went this way: we talked about schools. she asked where mine went. i told her that my son was currently going to XYZ in-the-hood school, but that next year, i think he'll be going to ABC not-in-the-hood-but-still-very-diverse school. she then said that she thought the ABC school to be, well, really diverse. and, she actually turned down her mouth. i was confused. i said that yes, it was diverse but asked what exactly she meant, since i could tell that she didn't think it was such a great thing. she back pedalled a little and said that 'diversity was good, but, well, she didn't know....'

i pressed the issue. when people say 'they don't know', that's really just an excuse to not finish what they're saying because they might be afraid you don't agree. i said, "yes, you DO know, tell me". in a nutshell she said that even though she wanted her kids to be in a school with black kids, she wondered what KIND of black children would be there. according to her, it seemed that most of the diverse schools in portland were filled with black children from broken homes, wearing $80 sneakers (whose parents buy them expensive clothes to compensate for something at home), and black children who just weren't really "quality" kids (i.e. low income, single parent households, etc), and that she just didn't want her kids in that kind of environment, assuming that it's a true observation. her kids currently go to a religious private school. i could tell she felt a little uneasy about putting her thoughts into words, and i basically told her that it was okay to think that, there are black people feel the same way we do, but no one really talks about it.

even though i understood where she was coming from, i guess i was just shocked that someone else felt similar to me. if you had talked to me 5 months ago, i would have probably said the same thing. but my son being in pre-k at XYZ school has changed my mind a little. for the most part, i did agree with her. but then our conversation turned to which scenario was worse: A) our biracial kids going to a school with little diversity and feeling possibly isolated and left out due to being the only black kid in class; OR B) going to school with many peers who come from broken homes and living in the hood but not feeling leftout from being the only black kid.

she and i both agreed that our children were from good middle to upper class homes with functional families, both parents, and were not the typical black kids. while she was leaning toward scenario A, i was leaning toward scenario B. she was surprised that i would choose the latter scenario. but, from my experience, all the black friends i've had that whose parents sent them away to the burbs to go to school with no other black children always seemed to rebel. they evidently felt like they were missing something (culturally), because they always ended up in trouble IN the hood (which kind of defeats the purpose of sending them to the 'burbs. what good is a great educational experience if you 've got a felony on your record for life?)

my theory is that i'd rather teach my kids to be good kids amongst their black peers, less fortunate or not. they'll be able to decipher right and wrong and wont think the hood is so enticing.


AB said...

Portland has problems with race and with class. Roosevelt High and Jefferson High kind of spell it out.

Anyway an interesting post since you deal with the real decisions you face, not just from an abstract perspective like I do. (No kids)

How do you feel about Asians and Hispanics as opposed to whites? Are they easier or tougher to make a connection with? Just curious.

Aly Cat 121 said...

If you really want to get down to it, don't send your children to ANY public school, or "catholic" school. No matter what area those types of schools are all the same. They don't teach children how to "stretch" their minds and become true critical and independent thinkers. The children are taught how to obey orders, follow intructions and do as your told. Why? So they can have jobs working for other people and always working for someone else vs. being your own boss. I mean SOMEBODY has to do the work otherwise corporations would be out of business. This goes for executives, managers, admins, day laborers, EVERYONE.

mr guy said...

Nice blog you bring up some interesting issues about being a black mom and raising kids.Diversity is always a tricky subject.Looking forward to reading more.

Anonymous said...

Living in Portland and in about the same neighborhood as you do, I know exactly how you feel. I made a comment before in response to another of your post. With my oldest I lived in the ‘burbs – Troudale to be exact – but made sure he had lots of functions in the “hood”. Decided that wasn’t what I was going to do for my next child. It seems to be working out for her. We live in the ‘hood, but she attends a charter school. The best of both worlds, what more could I ask for?

After reading this, I called a girlfriend of mine that has 5 bi-racial children. Her and her husband of over 20 years know what it’s like to have to make the same decisions you face today. She said what they did with their oldest (now 21-years-old) would never be repeated with their youngest (now 4-years-old). Culture is important, and like you said, you can always teach them to rise above what is around them (the kids in the hood), but you can never take back their feelings of being disconnected. As long as your boys are getting an education that satisfies you, don’t stress it too much.

Anonymous said...

I am a 33 year old biracial woman married to a white man in Los Angeles and we have struggled with school choice. Our daughter was in an elite school but they set her up to fail. now she is in a school with many Latinos and she is isolated. I thought about Catholic school.I feel so much better reading your posts.