Wednesday, February 13, 2008

diversity

lately i've spent a lot of time lurking on local portland forums discussing the portland public school issue. trying to figure out which public school to send your child to, to me, is like staring down at several piles of dirt and picking the one that seems the least dirty. that is, unless you're privileged enough to live in one of the wealthier nabes where the parents can donate money to school programs.

but on these forums, it's a trip because parents of the mostly white, wealthy public schools will say things like, 'we love the school, but it's just not very diverse', or 'we want more diversity!'. i kept reading that phrase over and over from parents of those "whiter" schools. they want diversity!! but do they really? a couple thoughts came to my mind:

first, it's funny to think that just by me (or anyone black) being in a crowd of white people automatically makes the environment diverse. wow. just by plopping a handful of ethnic kids into a room of white people creates a "diverse" school.

and the thing that really gets me is that i seriously doubt they REALLY want diversity other than a few token ethnic kids. probably a handful more of black students in the school might satisfy their "need" but they know well and good that if their school suddenly flip flopped and became 90 percent black and 8 percent white, most of those parents would shudder and run for the hills and private schools.

why do they claim they want diversity so bad anyway? like black people are just interesting to watch and be around-we inherently provide instant culture? would those parents want to associate and befriend the other black students? do they have black friends? or do they just want them there so that their child can "experience culture" simply by gawking the black students in the classroom ? does it make the school complete?

from what i've heard from other black people who went to mostly white schools with only a handful of other black students, the white students did not include them as much, the black people had their little unit and they all stuck together. i guess it must make somebody (administrators?) feel good to say that there is diversity in their school, but i think that's about it.

and then i thought about the school my son attends. in my mind, i don't think of diversity as being just a bunch of black people. like, people think that a school that's mostly black is diverse. how is that diverse? as if blacks and hispanics alone epitomize diversity. the school my son goes to is like 8 percent white and then mostly black and hispanic with like 2 percent asian. the white parents who have kids there are always raving about how they love the diversity. okay, but is 8 percent white really diversity? i'm not necessarily advocating for more white people to join the school(well maybe i am?) but to be fair, diversity would be closer to an equal number of all different ethnicities. white people at our school are the minority.

i would have a hard time sending my son to a school where the black /multiracial kids only amounted to 8 percent. yet the white parents at my son's school seem to like being the 8 percent minority. go figure that.

18 comments:

mendegirl said...

In our experience, these folks don't actual diversty, they just want to be able to tell their friends that their kids go to a diverse school. It gives you street cred amongst the New Seasons set. Like having a hybrid or being car-free.

We have been the diversity at a Portland school that was about 89% white. They liked the idea of colored people, GLBT parents, etc. but our kids were never invited for playdates. so me and the queer parents made friends and our kids still are friends, lo, these many years later.

My kid does the best in schools that are multi-culti because we are from a very diverse area prior to Portland.

Anonymous said...

As the white mom of a biracial child, I am actually more concerned with her experience at the school. We chose her school in large part because of the "diversity". I think that I will always want her to go to schools where she isn't the only brown face in the room. Do you suppose these parents might have their kids' interest at heart?

tasha said...

I see your point. One cannot really deem a school "diverse" just because it has a large number of black or latino students.
I think that a school is at an advantage if it has a good, equal mix of cultural backgrounds (which is rare in Oregon) because they are subjected to different cultures and people.
For example, if a child attending school where every student and teacher is white, they will most likely not be comfortable socializing with different races or cultures. Same if a child went to an all-black school, or a latino school, or an asian school. The fact is, diversity is treasured because it exposes people to all kinds of cultures and viewpoints.
But then again, I know plenty of people who use diversity as a status quo. But you're right, many people enjoy telling others that their child's school is diverse, just for the status quo.

Dannie said...

For some, I hesitate to say "many", it's all for show: "Look, little Joey has a black/asian/hispanic (etc) friend!" They want the appearance of being diverse without any of the effort. It's much easier to thwart of cries of bigotry with, "Well, my child goes to a racially mixed school." It's so much easier than, say, actually getting to know any black/asian/hispanic (etc) people. I mean really know...

How many of these parents will invest time and effort befriending/spending time with other children and parents of a different race? How many will take the easy way out and tell their children that they prefer for them to play with other whites only? How many will separate the "acceptable" (those more assimilated to the white american culture) minorities from those deemed "unacceptable"? How many will help their children learn to be racially/culturally sensitive? Do they want their children to grow and learn next to yours or with them?

I understand that this doesn't describe everybody, but their enough people who feel this way that it warrants some discussion. Why don't you experiment by asking them what they mean by "diverse", and why they so desire a diverse environment for their young ones? You may get some *ahem* interesting responses.

Dannie said...

sorry: (last paragraph) *their = there are

obtozio said...

Personally, I am ambivalent about "diversity." What's the big deal? I would be happy at an all white school and what of it? The Japanese seem to be doing just fine without this holy grail of "diversity." The glory of diversity is a myth created by bleeding heart hippy types who have been bomnarded with white guilt from day one of their lives. My suggestion would be to just shut up and work hard, save your money and die rich. All this other crap is just that--BS.

Aly Cat 121 said...

50 years later of the 1954 Brown vs. The Board of Education, Topeka, KS and nothing has changed. I'm starting to wonder what was even the point.

Keigh said...

I have to agree with you, TBG. How about that!

I dislike when parents talk about adding "diversity" by sprinkling in a few black, Latino, Asian or even white(!) children. They're putting a band-aid on the bigger problem.

Golden Silence said...

The most diverse schools I've seen are performing arts schools. Not only are the students there of diverse talents, they're of diverse races and ethnicities as well.

I agree that some folk think that one minority in a school equals diversity, but we all know that's far from the truth.

Anonymous said...

I think this blogg is rather funny. Its claim that is important that schools and communities get more diverse. Its also claims that “races” or cultures should keep their identity, in fact is very racist in that aspect. What is important here is to understand the essence of Multiculturalism that you all seem to support. Multiculturalism claims that your ethnic identity is fixed forever. You can not choose your identity.

To make a distinction between people we tend to use the race card. We say you are “black” and you are “White” based on the persons skin colour. But there are many “blacks” out there that can go for “White” and “Blacks” that even be taken for “Whites”, Asian or Hispanic. What is their identity? This blogg tend to argue that there is white and black schools but the blogg aren’t specifying who is black and who is white.

My other point is about the multiculturalistic agenda. If you met other cultures and religions and you feel that they have wrong in a lot of aspects. The Quran claims that women that are unfaithful to their husbands should be stoned to death. In Iran, Saudi Arabia and so on this is practise. For Muslims the Islamic Law (Sharia) is everything.

The heavens Gates movement, a suicide sect took was rather “evil” in my point of view. When we talk about that we should be more respectful or a better word, tolerant to other religions and cultures then our (westernized) we most think of this. Not all cultures and religions cheer share our understandings and morals.

It’s very important that this blogg focus on these questions is it can be taken seriously.

But as I said before, it’s a fun provocative blogg.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about my english by the way. English is my third language and its late...

kevin fitz said...

What is to be said about the non-privileged white people who are just as alive and needing of home/shelter as much as any other person... be they white, black, tan, brown, green, blue, orange, fuscia or any other color?

yeah, I didn't grow up in a black neighborhood, or much diversity for that matter. BUT that doesn't mean I'm not going to live out the rest of my life searching for diverse environments, situations, friends, foes, animals, people.. etc.

So white people were born white, that doesn't give them anymore privilege than any other skin color. Now, if they were born with Mommy and Daddy's rich money to make sure they were comforted the rest of their lives.. that's different, AND can happen no matter what color you are.

WHY ARE PEOPLE SO HUNG UP ON COLOR! Do your part to help shift that paradigm. Think outside the box and be an agent of mental change.

bwb said...

I've just read your blog and I love your honesty, insight and perspective. Your writing is proof that black americans don't walk in lockstep.

Keep writing!

tiffany said...

reading your blog makes me sad, and more aware of things. i'm not black, i'm mulatto, and i don't know much about black culture at all, not untill about a week ago did i actually touch a black girls hair (i got to braid it). i don't have many black features so it was neat to play with her hair. anyways i used to feel exactly how you feel, so "self hating" and it completely took over my life. i've lived in the suburb since i was 8, and my dad died. (i'm 18) getting off subject, i just want you to know that you can continue self hating, or you can change. its all about choices. we were not put on this earth to "look pretty" we were put here to love God and tell everyone about how to get to heaven. which is to ask forgiveness of your sins and ask him to come into your heart. once you realize that life isn't about what you look like, or how nice you are, but about you serving the Lord, you can have a life of happiness.But not untill than.

please excuse any spelling mistakes :)
God bless.

tiffany said...

ps. i was just reading all those comments people left you were the obviously have NO idea what its like to have some tan in their skin, and i see the ignorance. i just want you to know... i know exactly what your saying here, why your saying it, and why its so hard to say what they all want you to say, or be.

it truly is something you have to live to understand.

Lola said...

Tiffany, it wasn't my impression that the lady who wrote this blogpost is "self-hating". She's just telling it like it is, based on what she experienced with her kids.

Frigbat said...

Being a white mother to a biracial child, I get the "wanting diversity" thing. My husband grew up in Lake Oswego and was pretty much tortured until he was in middle school. I really don't want my son to have that experience so we actually chose to put him in our local North Portland public school and ironically he's one of like 5 children of color. *sigh*

No matter what school you send them to, "teaching diversity" is fruitless. Teaching tolerance for all people no matter their race, religion, lifestyle, size, height or bad fashion...that's what I'm going for. Thanks for starting a dialogue.

MizzLuna said...

I'm starting to enjoy reading your blog. The people who leave comments are very very interesting individuals. I don't feel the need to announce my race while leaving this comment as it will not add any further credibility to the comments I make. However, I will say that I identify with you, completely. Championing diversity without trying to get know the diverse people around you, is pointless. Saying "Oh little billy is IN a class with Sally who's black" is totally different than saying, "Oh little billy went little Sally's house and he had dinner with her family, who's black." Hehe. Two vastly different experiences. Ahhh, but America cannot be expected to change in just 40 years. I rather think it'll take another 200.But that's just cuz I'm not that optimistic. And I'm only 17. I would love to see the day when one of my classmates stops staring at me and actually acknowledges the fact that I belong in that class. OR perhaps I don't need their acknowledgment, or maybe I should walk over to her? Diversity in schools that aren't really "diverse" is SUCH a tricky matter...