Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The beauty of diversity

One of the things that was at the forefront of my mind when I moved here in 2000 was that I wanted my daughter to have a VERY different childhood/educational experience than the one I had growing up from age 10 to 17 in Florida, living in an all Black neighborhood and attending all Black publicschools. Actually, I wanted her to have the diverse life I had growing up in Cali until my parents divorced when I was 10 years old.

Well her life hasn't been "diverse/Black enough" to me which I realize is a pretty ridiculous statement to make given that we quite deliberately live in the one of the least Black neighborhoods in metro DC (I've mentioned before that most Buppies in metro DC live in PG County, a county I refuse to live in because the public schools are crap despite having the highest per capita income of Blacks in the US). But that move was about getting her the best public education we could (and it's tops in the US), more than anything else.

So this year, when we were applying to summer camps for her to attend, I purposely picked one that I knew was targeted to Black girls because well, I wanted her to try to have more Black friends, girls with goals similar to hers. Well, the photo in this post is of my daughter's project group at camp and as you can see, the ONLY black girl in the photo is my kid. So I send my kid to an engineering camp with 80% Black girls, and she STILL ends up in a group full of Asian girls, LOL!!! And I should NOT be surprised. Her best friend is Chinese, most of the kids in the orchestra with her are Asian, and she's been taking Chinese language since she was in elementary school. Her bedroom is also full of Asian furniture and whatnots and has been since elementary school.

Now on one level, I'm thrilled she hangs with Chinese kids because when it comes to academics, these kids mean business. I've never seen one of them in "booty shorts", and when they come to our home, I eavesdrop on them talking about which classes to take and what college they want to attend. So when I asked her yesterday why she doesn't have many "other" friends, she responded that most of the "other" girls at her school are either too fast or too ghetto (and let me clarify, she ain't just talking about just Black girls here). What?!?! I can admit, that I've been looking at crotches and weave since she was in elementary school but I never expected to hear her say that. She does have one Black and one White girlfriend, but is that "enough"? Does that question even make sense?

I keep asking myself if it's okay that her main friends happen to be Asian, and I guess it should be because people should be allowed to be whomever they are and associate with people whom they have things in common with. And today's kids seems much more open minded about race than people in my generation were. People close to me tell me I'm worrying for no reason, that I should be happy she's not that into boys (yet), and seems so focused on having her own personal style, and being her own individual. And I am. I guess.


  1. I've been following your blog for sometime now, and this is the only time I've felt compelled to respond to your posts. Please let your daughter be whoever she wants to be! If she likes being with people different than her own race; then so be it! Don't feel pressured or guilty because she doesn't hang with with people who look like her.

    You are trying to play both sides of the game. One hand cannot support other; and without this level of exposure for her, then everything you have taught her will be for nothing.

    Don't let your guilt spill over into her life.

    Who knows she might one day decide to embrace her "other" nationality. Being Black "ain't" all that bad. It's how you live your life and treat other people that really make the difference.

  2. GREAT points, Medi!

    I agree being Black ain't that bad, but for reasons I probably don't need to elaborate on, it sure ain't always easy, LOL!!! However, I think it's critical Black kids have a strong sense of their Black culture. Of course, that begs the question, what exactly IS Black culture? Certainly NOT what you usually see portrayed in the media IMHO. Interestingly, my daughter knowing of her mixed heritage, states 3 categories when asked about her race and on one level I'm glad she does. But then on another, I know when the world looks at her, they only see Black. I just think it's important that she understand that.

  3. Very interesting...

    It's important for all children to have a healthy self image. This is important for their wholeness, I believe. No matter what nationality their friends are, I think the main issue is how do they feel about themselves (their race).

    If she's fine with the skin she's in, that's wonderful. Who her friends are is an added bonus to the beauty she possess as a young woman. Positive friends are important in shaping her self confidence and self image. So, If she prefers friends that she relates to so be it.

    The only problem I have witness is when we reject other blacks because we feel better than they are or they are beneath us. I know several adults like that..I can not help but to wonder what happen??? I can relate to all people, all social and economic backgrounds..So, I would only pray that my children are able to do the same, especially as medical practioners.

    A poor self image African American culture will cause an incident like our beloved Michael Jackson. He could not embrass his uniqueness, his African American features and therefore; rejected them by carving a new outter image.

    Only if he had a positive self image and love the skin he was in, He would have realized, we would have loved him regardless..for after all His was the KING OF POP...

    So, for the next few days, we are in Atlanta and my boys and I will visit MLK Historic site...Letting them experince first hand the history of and how far we have come is imperative. And with this experience I believe a sense of pride and appreciation will follow....and will lay a foundation for a positive self image.

    PS..I like your new name...

  4. Thank you for your comments 40! You also brought up some interesting points especially as they relate to the images of black people and how some blacks reject their own race in favor of one they think is "superior".

    I guess when I think about my kid and how she was raised, I'd say we just let her imagination flow and never tried to limit her thinking about much of anything. So for example, when she decided she wanted to be a doctor/astronaut in 2nd grade (like Mae Jemison), we let her and both the customes. When she decided she wanted to play tennis instead of basketball, we purchased the equipment (she's VERY tall for her age so has always been "encouraged" to play B-Ball). Same thing with learning to speak Chinese. What we didn't think about (and quite frankly my husband didn't/doesn't care) is how atypical a lot of the things she does are from what most Black kids do. And that got me thinking about how that could be a factor in why she's had few Black girlfriends over the years. But again this begs the question, what's wrong with Black kids NOT doing what many other Black kids do? And what really is Black culture for a people who had their culture stripped when they were brought over as slaves hundreds of years ago?

    As it relates to her education, I will have to admit that despite raising her in an integrated neighborhood there have been many things that left me scratching my head, like the insistence of team of 10 "professionals" at her school, including 2 Black teachers, that my kid was slow as opposed to shy. And many, many times I've had to go out of my way just to make sure she understood that Blacks and other minorities played a significant role in the history of this country because she just wasn't being taught those things in school.

    Medi touched on something with her comment about some of the guilt I feel that my daughter hasn't had significant exposure to Blacks outside her family, to which my mother would respond that wouldn't be the case had we attended church more often. Of course, the "problem" with my Mom's comment is that the church we attend looks like a meeting of the United Nations and I wouldn't want it ANY other way!