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Fairly Odd Mother

Frantically waving my magic wand to make wishes come true.

Monday, January 19, 2009

White bred


"Mommy, why don't I have any black friends?"

This was the last question I faced yesterday, at 10pm, after letting Belly stay up late to watch King on the History Channel.

"Oh, Belly, I don't know. Maybe it's our town, our decision to home school. . .It isn't on purpose. . . you just don't."

What a weak answer.

She does notice the sameness around her. When we drove into Boston last month, she remarked,
"I love Boston. . .it is such a melting pot".

Her comments don't go unnoticed; I've been thinking a lot about the diversity, or lack thereof, in our little suburb south of the city.
It makes me wonder if kids who grow up in cities have an advantage greater than those of us whose kids can run around a big backyard.

Jilly is less subtle, as is the way of a five-year-old. She asks me
why the little girl in swim class has black skin, and I blabber on and on about how people have different skin colors, but we're all the same inside. I'm not sure she even hears my self-conscious blather.

To her, it is an innocent question. To me, it exposes my failing as a parent: we have been too insulated in our little suburban life.


A few months ago, I read the first book in the Addy series (part of the American Girl line of books). Addy is a slave, growing up during the Civil War, and escapes with her mother to Philadelphia where they start a new life. It is a brutal story, during which I had to explain why white people whipped black people. Why a mother would leave behind her newborn baby to make a better life for her older daughter. Why this story does not have an entirely happy ending.

As soon as the book was done, she changed her mind on what new American Girl doll she wanted for Christmas. "I want Addy. Otherwise, I'll just have another white doll, and that will be boring."

Looking around at her life, I think she is realizing the same thing, and she is right.

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12 Comments:

Anonymous Julie said...

I hear ya. You know your town's not diverse when not being catholic is considered weird. And when your daughters preschool can't get student teachers from the state college nearby because "the classroom is not diverse enough."

I think your explanations were sufficient. No need to stress yourself over it.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Mom, M.Ed. said...

I have one African-American friend. I met her when I worked ("in the city") and she and I still howl over the fact that I had one black kid in my high school.

Don't worry. As they grow, your children will meet people from all walks of life--religions, colors, etc. It is not your job to make sure your girls meet ___ # of African-Americans, ___ # of Koreans. LOL!

Model compassion for ALL people and your children will have the toolbox required for meeting & making friends with anyone. :o)

11:01 AM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

I used to worry about that a lot too, but our neighborhood and town in general has become more diverse over the years. I am organizing a cultural arts night at the school, and I am amazed and gratified by the number of different ethnicities!

1:50 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

You don't live in a pocket of diversity, that's for sure. But that doesn't mean that you can't get into your car and drive towards the city to do some homeschooling activities in a more urban environment. Boston is INCREDIBLY diverse, but you have to want to take advantage of that diversity. I think if you did try to join some group in the city, you'll find all the diversity you want and more!

3:39 PM  
Blogger Subspace Beacon said...

When we use to visit the city, my eldest (then age 2) often yelled, "Hello Oprah!" at any black woman he saw . Niiiiiiiiiice. But that's the reality of life in northern Canada.

Now we make an effort to teach the boys about the local native indian cultures and making sure they are exposed to diversity via the media.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

That would have been me as a girl, growing up in rural Nova Scotia. We now live in the city in the nation's capital so we are really blessed with cultural diversity and we see it everywhere, especially in our schools. Just talking openly and embracing diversity are the best things a mother can do for her own children. They'll learn that as they grow up, even if they don't have 20 black children on their street :-)

6:22 PM  
Blogger Patois said...

I lucked out as a kid, growing up on military bases and in other diverse areas. My kids have lucked out, too, having been blessed with people they consider their relatives -- you know, auntie and uncle -- who are all different Asian ethnicities and with good friends of other races. But you know what? They asked the same type of questions as Jilly did.

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Cristina said...

I love your stories and your blog! Have to say I thought it was neat when Belly had her Addy doll at her tea party! :)

9:27 PM  
Blogger mothergoosemouse said...

I don't think that was a weak answer. Your exposure to diversity is limited - not out of avoidance, but as a result of other factors entirely. To me, the key point is that she is open to friendship, regardless of what her friends look like or where they come from.

11:48 PM  
Blogger bernthis said...

I have to say, one great thing about my going to public school was my exposure to all races and ethnicities (sp?) My niece had similar comments b/c at her school there were no AFrican Americans. There are now but my sister had a tough time explaining why there weren't any in her school (it is public and in the suburbs)

1:27 PM  
Blogger Dysd Housewife said...

We live in Arizona. (50% Navajo/Hopi Indian, 30% Mexican/Hispanic)
My daughter moved to Idaho. One of the first things she said to me after moving was "mom, everybody is WHITE!"

7:07 PM  
Blogger Gray Matter said...

That was so great. Years ago I invoked the M&M explanation. "Well Honey, people are like M&M's, they may be different colors on the outside, but they're all chocolate on the inside. Get it?"
"Uh, but some are peanut."
I'll keep working on it.

9:56 PM  

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