Friday, January 4, 2013

It Matters

This year we moved from a very diverse, urban/suburban-ish school district to a much less diverse one in more affluent area.  I have mixed feelings about this as a teacher and as a parent.  My kids attend much newer schools (brand spankin' new!)with much more technology. Astronaut has an iPad.  Squirrel has them in her class.  Princess checks out Nooks from the library.  The students as a whole are more focused and there are far fewer behavioral issues.

But there are major drawbacks.  My kids stick out like grains of pepper in a bowl of rice.  It's a new experience for them, though not necessarily a bad one.  They've made new friends, really nice ones, especially the Astronaut.  But there are definitely some drawbacks. For one, their idea of a open door policy differs greatly from what we've been used to.  They don't like parents to come into the children's classrooms. I'm used to sitting in, helping teachers.  Also Princess and her teacher had some issues.  And today I noticed that ina school with over 750 students, there are zero black teachers. What are the odds of that? They also failed to put my boy-who is state identified as gifted-in the proper courses.

Before Princess made her entrance, there was only one black girl. I guess she was The Black Girl.  Now there are two. She and P have had "friendship problems" because she feels like P is "taking her friends."  We'll call said girl, Frog (this is not in any way related to her looks.  She's a pretty child.).  Princess is slender, slightly above average height, has smooth chocolatety skin, big brown eyes with lashes so long they look like butterfly wings, long hair (down past her shoulders, though she rarely wears it out). I've only seen her twice but Frog is light skinned with very long hair-about mid back length-the same texture as Princess' but a little lighter in color.   These details will be relevant very soon.

Today, Princess told me that Frog is not black.  Now I've seen Frog and it is very clear that she is, in fact, black.  It's not that she's ambiguous, like the singer Miguel. She's a light skinned black girl.  So I ask "Well what is she then? "  I expect her to say Guyanese or Dominican or something like that-something with enough melanin to fool the eye at first glance.  Princess tells me that Frog says she is white. 

Apparently, Frog is mixed.  I had no idea.  And since her mom is white, she's decided she's white, too.  Now that she can't be TBG, I guess.  Let me say, this child is not black, per se.  She is biracial.  I am not suggesting she should deny her whiteness. 

You wonder why I care, don't you. It's because I care about kids and their wellbeing, even when they are mean to my kids. I'm a teacher.  Kids are my life.  My students, I love them like I birthed them.

I care because this is a little black girl and I'm a mama of little black girls.  It is a cold world for little black girls.  The world goes out of its way to tear them down.  Traditional ideals of beauty are very eurocentric.   Additionally, the assumption is that intelligence and class have an inverse relationship with complexion.

I care because this child is being set up to be ridiculed and embarrassed. No one will treat her like a white child.  Yes, this is America. Yes, it is 2013.  Yes, black people are STILL treated differently than others. It's just the truth.  Furthermore, no one is going to trear her black, then find out she is "white" and treat her differently.  I understand that her mother is white-she is not.  It's like hair color. If your mom is a blonde and you've hot auburn tresses,  you're not blonde. She will be looked at a bit funny by everyone for calling herself white.

I care because this could impact her school performance. Yep, black pride is good for black kids, says Harvard. It gives the the tools they need to survive and thrive.  By denying what is clearly true-that she is biracial, her mother is implying that there is something wrong with being black. She's attaching shame to it. And self shame can morph into self hate, a dangerous thing in girls. Self hate leads to self destructive behaviors such as eating disorders,  promiscuity, drinking, cutting, etc.

My heart breaks for this precious child and the utter confusion she must be feeling.  I'm scared of how real things will get for her.

Or perhaps I'm just reading too much into it.

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