Since I wrote that rather pessimistic post on what it might be like for Boomer to grow up in Iowa as a minority black child, I’ve been doing some thinking. First, the whole thought process has made me aware of just how important diversity along racial, class, and cultural lines is going to be for our white son, and not just because he’s going to have brothers and sisters of color in his family.
Second, I’m rethinking the school issue. Here there is a perfectly acceptable neighborhood well within our price range with a good number of aa families. Unfortunately MOST aa people in CR live there; though there are black families in our current neighborhood, the ratio is still pretty small. I say “unfortunately” because ideally I’d like to see every CR neighborhood mixed, and the whole culture to be positively inflected in that direction (one thing that still bothers me about Iowa in general is that there is going to be a big gap in time between the influx of aa people from Chicago and the appearance of larger-scale, accepted alterations in the local culture; a look at the Mexican immigrant situation here will give you a clue). Anyway–this neighborhood is looked upon with some trepidation by most other residents of CR, who clearly have not lived in Pittsburgh and know that two shootings a year five blocks from your house does not constitue a major threat to your personal safety (a man was just shot at the ATM of the bank we used to frequent in our old, mostly white neighborhood in Pgh; THAT bothered me). But we’ve driven around and are getting to know some people there and really like it. It’s tree-lined and pretty like the other neighborhoods here, with big old Victorian houses and parks. It’s convenient to downtown but it’s not crowded or noisy.
What convinces me the most, though, is our trip to one of the neighborhood’s high school football games. What I saw there made my jaw drop, and it’s probably because I graduated from a small, very de-facto segregated high school ten years ago. I saw black kids, white kids, a few asian kids, biracial kids, and kids I couldn’t categorize leaning on each other’s shoulders, playfully pushing one another, making out, running around, standing in popular-kid packs and sitting in loser-kid packs. I saw their slightly more segregated parents call out to parents of other races and ask them if they were going to be at the such-and-such next Tuesday, and informing them that they had saved seats. In short, I saw that the overwhelming majoring of people at the game, teachers, students, parents, grandparents, etc. , were relaxed and comfortable about interacting with people unlike themselves in appearance or culture or class. I reiterate that my high school was NOT like this growing up–the lunchroom was severely divided, and if you were dating a black boy you were most certainly on of the school whores. And I was thinking as I observed this–and felt it, which is more important–that it’s not perfect, and there are certainly things I’m not seeing here, but I could see my kids at this football game. My white kid or kids wouldn’t be from the only mixed family in town and my aa kids would see plenty of faces that reflected theirs and have plenty of adult role models to help guide them through facets of aa life in American that Attic Man and I will not be able to.
Friends of ours here did raise some concerns that aa kids are still way overrepresented in detention and special ed, and wondered about what kind of message that sends to all kids. It does trouble me. But I’m also thinking about what an opportunity that might be to help our kids deal with the harsh realities of racism early on. What good is raising them in a perfect laboratory of racial harmony (as if there were such a place) just to throw them out into a world that is certainly not? I also wonder about the inconsistency between what our friends told us and what we saw at the game. Might it be worse in a school with only a few black kids?
The class issue is important to consider, too. True, it looks as if aa people are overwhelmingly lower-middle class here. But so what? What am I teaching my kids if I only want them to see black lawyers and teachers? That being lower-middle class is a sin, a crime, a wrong way to live? Ideally I’d like to see all kinds of role models for my aa kids and for my white kids to see people of color from all classes to reinforce what we’ll be teaching (all of) them, which is that there are many different ways to ‘be’, and that these ways of being are not always in our control. In the meantime, this is our reality.
As for churches…we’re kind of stuck on that one. We went to one Mass last week that by all appearances was one long, collective nap.
I’d write more, but after a shower I’m off to sign a release for my records to be sent to a new OB practice I’m switching to (yay!). The practice has only four doctors and I can continue with them past delivery. AND my primary doc does peds as well! I don’t have a recommendation for her as a doctor per se, but friends of ours know her from the social justice community here, which is a very good sign indeed. I’ll just be happy to have my OWN DOCTOR every time I come to the office. I’m happy to get off the assembly-line.
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