Friday, January 18, 2008

Token

Olie's school-wide MLK program was today. The kids were so cute, the parents were duly attentive, and the songs were inspirational, but the whole program was a little weird because, seriously, 317 white kids singing about their experiences with slavery comes off hollow. Several times, Madhubby leaned over to me and whispered they should have imported some kids. I agreed.

My child is the blackest child at her school even though she is bi-racial. I can say this with absolute certainty because the school is very small and my face is the only black one there. Naturally, everyone knows us. There are two other bi-racial children, one is Olie's little playmate, Mia, the other is Mia's older brother, Jaden. Their mother doesn't even look black and, I suspect, has "passed" for most of her life. But still, she sought us out for both camaraderie and, as she so bluntly put it, she wants her child to have friends who look like her, which in our school district, is difficult to find.

Of course the idea that a school would host a program with kids from other schools is absurd, but the distinctive lack of diversity at Olie's school tainted the program for me and made me yearn for a more ethnically diverse student body. I think the kids genuinely enjoyed performing in the program and didn't give their roles a second thought, but I know the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who played Martin Luther King, Jr. will never experience racism the way blacks in 1964 and 2008 have experienced it.

Both my grandmother and my mother lived in the segregated south and both experienced racism that I can only imagine, but which still persists in modern day Alabama. They were called nigger and my mother vividly remembers blacks had to use the rear entrance to a local theater; a practice to shameful to her that my mother never attended movies as a child. My grandmother, my mother and her five siblings marched with Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery. They heard him speak. They experienced a time in history that is indescribable to the younger generation. When we head south this summer, we will revisit history.

For now, I am waiting for the day when Olie asks me: where the all the other brown children? Lizzie didn't start to feel out of place in her school until third grade and I had no answers for then, and it's unlikely I will have discovered a better one in the next two years.

1 comment:

Proto Attorney said...

I think the lack of diversity is just as unfortunate for all of the white children. How can you possibly teach children about all the wonderful cultures, backgrounds and experiences of others, when everyone there is exactly the same?