I am reluctantly writing this post because it will be my second on diversity in the same number of weeks, and I have no interest in being pigeonholed as "that Black woman who writes about diversity in schools" rather than "that woman who helps parents find the best fit schools for their kids, wherever those schools may be."
In what seemed like the wee hours of the morning, a friend sent me "Why White Parents Won't Choose Black Schools," a Huffington Post article with the message "This appears to be in your wheelhouse. I'd love to discuss it with you (or for you to write a blog about it if you have time). Interesting thoughts and I don't know if it happens in Houston, but it still seems relevant." In my head I responded, "Nope–not going to do it. I wrote about diversity last week, and I'm not going to dig my own hole. Pass," and I closed the FB Messenger app without even reading the article.
Then I saw there was a new post in another one of my FB groups: this one is comprised of Houston Area educators of various races who have a unanimous interest and dedication to continuing the conversation (about race and race relations) in an effort to better our city, country and world. It was the same damn article.
Fine. I read it. As soon as I got to the end, I opened my blog without hesitation, and here's why:
I have an unfiltered interest and dedication to better our city, country and our world by helping parents make informed decisions about their children's education. And how could I dare encourage families to push past their fears to think differently about how choosing a school can honor who their children are if I am not willing to push past my own fears?
So here's my takeaway: the world is full of all types of people, and if we keep our kids in places where they only see people who look like them, all they will know and value in the world is what they saw in their formative years.
In my first year of teaching, I was a Teach For America corps member at an under-resourced all Black school here in Houston. Many of my students had never been in a class with a white person, let alone have had a conversation with one. So all they knew about white people, they learned from television or conversations they overheard, leaving them to define for themselves in their little kid minds, who or what non-Black people were like. This very thing limited their ability to relate and understand the world. There was always an 'us' and 'them' mentality–not an 'us' versus 'them', but rather a lack of familiarity that caused separation. As a Black person who went to extremely diverse schools in Lovett Elementary and Lanier Middle as well as the less diverse Kinkaid, I knew that there was so much my kids were not experiencing, so much education that my kids were missing out on by not having diversity among them.
My kids in that all Black school suffered because of their lack of exposure, and kids in all White schools suffer as well. School isn't just about academic growth, it's also the place where kids learn how to exist in the world, how to relate to each other, how to engage with each other through their similarities and their differences. And when our kids are surrounded by people who look like them, live like them, and talk like them, they never have the opportunity communicate with and more importantly see value in people who don't fit into the world they know. In the same way that the kids in my school saw non-Blacks as 'them', students in all White schools see others as 'them'.
I don't know about you, but I'm all for there being one 'us'. Think about it.
And if you need one more reason to consider a diverse learning environment for your child, read this letter by a woman on her experiences during elementary school with a best friend who was not her race.