Today I’ve got a guest post from Jen Marshall Duncan, another white mom with biracial children. She’s a teacher in Iowa. Her blog, Empatheia, is one of my regular reads because she is insightful, articulate and intelligent, a real gem in the blogger world.
I came across this “I Don’t See Race” poster on Pinterest and it really struck a chord with me. I live in a university town that has been deemed “a hotbed of liberalism.” The town has a rich and storied history of leftist leanings: protests against wars/conflicts, marches for women’s rights, and lots of pride in our home grown son Zach Wahls who is touring the nation to talk about being raised by two moms. Yet for all of these leftist leanings, there is one area where my community of is still lagging behind instead of progressively forging ahead–that area involves the issue of RACE. Many people say things like “I don’t see race,” or “It doesn’t matter what color someone’s skin is; everyone’s the same.” That is the motto until something happens that makes our community uncomfortable….like changing demographics.
For the past 4-5 years, our community has become more diverse. Our schools overall are now just about 30% non-white, but due to city planning/zoning issues, almost all kids of color were enrolling in the same 2 elementary schools. Our hotbed of liberalism knows that diversity is good! Diversity is beneficial! Everyone learns to be a global citizen in a diverse environment! But until 5 years ago, that diversity used to stem from visiting professors’ families. Now it stems from struggling families who move from Chicago to make a better life for their children.
Just like in the rest of the country, these days high minority enrollment is found in the same schools as high poverty enrollment. Studies show that in U.S. schools, skin color and poverty correlate.
Kids in poverty don’t always have easy lives. Sometimes they are a little behind their peers in learning because it’s hard to learn when you worry about meals, clothing, having shelter, etc. Having so many of the kids who need extra help be the same kids who are of color is problematic enough, but then having so many of those kids also be in the same school building is really problematic. It seems like our community is trying to push them out.
The school district wanted to spread the diversity around, and many parents complained saying, “Well, we’d have to bus those kids. They would move farther away from their homes. It would be hard for those parents to participate in school activities if they don’t have transportation. Let’s just help them by letting them stay where they are.”
Hotbed of liberalism. People who don’t see race. It doesn’t matter what color a person’s skin is.
But it really does matter. Because if it didn’t, the pronouns wouldn’t be there. Phrases like “Our children, our community our district and what is best for all of us” would replace the “those kids, those parents, them… they…”
The Pinterest poster above drew an immediate response from someone who admits she is privileged, but she worked her ass off to get what she’s got. She then asked, “am I a racist?” and answered herself, “I don’t think so.” Soon after she wrote, “what IS it THEY want? Just for me to give more and more until I have nothing? Enough already, be an AMERICAN AND WORK FOR IT” (those are her capitalizations, not mine.)
A simple little pronoun. A small word with huge connotations.
THEY are not truly American. THEY have different needs than US so maybe THEY should stay in their own neighborhood school.
All of this from people who don’t see race. Don’t see skin color. Don’t treat people differently based on race. Leftist-leaning progressives who will give up an evening to march in protest against a war on the other side of the globe…but won’t open their eyes to really see the people in their own city.
To all of the people who “Don’t see race”: You may be a good person. But make yourself better. Open your eyes and see people as who they are. We all have names. We all have characteristics that make us unique. There is no “THEM”. There are only individuals of all shapes, sizes, colors, heritages and backgrounds. And WE are all doing what we can to thrive and survive, day by day. See us. All of us.
Jen Marshall Duncan lives in Iowa and blogs at empatheia, where she writes about her experiences in a mixed race marriage, raising 3 biracial children, and her experiences as a teacher of kids who don’t fit into traditional high school settings.