I Obviously Didn’t Learn Enough in My “Teaching Multiculturism” Class

22 05 2012

I love our town.  It’s a safe town.  It’s a place where, when there is a rash of car stereo thefts, the local news station reminds citizens that the number one way to prevent such crimes is to LOCK YOUR CAR.  And yet, for the most part, people don’t have to lock the doors on their cars or their houses.  And it’s okay to walk alone downtown after dark.

But I have had a nagging fear for my child – since before she was conceived – and it really comes from where we live.

Because our little town is noticeably… white.

I grew up in an ethnically and racially diverse city.  I regularly heard Spanish and Vietnamese at school and on the street.  My mom worked for a research hospital and university that drew fellows from around the world, so I was able to meet people from India, Ghana, Spain, and just about everywhere else; people who came to our home on holidays and borrowed my parents’ car.

Moving to the Pacific Northwest, I was aware that it was less diverse than the Bay Area, but since most people here are the same color as I am, I didn’t have to grapple with the fact on a daily basis.

But when I contemplated having children, I had concerns, especially when I moved from a large city to a smaller town.  And now I have a beautiful daughter.  And I still have those same concerns.

On our recent trip to Baltimore, I witnessed my daughter surrounded by people of all colors and backgrounds.  And I saw the beauty of her acceptance of them all as people.  The woman from the Caribbean on the plane who offered to hold her while I used the restroom.  The woman from Taiwan on the plane who made faces at her to make her smile.  The doctor and nurse at the clinic, both black, who treated her so gently.  The Tunisian toddler at the wedding who kissed her.  She loved them all.

And it made me wonder.

If we took this same trip a year from now, or five years from now, would she see these people the same way?  Or would she see them as different.  And if different, would she see them as strange, or frightening?

Nobody really likes to talk about race.  Well, I don’t, anyway.  I’m not entirely comfortable writing this post and I’m definitely not comfortable labeling people by their ethnicity or the color of their skin.  But.  I need to know how to teach my daughter about diversity and multiculturism in a place where she won’t necessarily have relationships with many people who look or speak differently than she does.

I want my daughter to see the world the way she was able to see it as at 8 months old: full of people, people who look and talk in all sorts of different ways… but only want to make her smile.




One response

23 05 2012
Ashley Austrew

I have no idea how to remedy the problem, but I loved this post. I live in majority white suburbia and wonder about the same thing. I also worry about my own prejudices and how to shield her from having the same ones.

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