Diversity es Mas Importante Por la Gente

Today on Momversation, Asha, Karen and I are talking about diversity in schools which originally got me thinking about my upbringing, schooling and the like. I grew up in a predominantly white middle-class suburb where we had one African American dude at our school. (Hi, Nathan!) I never really thought about diversity. Race never factored in to my existence as a child. 

Maybe because I was a white blonde who dated white blondes and hung out with, for the most part, white blondes. Not that hard when 99% of people in your town are white blondes. Not that I would change a thing about my upbringing, nor the friends I grew up with, but I'll be honest. My youth was kind of lacking in the culturally diverse department.

I'm the blonde in the "casually" folded-up white t-shirt and denim skirt.

All I wanted to do upon graduating was move to a city and/or travel abroad. I got to do both. I moved to L.A. at eighteen and spent four summers roaming around the world, B-52s style. 

I digress...We are not raising our kids in the burbs. Even if we wanted Archer and Fable to lead Whitey Whiterson existences it would be impossible... and we love that. It's one of the great perks of living in such a diverse metropolitan city.

Los Angeles may be weird but raising kids here is exciting. Sure, there's always the risk that Archer and Fable will ask for agents for their 13th birthdays but at least (we hope) they'll ask nicely and in a language other than English. 




Coincidentally (and I realize I just digressed again) I read the following Yo Yo Ma quote on the back of my Starbucks soy latte, today: 

"...There is so much to learn from each other and about each other's culture. Great creativity begins with tolerance."


Amen, Yo Yo. Amen. 

GGC

In other news... Based on my experience with Fable these last five-months, these are my top five must-haves for new moms or soon-to-be mamas. Please feel free to add your favorite must-have items to the list as well! Also, I just realized that my friend Meredith, pictured (above) circa 9th grade, also makes a cameo in this post. Fun!

38 comments:

minihipster.com | 3:13 AM

Loving the matching 90s outfits!!

www.minihipster.com

Fairly Odd Mother | 4:45 AM

A couple of months ago, my daughter asked why she didn't have any black friends. Oy, such is life in our suburb. I don't want to run up to every poor unsuspecting child we see and say, "Hey, will you be my daughter's friend?", but it did make me think more about what she sees around her. And, I give her props for noticing the lack of diversity at 8.

writebrite | 5:21 AM

"People need to see that, far from being an obstacle, the world's diversity of languages, religions and traditions is a great treasure, affording us precious opportunities to recognize ourselves in others." --Youssou N'Dour (from my Starbucks cup)

And on a side note, lately the boy has insisted on calling a girl in his class "the black girl," and no amount of explaination on diversity, culture, or just how wrong that is has made a dent in his behaviour.

Vodka Mom | 6:04 AM

That reminds me, I'm off to Starbucks.

Mme Paulita | 6:09 AM

First off...thanks for the pics!

Second...my kids are 11 and 9. The solution my husband and I had was to sign them up for the most inexpensive after care there was by their school...the kids see all walks of life there and it helps shape them for tolerance

Stimey | 6:24 AM

I grew up in Utah. 'Nuff said about diversity or lack thereof, I think. (And no, I'm not Mormon. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

One thing I love about living in the DC Metro area (although I am in suburban MD) is that my kids go to a diverse public school. It is diverse in terms of race, class, and disability. I think being exposed to many different kinds of people at a young age is a big deal.

Erin | 6:37 AM

I grew up in L.A. and I had a fantastic diversity in school. Years later, when I was living in a mostly white suburb of Chicago (that did, however, have a sizable Indian population), I didn't realize how diverse my upbringing was until I found an old yearbook. It is so so so important for kids to be part of a diverse community. It's the only way to have a hope of true appreciation for other cultures--untainted by fear or prejudice--in adulthood.

Marie-Ève | 6:42 AM

It seems like the kind of SoCal upbringing that I previously thought only existed in movies (where you grow up by the beach and everyone is blond and tall and sexy)... You look so different now, you were really cute whereas now you're simply stunning.

I watched it yesterday and it made me more aware of diversity and its importance... Let's say our Montreal suburb is very homogeneous. I'll definitely work harder at teaching my son about the wonderfulness that is the world and all the different cultures it contains.

Katy | 7:22 AM

You know, I am all for traveling with your kids and it is important, blah blah blah blah.... Must be nice to make some killer money blogging, because I am thinking about how we are going to keep a roof over our head, so the three days a week we have his kids, they don't get rained on.

I understand the importance of diversity and talking about it. However, the race relations in the United States and our history of Government sanctioned oppression, profiling and more are not going to be cured because you send your kid to a Montessori school and take them to Mexico once a year.

I usually like Momversation, but I found that one a tad condescending and rather pontificating..... Sorry, ladies.

Lalapoo | 8:08 AM

True that Katy.. I live in the city of Montreal right now and my family and I have plans to move to the suburbs.. I must say that Montreal is very diverse but mostly everyone sticks to their kind.. I have to say that I am scared shitless of moving to the suburbs because I am not white and I do not fit in very easily into the whole suburban atmosphere.. It's great to expose our kids to different culture by traveling and the diversity of their school but it all comes down to home.. how many different families (culturally and socially different) do we hang out with? that would be the bottom line I would think

Jenny.Lee | 8:23 AM

Great momversation and what a perfect quote to find on your latte!

Jeni Angel | 8:43 AM

WOW, Rebecca! You look completely different! Not that that is bad (I hope it doesn't sound like I'm saying that). I am just surprised.

I think the brown hair and bangs suits you.

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com | 9:12 AM

Awesome photo =)

I've not watched the momversation yet, but I agree with you that a real benefit of the way schools here are set up these days is the diversity. When I went to school, I was lucky in that my white middle-class neighborhood was sandwiched between neighborhoods that were primarily Latino and Asian, so I grew up with plenty of diversity. In fact, with the exception of the year my family lived in Arizona, being white meant I was never the majority in my academic years.

However, I have found recently that diversity has its drawbacks. No matter how diverse an environment, no matter how open your mind, there are situations for which you will never be prepared. Like the number of (insert culture) women who have literally groped my breasts the last couple months to tell me whether or not I'm going to produce enough milk for my baby. Seriously. GROPED. Clutched, rubbed, pulled, pushed, poked, weighed, groped. It's unbelievable. Or the time in high school my friend invited me over for dinner and put a fish head - complete with brain matter and open eyes - into my soup bowl because I was the guest of honor.

In cases like that, I think "yeah, diversity's great and all, but shouldn't there be some compromise between all cultures around here that allows me to go about my day without my boobs being groped and my soup having fish heads? Please?"

Then again, if I hadn't had experiences like that, I suppose I'd have been alot less open to them when they did happen.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 9:21 AM

Hm, Katy. I can actually see how the Momvo could have come off that way. HOWEVER! You did just prove another point I had/have re: class. The real divide seems to be between those who are financially able and those who are not so much. We're on the not-so-much spectrum right now but there is nothing wrong with those who can.

We never traveled internationally as a family when I was growing up and Hal and I have no clue whether we'll be able to travel with our kids out of country. We're still trying to save for a Honeymoon. Uh... yeah.

BUT! As a white girl who grew up in a white world and didn't travel internationally, I was always a one-love, diversity is key girl. Probably because my parents/family were/are. I think no matter how much you travel, where you live, it has to do (mostly!) with education at home. Spreading the love.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 9:26 AM

*who didn't travel internationally as a kid, I mean. I traveled the fuck out of some shit later on.

bitemycookie | 9:27 AM

eyes.
bleeding.

thank you for this blessed tuesday morning gift. better than a phone call. truly. don't even call me today. i won't be able to find the phone my eyes will still be bleeding.

Amanda | 9:58 AM

Hehe, this post I found hilarious, because, for me, growing up it was the exact opposite.

I live in Tucson, AZ and for the most part from elementary school through high school, white middle class children and teens were the minority. My father is full on Mexican and my mother grew up in the 'burbs of Scottsdale, AZ. Her days were spent roller-blading, tanning, horse-back riding and hanging out at clubs with Rob Halford (from Judas Priest). My father grew up working and shuffling back and forth from Mexico.

They settled down in Tucson, the middle ground, where they raised us kids.

Despite my love hate relationship with Tucson (the heat is mostly what gets me), I always tell people to drop by and visit it. We have very diverse downtown (old school punk record shops, mexican restaurants, gay clubs, lounges, art galleries) and people,generally, are pretty laid back. I'm happy to raise my son here. A place where he can have his flan and eat it too! It's certainly not an L.A., though!

Melissa | 10:10 AM

One of the things I love about my current neighborhood (in the burbs) is that there's a little bit of everything.

I grew up in the Bronx. My neighborhood started off diverse, ended up not so much. My schools were diverse, but in NYC in the 70s and 80s the blacks and whites didn't mix much. Luckily, I have built-in diversity, being the child of a Jewish mom and black dad.

Melissa | 10:12 AM

Oh, and I think you mean MUY importante. If my high school/college Spanish serves me right, right now you've said "Diversity is more important for people."

HeatherK | 10:44 AM

Although the idea of race segregation by neighborhood was touched on slightly, I was really surprised at how no one brought up the idea of race as related to class. I don't have kids yet, but as they start creeping into my 5 year plan I find myself thinking about things like what school district do i want to buy a house in. Where I live, the "good" schools are in the all white upper class districts. The more racially diverse neighborhoods have lower performing schools. Do I live in a diverse neighborhood and then school of choice into the better district? Do I sacrifice test scores for diversity, something that can't be taught and must be experienced?

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 10:53 AM

That's a tricky one, Heather, and I agree with you that class (or race related to class) is more of an issue than race, ethnicity ... Personally, I'd rather my kids go to the best possible schools but it's easy for me to say that knowing that no matter where they go, they will have pretty diverse classrooms.

Val Nebbia - singer/songwriter | 2:05 PM

My husband and I are expecting our first baby in October and we live in a predominantly low income ethnically diverse neighborhood in Baltimore. When buying our house we thought about what kind of a place we wanted to raise our children. We received a lot of hesitation about what "area" we were going to pick. "You have to think of our children". To that I simply repsond, "I AM thinking of my children". I don't want them to have a life experience that is limited by my own comfort levels. I want them to experience everything - we're surrounded by good things. And I don't see what's so bad about public school and a neighborhood of decent home-owning human beings who happen to have a different skin color than I.

On another note. It must be a blast raising your kids in LA.

Sarah...enc! | 5:28 PM

The picture of you and Meredith is hilarious! I have many of those "modeling" pictures of Nicole Johnson and I!! It's so true how we grew up in an area with not much diversity. Before I met my husband who is half filipino I didn't even know what filipino was!! lol!

jjlibra | 5:32 PM

ooh tough topic for me. i'm irish and puerto rican, born and raised in ny then moved around the country. first husband was black and white. current one is italian and czech.my kids are all of the above yet i have to say that all of the talk about race relations always leans toward whites needing to learn to love others. no one talks about how the white girl who goes to a mostly black school gets reminded several times a day that she is indeed a white girl. white bread. vanilla ice. if she can dance then it's surprising and she must have black in her!! where'd she get that rhythm?! now my kids are experiencing the same thing and it's getting harder and harder for me to tell them to love everyone when everyone is not loving them.

khairun | 5:38 PM

This is a topic that I can absolutely relate to. I was born in England and my parents are Bangladeshi. I moved to Portugal with my husband who is Portuguese,4 years ago and have lived in a neighbourhood lacking in cultural diversity but making up for it in that it's a very safe, clean and quiet neighbourhood. Well, to be honest, I'm not sure if it does make up for it anymore and with a baby due in September I want to bring up our child in a way that embraces not only the unique differences in people around her but as a bi-racial child, in herself too. This is not just an educational issue for me, it's a personal one, frought with its fair share of ups and downs. I was brought up in a strict muslim family in a very diverse yet poor neighbourhood. My husband on the other hand, grew up in a Catholic, yet liberal family in a wealthy predominantly white neighbourhood. He went to a private school and I went public. I strongly associated wealth with white, and poor with brown, liberalism with white, and traditional overbearing values with brown. Despite these early connections I had made, I wouldnt want to change any of it. Because however much I may have compared, it is all part of feeling like you want to belong. I envied the white girls MyLittle Pony sneakers and matching lunchbox, and I hated it when my mum put too much coconut oil in my hair. But I took comfort in the feeling of belonging to a community. That is what I want our child to feel. That whenever she feels sad, she knows she not only has her mum and dad to go to, she can also go to others who she feels connected to. Her community.

Kate | 7:10 PM

I am 2nd grade teacher in the same town as I grew up in. I went to an alternative school when I was growing up, so I had quite a bit of diversity considering the rest of the town was mostly affluent and white. It is projected for the first time next year the minority will become the majority in the school I teach in. I love to teach this diverse (not to mention SES diversity)group of kids. It is amazing to see the capabilities of these students and dream where they'll be and what they'll be doing in 20 years. It was when Obama took the oath of office I realized what a privilege it is to be a footnote in my kid's life on their way to their greatness. You can read about it here:
http://www.recommendeddailydose.com/?p=263

Deidre | 9:06 PM

I grew up in northern new england - very white. My mom told me later how impressed and pleased she was that as i grew up i remained "colour" blind in terms of race. People were people and my parents worked hard to teach us that we should want to get to know all of them and respect them all.

But in a lot of ways it would've been nice to have a more diverse community; when Obama was elected I was so happy about the change in administration and the change he'll bring to America, but it never even really occurred to me that it would be a momentous day in our history because he was black - is that a sign of ignorance? or a sign of tolerance? or a sign of a lack of education?

melissa | 10:52 PM

ok, this is a little off topic (and may be rude to ask), but do you dye your hair? the darker color looks so natural on you I would have never guessed that you used to be blonde. if you do dye it, what brand do you use or is it professional?

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 11:03 PM

Nope. My hair went brown in my early twenties so this is my natural color. Haven't colored my hair in over four years.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 11:04 PM

And not rude to ask at all! xo

Molly | 8:48 AM

We moved to the D.C. area when we got married because we were both raised in predominantly middle-to-upper-middle class white bread land of the midwest (also, we could both get a job here) and we really wanted to immerse our kids in diversity.

Max is the only white kid in his preschool. It's pretty great. I love that we're different here. We live in a community that is full of diversity and we're richer for it, and we've been welcomed and embraced here, much more so than we ever were in Michigan, in neighborhoods where everyone looked like us.

We just want Max and The New Girl to understand that different is good--different makes us richer and smarter and more understanding and less alone in the world.

vivian | 11:27 AM

this isn't a response to you GGC...but some of the comments about people loving the fact that their kid is the only white kid in class or another who enrolled their child in a "low income" daycare to get a cultural experience. omg! this talk drives me crazy...im born and raised in Harlem and it's annoying when people use the neighborhood to build character...yeah, if you like the neighborhood then great. or, if you can only afford that fine...but please don't so condescendingly use these schools and daycares as "instructional" tools...

Gaby | 8:36 PM

This is so timely--my husband and I are closing on our first home tomorrow, and I just heard from a coworker today that the town we're moving to boomed thanks in part to "white flight." I honestly had not realized that this was the case in this town, and I started to worry a bit about my future, as-of-now hypothetical children.

I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and attended three high schools (family moved a lot) that were racially, socioeconomically, and physically diverse. As an example: I didn't realize that it wasn't typical to have an ASL interpreter in every class until I switched schools! I just assumed that that was the case at all schools, just as I assumed that most schools had early dismissal to allow students who needed the extra time to navigate the hallways in their wheelchairs/using their braces/guided by their service dogs.

I expressed my concerns to my husband, who grew up in a completely different environment--small, rural, primarily white school. He became a bit defensive, stating, "Well, I turned out ok!"

I realize (and assured him) that so much depends on the attitudes of the parents, but I can't quite shake the idea that the environment in which a child attends school, the place in which they spend the majority of their time, plays an enormous role in shaping their personality. Hmm...much to think about. Thanks for the video!

pamela | 8:57 PM

hm. this topic is really interesting to me, for a few reasons. i like you grew up in whiteywhiteville, but also had the onelove mentality. i then went on to become a high school teacher and i have taught at highly diverse inner city public schools, where even though it was "diverse" the kids totally segregated themselves. it was an amazing social experiment to watch and be a part of in a way... but it was also sad to see in the 21st century all black tables, all white tables, all latino, all asian... diverse but self segregated. and there was a lot of fighting between races. Now, i teach at a predominately white catholic school and it's equally scary. i'm a geography teacher with a huge emphasis on cultural geography... when i show my students videos from around the world or current events going on, it's amazing to see their shock. totally unaware of this "other world" around them.
having said all that, i am now faced with the decision for school for my daughter. i have experienced them all and i agree with you rebecca, no matter where she ends up, it starts with us and what we bring to the table for her.

pamela | 8:59 PM

ps i realize i just posted a comment with horrible grammar and punctuation and assure those of you that are worried I DO NOT teach with this colloquial style! ;)

Anonymous | 11:15 PM

while i appreciate these types of conversations, and think more people should have them more often, i really really really don't like the word "tolerance."
(some other commentors mention it, and was part of the yo yo ma quote.) To tolerate is to endure, not to accept. it is defined as "sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own b: the act of allowing something" what would be better than tolerance, I think, is acceptance- "to willingly receive". not one culture is better than another. not one race is supreme. none of us really has the right to "allow" another culture or race to share our space. what we should all do is accept one another, and just be.

Jo | 11:26 PM

Diversity is great, but just a quick note...Just because a place (for instance, school) isn't full of white kids doesn't make it diverse. 80% black or mexican or chinese or whatever, is still 80 of JUST ONE THING. That's not the definition of diversity.

(Not directing this at anything you've said, just a couple of the comments:) )

kittenpie | 6:32 PM

I grew up in the city, in a neighbourhood heavy with Greek and Chinese working class folk, and I love the connection that I have to those cultures as a result. I think it makes it easier to see other people as much like you, just with a few different wrinkles, when you grow up with their children, sharing skipping ropes and school projects.