I live in what I affectionately call “the boonies.” We live about 45 minutes outside of Baltimore City. It’s a nice neighborhood. The prices of homes are very reasonable when compared to other counties in Maryland. The neighborhood is incredibly safe. The public school system is great. And, from my experience, the people in town are pretty nice. There is just one thing. There are not many brown folks around.
Now, I am not uncomfortable around white people. Not by any stretch of the imagination. To be quite frank, I really don’t care about skin color when it comes to establishing friendships. A good person is a good person, and a jerk is just a jerk – no matter what color their skin is. But, I do wonder about my kids sometimes. I wonder, as they get older, what it will be like for them to attend schools where very few kids look like them.
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York and my husband is from Queens, so we spent our childhoods around kids that looked just like us. Looking back, I know that being around other black kids made a difference in my self-esteem. I never worried about my skin tone or my hair. Most of my thoughts about white kids were actually connected to socioeconomic status. Based on what I saw on television, I thought all white kids lived in houses and wondered why we were stuck in an apartment building (oh, the mind of a kid).
But, when my kids go to school, things will be different for them. I wonder how my son will deal with the challenges that come with being one of few (if not the only) black kid in his classes. I pray that my daughter will grow to love her natural hair and never desire hair that is longer, straighter, or softer than her own. I hope that my kids can befriend children of other races, standing strong in the belief that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them because they have brown skin.
When children are young they don’t see color. I am watching it play out now with my 3-year-old son. For him, race is not an issue. He just loves to play with his friends. But I know that one day race will become an issue, and unfortunately it’s something that society will impose on him and his sister. And even if we decide to send them to a private school that is a bit more diverse, the reality is that the school will still be predominately white. How will we teach them to manage it all?
I hope that my husband and I are granted the wisdom we need to simply raise children who are kind and respectful. We don’t want them to be colorblind. Rather, we want them to be very aware of who they are, the history of their people, and the beauty of living in a world where everyone is different – just the way God intended. We want our kids to know that they should never make apologies to anyone for who they are. Embrace yourself, hold your head high, and never forget that what makes you different also makes you who you are – and there is no better way to be. That is what I want my kids to know.
BMWK Family, what are your concerns about raising proud black children in the face of a lack of diversity?
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