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I’m A Benign Racist, But I Don’t Want My Kids To Be

We’re going to send our daughters to the public middle school.

Don’t hold me to it. In a fit of helicoptering white-flight panic we might drive 5 miles away to the Pacific Palisades and send them to that middle school instead, where the kids are mostly white.

If you ask parents from our mostly white charter elementary school why they don’t want to go to the local LAUSD middle school, they’ll say it’s because the classes are over-crowded, which they are.

They’ll say the library and computer rooms are outdated, which they are.

They’ll say there isn’t a patch of grass on the campus, which there isn’t.

But there’s also this: our middle school is 50%black, 25%Hispanic, 20%white and 5% other.

Aside from the 5% other, our white kids will be the minorities on campus. No one will admit that’s a concern. So here I go putting my head on the chopping block.

I’m concerned the kids from black and Hispanic homes might bully our girls because they’re white.

I worry they’ll dislike our girls because they may be more privileged.

I’m afraid the children from lower income households might come from broken, drug-riddled or violent homes (because, of course, that never happens in affluent homes).

I’m also a white woman who had no black friends in school (there were only five black kids in our entire high school) and my two Hispanic friends were considered Oreos.

I’m a benign racist because people who don’t look like me make me nervous.

I’m ignorant because I haven’t had enough interaction with people who don’t look like me.

I’m frightened because most of the things I know about people who don’t look like me I learned from TV and the Internet, and a large percentage of people of color who are represented on those platforms are criminals or portraying criminals. Still.

In 2000 I went to South Africa for a film-writing job.

I was nervous to go because the only headlines coming out of South Africa at that time were the AIDS epidemic and the rapes of young black girls in the townships.

The prevailing wisdom was that men who were infected with HIV/AIDS were raping virgins because they thought this would cure the disease.

I imagined rampaging crime, a shell-shocked city.

I ended up in a 5-star hotel, the finest restaurants Cape Town had to offer.

I was ferried to and from the movie set by drivers, it was a pretty glamorous gig.

But after my “colored” driver  (who confessed he’d carried Molotov cocktails under the very seat I was sitting on during Apartheid) explained to me the ongoing economic Apartheid for coloreds and blacks, I decided to take a township tour.

The townships are where blacks, displaced from the former homes during Apartheid, live in corrugated tin huts with no indoor plumbing.

I took the tour with one of the white German producers.

For an entire day, his was the only white face I saw. It was an uncomfortable feeling and I had low grade nerves throughout the tour. But I was humbled at every turn.

I purchased herbs in the local witch doctor’s hut but had brought bills that were too big for him to change.

His young assistant said he’d go get me change. When he hadn’t come back in twenty minutes I told the witch doctor it was alright, he could keep the change, but he insisted we wait.

Sure enough, the boy returned with my change, but he’d had to go to four different shops to get it.

We finished the tour in a Shabeen (a township bar), not only was I one of two white people there, but I was also the only woman.

Fear set in. Was I truly safe here?

The local men stared at us for what seemed like an uncomfortable amount of time until one of them approached me.

He explained they were staring because they couldn’t understand what “a lady like me was doing in a place like this.”

We laughed over the shared reference. Then he offered to buy me a cold beer, which I accepted. When we were leaving this same generous gentleman thanked me for caring enough to come and visit them.

Fears are debunked by exposure to the things we fear.

Like pulling away the curtain to reveal the frantic old man yanking on levers to create the Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz.

We plan to send our daughters to our local public middle school. I hope my girls will be safe.

I hope it will be the right decision for them. I want to support public education, but more to the point I want my kids to have a broader worldview than I had growing up.

I want them to feel confident and comfortable with good people of every culture, race and creed.

In short, I want them to be better than me.



65 comments

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  1. Renee
    Renee 6 June, 2012, 10:40

    I saw your link on facebook and was curious. I’m glad I decided to check it out. First, I applaud you for recognizing that you are a “benign racist” so many people are and just don’t acknowledge it. Are your fears valid? I honestly doubt it, it is more likely that your child will be bullied by peers that look like her – not those of other races. You may ask, what do I know? Well, with the exception of college, I was ALWAYS the minority. There were a few others but because of my “advanced intellect” I rarely was in classes with them and the bulling that I experienced came from the kids who looked like me and teased me for being nerdy, wearing a skirt and rarely having designer clothing.

    When we did exercises designed to identify and eliminate racial stereotypes I was confused – none of my white friends sterotyped me because I was in advanced classes, always winning elections (Student Govt pres in both middle and highschool) and generally well liked. But I soon realized I needed to learn more about me.

    So, I attended an Historically Black College. You may wonder how this is different than you shipping your child to a school where she’d be the majority but there is a vast difference. I was slowly losing my identity as a black person, I learned nothing of my history and being the “only” was getting old. At my college I was nurtured, learned classics and women’s study, black history, African history as part of my general curriculum. With that foundation I found myself ready to “rule the world” and many of my Spelman sisters are doing just that.

    I felt empowered by my education. I applaud you for placing your child in an environment that is different, she will learn new and interesting things and hopefully will be less likely to buy in to the stereotypes. I look forward to hearing all about her experiences in the future.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 June, 2012, 10:49

      Hi Renee — thank you so much for sharing your experience. Our babysitter and neighbor is a young bi-racial woman who is about to leave us for a Masters degree (how dare she?). She had the same experience you described and was ostracized by the black community in middle shool. Her family ultimately moved her to a private school that was predominantly white. Only now is she realizing she needs to explore and embrace her black heritage. I think one of the most challenging aspects of parenthood is having to confront weaknesses in my own experience and character. I hope to look back with no regrets.

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  2. Christal
    Christal 6 June, 2012, 10:41

    I absolutely get it. I am half black/white. I grew up with people of all races. My friends were very diverse. Now, I live in a very white community and my children are only 1/4 black and look pretty white. I still want them to know more people of color. I’ve thought about sending them to another area where there is more diversity in the schools. It’s a tough decision.

    Reply this comment
  3. So you think you can mom?
    So you think you can mom? 6 June, 2012, 10:55

    I totally respect your post for being honest and open to change. THAT’S HUGE! I am half Persian & half Irish. I was a minority in the SFV going to an ALL White Middle School because I am a brunette and speak Farsi. I was a minority in Pasadena going to an ALL Black High School. My husband is Black, Native American & Jewish. Our children are basically mutts.

    My husband and I have had this chat so many times. We believe the best thing to do is expose our children to as much diversity as possible. It is necessary to survive in this world. My kids are learning Spanish as well as Farsi because it is necessary in life and benefits their futures.

    If we don’t teach our children about diversity and to appreciate eachother’s differences and value different cultures and be open to new experiences…then what/who are we raising?

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 June, 2012, 11:37

      Yes, yes yes! We have a lot of Persian families in our school. As a much younger woman I was extremely judgmental of anyone from the Middle East due to all the headlines coming from that region and again my lack of exposure. I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to make Persian friends, to laugh with them about all the things that I laugh with my white friends about (marriage, kids, sex, perimenopause). We may have different histories and experiences, but scratch the surface and we’re more alike than not.

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  4. Selfish Mom
    Selfish Mom 6 June, 2012, 11:17

    I totally get it. We’re making the middle school decision for our son right now in Brooklyn and race totally plays a part in it. For the past seven years he’s been one of the few white kids in his grade. If we’d moved into a mostly black neighborhood I wouldn’t have any right to complain, but the frustrating thing is that the local public schools simply don’t reflect the racial make-up of our neighborhood. The white parents are sending their kids to other neighborhoods. It’s incredibly frustrating. I want to be part of our community, but I do have a problem with my son being that far in the minority.

    Where I went to school (Buffalo in the 70s and 80s) it was legally mandated that schools (can’t remember if it was all public schools or just magnet schools) couldn’t have more than 65% of any race. That seemed fair. Even though I was always in the minority I was never so far in the minority that I felt out of place.

    All I can say to you is, be brave. If every parent does the easy thing, nothing changes.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 June, 2012, 11:41

      It’s the same in our neighborhood, most of the families move their children to private or religious schools for 6th grade. Our local public middle school doesn’t reflect our neighborhood which is unfortunate because when neighborhood kids go to school together it creates a community/village to help us raise all our kids. I’ve never been a minority except for that brief day in South Africa, it was humbling to realize how difficult that must be.

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  5. Megan
    Megan 6 June, 2012, 11:32

    The unknown is often scary, but it won’t be unknown to your kids because you have the balls to face your own fears. Brava!

    I went to elementary school in the South during the busing era. I had the opportunity to face the unknown, and I feel I am the better for it.

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  6. Stacey
    Stacey 6 June, 2012, 11:47

    In 2007 we moved from a predominantly white area in Oregon (which, to be truthful, describes pretty much the whole state) to the very diverse suburbs of Houston, TX. Before we moved to our city, people warned us not to live on a certain side of town, since we’d be the minority as whites and would likely experience some trouble here. I admit to a Pollyanna-like attitude as I pooh-poohed their seeming prejudice and moved right into the “wrong side of the tracks.” Well, we certainly are the minority here, and we certainly have had trouble – a lot of it. It’s been heartbreaking to see that as many times as I encourage my children to embrace the diversity around them, they are reporting right back to me about the experiences they’re having with those very students. My 5th grade son has been continuously bullied, my jr high and high school girls have been talked to and touched inappropriately on the bus and in the halls during passing time, and in every instance the troubles have been with kids of other ethnicities. I know there are a LOT of complex issues at work in our situation (we also happen to be in a lower income area of town), and that not everything can be boiled down to whether or not we are the minority. But all my kids know is that this kind of stuff didn’t happen to them before, and it does now. I will continue to teach an attitude of acceptance to them, but our experiences have not made my job any easier.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 June, 2012, 11:58

      Hi Stacey — thank you for sharing your story. I’m worried the things that are happening to your kids will happen to mine as well. I don’t know what the solution is for your situation. Bullying is completely unacceptable in any environment and if my kids are frightened for their physical safety I would pull them out of any school. Having said that I was bullied horribly in fourth grade by two white girls. They threatened to kick my ass every day after school. I never told my parents and there were days I dreaded going to school. It wasn’t a great experience for me, but I think it contributed to me being a ninja warrior as an adult. Of course I don’t want my kids to experience what I did so this is a wait and see proposition.

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  7. Nina Foxx
    Nina Foxx 6 June, 2012, 12:01

    How funny that I just blogged on my encounter with a not-so-benign racist and then read yoru post. Race is such a quagmire in this country. I send my kids to the school where I feel each can get the best education for them. Mind you I live in so cal where there is no school in our area that is not predonminately white, public or othrewise, so they end up at a private school that makes my middle school daughter the only in her grade. She is often the brunt of harsh comments (which she has learned to handle like a champ) and racism because her classmates expect her to be socioecomically different (but she isn’t)or because of what they perceive to be HER culture. Their pasts and cultures may have been different, but they present–no so much. My hope for her is the same as yours for your kids–that they are better than we are.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 June, 2012, 12:11

      Hi Nina — we have very few black children in our elementary school and I often wonder what their experience is like with a bunch of white kids. It would be ideal if all schools had an active anti-bullying policy and electives classes about social and cultural respect. I’ve heard there’s an anti-bullying program in our neighborhood middle school and I plan to get involved volunteering there. I always thought raising infants and toddlers was exhausting. Now my daughters are 8 and 10 and they’re so EASY, but I suspect come middle school and high school I’m going to have to pay close attention again. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

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  8. Amelia
    Amelia 6 June, 2012, 13:34

    Thanks for this honest post, Shannon. I especially love this line: “Fears are debunked by exposure to the things we fear.”

    When I see a same-sex couple making out, I feel a little more uncomfortable than I do when I see a male-female couple making out (note: not amped about watching ANYONE make out). But, I do not believe that one is more “right” than another, it’s just that I have less experience seeing the former. I use opportunities like this to remind myself that the more I experience something that is not as culturally “normal” or not part of my daily routine – the more comfortable I’ll eventually feel in the given situation, and the more I’ll be living a life that truly represents my theoretical and political values.

    It’s not easy to admit what you’ve admitted here, and I think you’re doing the right thing by starting a conversation, and by giving your girls the opportunity to make friends of all kinds – since in the end we are not usually prejudice against or uncomfortable around our friends.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 June, 2012, 13:43

      Thanks for your thoughts Amelia. And this isn’t just one conversation I want to have with my girls, but many for as long as they find my opinion interesting. Well, I’m already losing traction there.

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  9. Lucille Renwick
    Lucille Renwick 6 June, 2012, 13:37

    Sweet Shannon. You realize that if you truly want your kids to have a broader world view then you should get yourself and them on a plane and come visit Claire’s “best bud” in Mexico City where you will also be ferried to and fro and experience a part of Mexico that most people in the U.S. don’t know exist because they are too wound up thinking it’s one big drug zone. Love ya honey.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 June, 2012, 13:46

      I love that you miss me, but how did I know this post was going to get me a round trip ticket to Mexico City. I just know I’m going to be kidnapped by Drug Lords who get me to mule cocaine in condoms that I’ve swallowed. Either that or a drug kingpin will fall madly in love with me, give up his evil ways and join a Tibetan monastery. I guess I should take the fall for Mexico.

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  10. Amanda Iris
    Amanda Iris 6 June, 2012, 14:26

    I want to thank you first off for being so thoughtful about the value of your children’s education and so articulate about your fears. I grew up in inner city Atlanta, the area where I lived was predominately white and mostly middle and upper-middle class. My mother felt safe enough to let me walk the several blocks between my house and the house of my friends. We were “let loose” on Friday nights to walk to the movie store down the street. However, the zoning of the school district was arranged so that my neighborhood school was also the neighborhood school of several government housing areas, shelters and predominantly African-American neighborhoods (most of them from a lower economic bracket as well).
    I love where I went to school. I wear my Atlanta Public School Graduate title around as a badge of honor. I may not have gotten the best formal schooling, my classrooms were overcrowded, our technology was not the most up to date and our teachers spent a lot of time on classroom management, but I can walk into any room or down any street and feel comfortable with the people that are there.
    My parents taught me how to hold myself and communicate and be confident and so I have been in board meetings with private school educated business men and felt right at home. My school allowed me to interact, from a very early age, with peers who lived in shelters, whose parents worked 3 jobs, who had very different life plans than I did, and so when I ride the bus or go to the downtown market, or in my experiences traveling abroad, I feel comfortable and at home with all of the people I come across.
    There is a great value in sending your children to the most diverse school possible. There is value in it for them and for you and there is value for the school and the other students there. Having an involved parent makes all the difference and it is not just a difference for your children. If every parent on your street sent their kids to that school, think of what a different place it might be.
    Hold on to the confidence that you are giving them an added value to their education.

    I could go on and on and tell you the stories I have. I am getting ready to celebrate my 10 year high school reunion this weekend and most of the people attending will not look like me and will have very different professions than me and I am excited to see every one of them.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 June, 2012, 15:23

      Julie I love your story. I recently went the the retirement party for my high school Spanish teacher Pablo Robertson, who happened to be an inside out Oreo, white on the outside, brown on the inside. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have learned to speak, write and read fluent Spanish. Learning a second language opened the world up to me in a way I could never imagined. When you can understand what people are saying they become real to you. I worked in a restaurant for 10 years with people who came from Guatemala, Oaxaca, El Salvador and Mexico and was able to converse with them as friends and colleagues. In may way those 10 years were of equal value to my privileged school experience. Thanks for the vote of confidence.

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  11. Alexandra
    Alexandra 6 June, 2012, 15:35

    Very brave post! I totally get it – where I grew up, there were two types of people – black or white. The other ethnic groups sort of fell into the “white” category because there were not especially large groups of Italians, Greeks, Persians, Latino/a, etc. You haven’t lived until you hear a Greek Southern accent. For a person who was born at the turn of the century my maternal grandmother had extremely liberal ideas about race in the Deep South. Even though she was a firm believer in equality, she had the attitude that “birds of a feather flock together”, that one should love everyone but stay closest to the people you most strongly identify with. I liked to mix it up a bit. I was a person who loved to drive to a blues juke joint and hear an old blind man play guitar, and to go to every music festival within 300 miles of my home town. The music always made me brave enough to be one of ten whites in a room of 300 people. When I was grown up enough to move away from home, I lived in a place that had virtually no black people, and I found I missed them so much! I keep trying to figure out how I am going to infuse a little of that black culture that I love and miss so much into our lily white family in Los Angeles while living in Beverly Hills. I guess I’ll have to take him to some Blues Fests when he’s old enough.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 June, 2012, 19:44

      When I went to South Africa I went to my first drum circle. I’d never seen or heard anything like it and realized I was missing out on an essential connection. I think we thirst to be seen and understood. If we could thirst equally to see and understand how rich our lives would be. Thanks for telling me your story Alexandra.

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  12. Debi P
    Debi P 6 June, 2012, 15:38

    We just went through this our first year of middle school. There were some days she wouldn’t even get out of the car because some girls were calling her the rich white kid. Until she found her “tribe.” Not a white tribe. A band tribe. Friends who shared an interest that she shared. It took the better part of the year, some failed attempts at friendship and a lot of patience, but we got there. The key is not WHERE your child is…but WHO she manages to connect with. Once she found a group to insulate her, the “mean” girls just sort of faded away.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 June, 2012, 19:53

      I love this story. Interests know no boundaries. When I was in 5th grade I moved in with my father permanently. I missed my mom terribly and had been “the new kid” in school four years in a row. Then I met Kelly Carrillo who was half Mexican, half white and Vivian Rivera who was from a first generation Mexican family (she was encouraged to assimilate) and they were also having a very difficult year in 5th grade. Our wounds brought us together our love for each other and hearts have kept us together. Now, 38 years later and a lifetime of memories, we still meet for our Hubba Hubba Girls weekend every year in Palm Springs. We are each other’s touchstones.

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  13. ghfool
    ghfool 6 June, 2012, 15:49

    You are a brave person…and not because you’re sending your children to a public school. Well done!

    Reply this comment
  14. Shelby Barone
    Shelby Barone 6 June, 2012, 18:07

    I can’t wait to hear about your children’s experience. Thanks for another great read this afternoon!

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  15. Alicia Booth
    Alicia Booth 6 June, 2012, 18:12

    You have inspired some great discussion. I believe one of the biggest barriers to solving these issues is the fear of facing them and talking about them openly. I agree that the only way to disarm prejudices is to face them directly and learn from each other. Way to start the conversation!

    Reply this comment
  16. Allison B
    Allison B 7 June, 2012, 04:50

    I so enjoy reading your blog! And I really enjoyed this post. I applaud your honesty! We moved from an extremely affluent, extremely white town in NJ to a NY suburb in Westchester county two years ago. I left because the pressures and cliques were just not how I wanted to raise my kids. We moved to a more diverse community. The elementary school where we ended up is pretty diverse and last year parents had the option to move their kids to the other elementary schools after a bad round of state testing got our school on the naughty list! Many parents in my neighborhood, one of the more affluent that attends our school, chose to pull their kids and put them in the other schools under the guise of poor test scores, the school is too far ( it’s 3 minutes farther than the other schools), blah, blah, blah. What they really meant was, “I’m getting my white kids away from all this diversity and low income families.” We kept our son in the school because the teachers are great, he has good friends and I like that he gets a real world view and doesn’t grow up thinking everyone is rich and white. Does our school have a bad reputation in town? Yes. Is it founded in fear and ignorance? Yes. If people came into the school and saw the things that were going on- they might stop spreading untruths. Trust me, after we moved and we got the real story on the school and its performance I was nervous- but it has been a great experience and I would never go back to that town in NJ where the Stepford wives could have lived!

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 7 June, 2012, 07:27

      Allison thanks for sharing your story! The public middle school that I’ve been writing about has the most incredible theater program. Every year we take our elementary school kids there to watch their productions. You sit in the audience and marvel at a stage full of kids from all different backgrounds working their hardest to produce wonderful theater. They even have a class for kids who want to design and make the costumes. My littlest daughter can hardly wait to get there so she can perform in their shows.

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  17. TJ
    TJ 7 June, 2012, 07:07

    I’m so white bread you should call me Wonder. From Ohio, only 4 blacks out of 425 in my graduating class. No other ethnic groups at all. I was taught to respect and appreciate the differences of all people, not a drop of racism, but I certainly was insulated. Over twenty years later and in a different state, not so much is different and I find it appalling that I still have no close girl friends that are not white. My hubby is just the opposite. Grew up in a Jewish community, close to downtown so his best friends are black, Jewish and Thai. They are awesome. I love how he has such a diverse group of friends. Plus, he was the first guy I dated (and there were many) that had gay friends and instantly accepted my gay friends. I find it so attractive that he loves the differences in people and fights to protect them from the idiots in the world. I applaud your choice to send your girls to public school. I hope their experiences benefit them and they grow up to appreciate what you did for them. I wish that opportunity had been available to me at their age.

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  18. V
    V 7 June, 2012, 08:51

    Wow, this was a great post. I, like you, am also ignorant because of lack of exposure. And the only way to fix that is to expose your children to a broader way of life. Good for you!!

    http://2bestfriendschubbyroadtoskinny.blogspot.com/

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 7 June, 2012, 11:13

      I’m in Watts right now on a field trip with my 2nd graders class at The Watts towers. Extraordinary!

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  19. Bren @ Flanboyant Eats™
    Bren @ Flanboyant Eats™ 7 June, 2012, 13:18

    So glad I came across this post! (I know Renee as well, so it’s totally ironic). I also laud you for your courage in sharing your “racism.” I think we all biases to some extent. However, and though I don’t have children, I can understand your concern. I went to a HS where my graduating class had 52 nationalities. You know what that means, right! I saw, tasted, explored, experienced and learned about 51 other nationalities that are not my own. It was(is) a beautiful thing. I grew up around that and hence allows me now to have a tremendously open mind to the world and all it has to offer.

    Having had all that versatility through my late teens left me perplexed when I moved to Atlanata 6.5 years ago and was stared at as I had come from another planet. Black people didn’t know how to ID me and white people assumed I was “Mexican” (another subject altogether). It’s such a black and white city, that I simply didn’t fit in as an Afro-Latina. But, I used it as an opp to talk to others and educate them on race and ethnicities. Some ppl are willing to learn, others are outright defiant and are okay living in oblivion.

    Kudos to you and hopefully your kids won’t know race the way we did growing up!

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 7 June, 2012, 14:00

      Hi Bren — Thanks for reading and commenting. This year my 4th graders been on a ton of field trips having to do with identity, ancestry, immigration and genealogy. Whenever I can I try to drive on these field trips and was fortunate enough to go the the Museum of Tolerance with the school a couple of weeks ago. They’re still too young for the Holocaust Tour there, but we did see the ancestry installation that was incredible. The best part was at the end when we typed in our ancestral roots and were given websites we could go to to map our family tree. I was amazed by the many countries that were represented in our classroom.

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  20. Caryn B
    Caryn B 7 June, 2012, 14:42

    I am Hispanic and I attended private schools where I was the minority my entire life. My goal is to expose my children (who are half Hispanic half Caucasian) to a variety of cultures…I want them to see beyond color to people…Great post Shannon!

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  21. Marta
    Marta 7 June, 2012, 14:48

    I think a lot of people feel that way and I really respect that you were honest about it. It is a subtle racism, its not blatant, but its still there. Festering.I hope the middle school works out for you and the girls.

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  22. Kymberli aka JW Moxie
    Kymberli aka JW Moxie 8 June, 2012, 19:10

    I had an experience similar to Renee’s, I’ve had an incomplete post about it sitting in my drafts for more than a year about it, and one of my goals for this summer is to finally get around to finish it. Putting those experiences into words is tough work, but because my twins are about to start middle school (which is the stage at which I was the center of race-based bullying), I’ve felt a pressing need to get those feelings out and into the world. I know that I’m stressing myself about the start of their middle school experience only because of the lasting after-effects of my own experience.

    Like Renee, at that age, I also found myself being teased and bullied by others of the same race. That 6th grade year, “Oreo” wasn’t just a cookie; it might as well have been my first name. For 7th grade, my mom pulled me out of public school and sent me to a private one. I was the only Black student in grades 6-12, but I was accepted for who I was and my race was never an issue like it was when I was in a predominately Black school.

    I know that the treatment I received in 6th grade was probably more of a regional issue caused by those students’ lack of exposure to other cultures/backgrounds and in no way represents what can be expected from all Black students. Still, I do have some friends who had similar experiences….

    I didn’t go to an HBCU, but I never felt like there was a gap between me, my people, my heritage, my history, or my pride in it. I credit that to having a mom who made a point to surround me in positive examples of my culture.

    I do the same with my kids today. We live in a military town where kids from all backgrounds accept kids from all backgrounds. I’m glad that my kids likely won’t have to experience the type of ignorance that I did.

    I applaud you for being open about your own discomforts and proactively taking steps to broaden your own children’s worldview.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 8 June, 2012, 20:59

      Hi Kymberli — I look forward to reading your post on your experiences. It sounds like it may be bigger than a post, maybe it will grow into a book? I remember seeing Spike Lee’s film School Daze when I was in college and being surprised that there was a heirarchy in the black community based on lightness and darkness of color. As a white person it never occurred to me there could be bullying within a race. Which now seems ridiculous when I realize the two girls who bullied me in elementary school were white. This is such a complex and far reaching subject.

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  23. rae
    rae 29 June, 2012, 07:54

    as a white teacher who has taught in all minority schools in nyc and new orleans/ i have seen countless white parents start their own charter schools and opt for waldorf or other private school/ and i have seen my wonderful fabulous smart loveable brown kids’ faces look at me in confusion as i have taught about brown vs board of education and say/ “wait white kids are allowed to go here? then why don’t they?” / and how can i explain that they are racist and afraid and think that having children can make these white parents put all previously purported values and ethics aside/ thank you thank you for doing the right thing by your community and your kids

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  24. Shannon
    Shannon Author 29 June, 2012, 10:33

    Rae — thanks so much for your comment. You know I didn’t realize this until my eldest daughter’s birthday. We took three of her best friends to the pier for the day and I took a photo of the four of them together and it was beautiful because here were four girls – white, black/Asian, Latina and Persian — who love each other and don’t think twice about the color of each other’s skin. I feel lucky we live in L.A> where this kind of melting pot exists.

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  25. Zee Zee
    Zee Zee 19 August, 2012, 10:38

    Wow. Great post. I wish I had a neighbor like you! 🙂

    Everyone but our family in my (snowflake) neighborhood has ‘opted not’ to send their kids to our local grade school. If you ask them why, they’ll say they want what’s ‘BEST’ for their kids.

    Here’s the punch line: our school’s API scores are only 20 points lower than the ‘Good’ schools across town! Academically, the schools are practically identical. So why the aversion? Because of all the little brown kids at our school. It hurts, because, as a volunteer in the classroom, I know and love all these beautiful little brown kids.

    I know supporting my neighborhood school is the right thing to do. The teachers are excellent. My kids are happy there, and well adjusted. It’s so important that they grow up prejudice free, and as citizens of the world.

    I’ve tried to extol the virtues of our school to my neighbors. I’ve even suggested, in a very pragmatic way, supporting the school will positively affect their property values. I’ts like talking to a brick wall. They are all just… SO. MUCH. BETTER. You can’t argue with prejudice, and you can’t reason with fear, or worse, stupidity.

    It’s hard not to feel contempt. I try to focus on the positive: I always smile and wave “HI” to the neighbors as we walk to school, while they wrestle their kids into SUVS for the frantic dash across town.

    I look forward to reading about your adventures in middle school. I sure could use the inspiration. 🙂 Also, I had to laugh when I saw your AYSO referee picture – my husband just got his U8 referee certification yesterday. He was modeling his ‘bumblebee’ outfit for our kids at the exact same moment I happened to be reading your blog! 🙂

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 19 August, 2012, 12:42

      Hi ZeeZee, I love your story. It’s going to be very awkward when we go to the local middle school because some of my dearest friends aren’t taking their kids there. Education, like religion and politics, are going to be just one of those things we don’t discuss. How cool that you volunteer at school. That’s what the kids need most, a neighborhood rallying to contribute to the education of all the children in the public school and even picking up the slack for kids whose parents simply cannot volunteer. It does take a village.

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  26. Kendall Hoover | Editor
    Kendall Hoover | Editor 25 August, 2012, 06:21

    Hey Shannon, if you get this in time…what would you think about me syndicating this post for Iamnotthebabysitter.com next week while Jamie is gone?

    Kendall

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 25 August, 2012, 17:58

      Sure Kendall — that would be fine, but let me add a couple of links to my site because I’m greedy for traffic. Thanks, Shannon

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  27. Wendy Globerman
    Wendy Globerman 8 September, 2012, 17:57

    My kids go to this school. My first response is, “Bravo!” My second response, sadly enough,is that just about every story I hear of a child coming home with a sad story wether it be from our own elementary school or middle school is right from the mouth of one of their closest friends. When we hear this, they say, that child is not sweet but if it were to come from a student of a different ethnicity then they would call it bullying. Some how having your child bullied by one of their white friends is acceptable. I find it shocking that our adult “friends” from elementary school find comfort in a 50 minute round trip drive to have their child’s feelings hurt by a privileged white person.
    I have two girls in 7th & 8th grade and they love their school. They love their friends. They have no problems what so ever with the abundance of diversity they have embraced. They love hanging on the beautiful grassy quad with their friends at nutrition and lunch. They love their teachers who always welcome them to come in at lunch for extra help or just to chat and eat. They love that their principal knows their names and that he knows mine. We all love the not so crowded classes because most the kids drive out to the Palisades or go to a tiny little charter school which is smaller than their elementary. We all love the amazing International Potluck at Halloween time where so many families of very different ethnicities come together and feast on the many delicacies that we all share from our unique cultures. The thing that I love is that my straight A girls get to learn beside children of all different cultures and help guide them in their learning and be humbled when they themselves are being guided.
    Next year my youngest will come to middle school and we can’t wait to start all over again!
    I hope your girls come to school with us because I think you will laugh at yourself for all the waisted worrying.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 9 September, 2012, 00:09

      Hi Wendy — You are our ambassador. I love your passion, your dedication and seeing your face during open house. xo

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  28. Yasser Taima
    Yasser Taima 23 December, 2012, 20:58

    Racism is old the new trouble is economic class segregation. What use is it to have rich African, Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, European (white is the stupidest appellation I’ve ever heard; it’s more like pink) or what have you if they’re all from the same income bracket and have never met anyone richer or poorer? They’ll likely fantasize about the richer and disdain the poorer girls and boys in their classes. It’s a lot harder to correct for income than skin color. The only remedy to that that I can see (it’s what they do in other countries with a much better grade on education) is to make all public schools federal and funded equally and well, and to pay teachers a better salary than most other professionals.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 23 December, 2012, 23:26

      Yasser I so agree. I’m seeing that even in the public school we want to enroll our children in there is still economic apartheid. Where the children bussed in from poorer neighborhoods don’t have the same opportunities for some of the better programs offered than the neighborhood children the school hopes to win back. The new principal there is trying to address this issue and one of the things that I like about the school is that children must wear uniforms so hopefully the class difference won’t be so glaring. Would that we could have a world where all children have good prospects and opportunities. Thank you for commenting.

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  29. Anjelica Barrientes
    Anjelica Barrientes 23 January, 2013, 08:24

    Once i retire my dream is to go to Hawaii and live out the rest of my life. We went there on our 25th wedding aniversary and it was fabulous.

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  30. Lisa
    Lisa 2 September, 2014, 01:33

    My son attends a private school in the SFV. The interesting thing is he is blonde, green eyed (he is mixed race but looks white). He is the minority, I don’t know the percentage but the school appears to be predominantly Hispanic, mid eastern and Asian. Some blacks, some whites. Race is never an issue . My complaint in today’s culture is the free use of the ‘N’ word! My son thinks it’s ok! It’s the rap and hip hop culture. This generation is missing parts of history… They don’t appreciate what struggles their forefathers endured! I make him watch movies and documentaries that show history…these things need to be taught and passed down. There are even those who don’t believe the holocaust happened. If we r not careful history will repeat itself!

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 2 September, 2014, 23:10

      Lisa — It’s been a while since someone has commented on this post so I feel like I should go back and read it again. But what I can instantly say is that I absolutely agree with you about the “N” word and our kids really not understanding what happened just a generation ago. Sounds like your son has a mom who will make sure he gets it.

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  31. Dumb
    Dumb 7 September, 2015, 16:55

    This is absolutely the most asinine thing I have ever read.

    1. You moved into a neighborhood without checking out the schools rating, meeting the PTA, or hiring an Educational Consultant. This is all your fault.

    2. You are planning on sending you child to a local school, instead of getting a transfer. Because…. guilt or something?

    3. You equate a one day taxi ride in South Africa with your child going to a public school everyday with drugs, gangs, and guns. Really?

    If you give 1/2 of a shit about your child’s future, you will hire a private educational consultant. My consultant begins testing both placement and emotional intelligence in pre-school and picks teachers, programs, and extracurriculars that will make my children competitive.

    I have a daughter who was accepted to Swarthmore, which is the #3 liberal arts Coleoptera in the U.S. by U.S. News rankings. The year she applied they had a 14.4% admit rate. She also applied at Williams and Amherst but was wait listed, and gained acceptance at her safety schools: Bryn Mawr, UCLA, and University of Chicago.

    My other two children are still in middle school, they have the same or greater expectations and as parents it is our job, to get our children there.

    Contrast all of this to my sister who fell in love with the worst kind of hick in college and moved off to Podunk Mississippi. Her husband is a broke optometrist who didn’t even try to go to med school. They are so poor, that they had to send their kids to public school.

    The kids in middle school began to talk like their peers and now talk in a vulgar urban dialect. One of the kids went off to a state school and failed out while majoring in Psyc. the last I heard she wanted to be a hairdresser… seriously. The boy decided he would go catch bullets in the military because “learnin wasn’t for him” and then realized how terrible it is to be poor.

    My husband worked his tail off to get him into a decent college, and got him accepted to Bowdoin. Unfortunately the boy had to take remedial classes because he went to such a terrible high school and he got bad grades as a result so he got into a terrible law school. Because of the bad law school, even if he gets on law review and graduates top 10% he will never have a chance at big law or a white shoe law firm. All of this is his mothers fault for marrying a broke optometrist hick and sending their kids to terrible public schools.

    You need to rise above your guilt and failure to plan by moving into a terrible neighborhood. If you have to sell your vacation home or house, sell your 401k, or sell every family heirloom you have, you owe it to your kids to not handicap their future by sending them to this local school.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 8 September, 2015, 07:22

      Judging by this comment I am very pleased NOT to follow your advice. BTW both my kids are now in the middle school I mentioned. My eldest actually said at the beginning of her eighth grade year that she was sad she only has one year left at our school and has been eagerly learning a second language (Spanish) thanks to the school which offers this free after hours. Her honors classes have been incredibly challenging. She’ll be done with Algebra 1/2 and geometry prior to attending the public high school she wants to go to. Our middle school has a phalanx of wildly involved parents who are helping make the school better, not just for their children, but for the children of parents who can’t help due to economic stress. So, thanks for continuing to spread fear and prejudice. Because that’s helpful.

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  32. Reprobate Mum
    Reprobate Mum 7 July, 2017, 09:34

    This is a great post- I am going through something similar in the Uk where I live in East London. I’m sending my son to the local school which is not ethnically representative of the area (as I, in my white bubble) know it. I had really mixed feelings today on realising that he is one of three white kids in a mostly Asian class. I worry about social problems, radicalisation, and simply about him not fitting in. On a more positive note, I want him to have friends locally- not just in ‘the nice bit’ of Tower Hamlets where we live. But I worry about the educational standards among this mostly second generation immigrant intake. My son is an academic high flyer, especially in Maths, and I worry about the lack of opportunities and ambition. But I also realise that immigrant families are nothing if not ambitious for their children. It can’t harm my son to realise that most of these children speak languages other than his own. And it can’t harm him to have a better understanding of a population that is being unreasonably bilifuedby our media. In short, like you, I hope this experience makes him a better person than me. But there is nothing like school chat to bring out your inner snob.

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