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Odd conversation about race...
Old 09-28-2012, 01:26 PM
 
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I work in a very affluent school that is predominately white, Asian, and Indian. We have a handful of African American students and a handful of Latinos.

Today, I got a new student in my homeroom. She is a black girl. The counselor introduced me to my new student and her mom. After I got the little girl all set up, her mother asked to speak with me. She wanted to know exactly how many other black kids she would encounter in her classes and if she had any black teachers. She wasn't being rude in any way, she was simply asking questions. She mentioned that she wanted her daughter to be around kids just like her so she knew how to relate to other black people when she went to college and got out in the real world. I teach 6th grade so this is a long way off. She also mentioned that her son is in all honors classes at the high school in this community and is the only black male in them. She was not happy about this because he will never see the other black guys in school and will be less likely to make friends with them.

I completely understand her concerns. If I was one of few white kids at a school, I would wonder the same things. However, I felt like she was sending a message to her daughter that she can ONLY be friends with other black kids and ONLY like the black teachers. We have many different races in my school and they all seem to get along. In my 8 years, I have never had a parent express a concern like this.

I'm just curious to know what you think about this conversation. It didn't bother me at all, just made me think.


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Old 09-28-2012, 01:45 PM
 
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I'm not sure what I think about this. I am inclined to wonder why it matters anymore than if a brunette has other brunettes in her classroom. People are people to me in school and in the real world, but I wonder if I might feel differently if I had a child who was a minority in a school with a mixed population.

My school is about 90% Hispanic, but I've never had a parent of a white, black, or Asian student question how many other students of that race there are. I'm not sure what I would say.

How did you respond?
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Old 09-28-2012, 01:48 PM
 
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It's not as if you or anyone else can change the racial make-up of the school. It is very easy to go online and find the demographics of any school. I am not sure how her concerns could be addressed other than for her to find a school with a larger AA population for her children.
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Old 09-28-2012, 01:58 PM
 
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Well, if that is important to her (and I understand why it is) then she needs to consider that when moving into a neighborhood or school district.

It is important to me that my son is in a culturally diverse school. We made choices on where we lived partially based on that.

I don't think being brunette can really be compared to someone's culture.

Last edited by sevenplus; 09-28-2012 at 02:32 PM..
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Hmmm
Old 09-28-2012, 01:59 PM
 
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Maybe she wanted to be sure that her daughter was being encouraged to interact with the other black students? Still though, if this were a big concern, I'm surprised she would send her to a school with so few black students. Either way, one would think that this girl could interact with black people in other social settings, which would be a better indicator of how the college life would be anyway.

I agree...strange conversation.


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Old 09-28-2012, 01:59 PM
 
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I told her that her daughter was not the only black child and that we had about 7 black kids on our team of 100 kids (not that I count them but it sounded like she wanted an exact number). I also told her that the students in this school and community are very nice, well mannered, and are excepting of everyone.

I pretty much just tried to assure her that her daughter will be fine. I'm sure she was just a little stressed about her kids having to start in a new school (the dad got a new job so they recently transferred to the area), they currently own two homes because the old home hasn't sold yet, I know that can't be an easy transition.

I just didn't understand how race matters in all of it. But I have never been a minority either.
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Old 09-28-2012, 02:28 PM
 
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I get irritated at conversations like this. If I asked that same question i would be looked upon as horrible and be flamed because I am white. Doesn't matter that we are a minority in my community. Often and I mean most of the time my kids are the ONLY white kids in the class. I truly feel concerns and questions such as this are part of the problem. Can you imagine if I brought up "concerns" about my kids being the only white kids to admin at my school??

My response would have been something to the effect of teaching confidence and social skills is universal and I am sure she will do fine.

Honestly, if she is that concerned she can educate the children on whatever it is she feel they are lacking in herself. Is she concerned about the proud history of her ethinicity and culture or being able to fit in with other black people - and that means what exactly???

Geesh!
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When I taught high school in a mostly
Old 09-28-2012, 02:44 PM
 
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Hispanic, about 20% Black school, I noticed that the academically high achieving Black students did not band together. I had one class with about five really smart, high-performing Black kids and they barely spoke to each other and often didn't even want to work together. On group projects, these students were more likely to ask to work alone. I was always puzzled by that, but one of the other teachers told me that Black students get ostracized by other Blacks for doing too well in school. I took it as an odd form of self-loathing.
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Old 09-28-2012, 03:09 PM
 
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My DIL and her brother are asian, they went to school in an almost all white school. She did not really associate with young people of her own race until college. It was rather strange for her in her early school years, not because she was/is asian, but she and her brother were "the" asians, as in the only ones. I think your student's mom has a point in wanting her kids to not be the only black students. On the other hand, if this is a concern why didn't they move to a community with a larger black population? My DIL was adopted by white parents, so they never thought about it, and never realized that it was uncomfortable for my DIL and her brother sometimes.
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Old 09-28-2012, 03:22 PM
 
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Quote:
I don't think being brunette can really be compared to someone's culture.
You're right and I didn't mean to make it look like that is truly what I think. I wasn't thinking about it from so much of a cultural perspective as I should have been, but was more considering it only on skin color, and that everyone can learn new things from everyone else, not just people who are the same based on one attribute. I think I was caught off guard based on the fact that it sounded to the OP like the mother wanted her children to be friends ONLY with people who are the same. Sorry!


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Race matters
Old 09-28-2012, 03:42 PM
 
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this must have been a bit interesting as I would have been caught a bit off guard myself. I am assuming the parents were not sure at all of the racial demographic of your area, as most people usually research or get a feel for that ahead off time.

Cultural identity and race very much matter, and often members of the dominant group don't often recognize the powerful impact of white privilege and almost always act as if it doesn't exist, as it is evident by the responses of the posters.

I am sure if mom is that concerned she will rethink her decision. Often times parents are reacting to their own misconceptions due to their own experiences in schooling, it will all work out.
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Old 09-28-2012, 03:54 PM
 
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I was the only black in my class each year, and currently am and have been the only black teacher at my school.

I signed out not to give away my username identity.

My parents would have never and never would I for my kids ask those questions or even have that conversation.

(IMO it is hard to connect with any personality, people with the same interests, race, etc. if you are not around them)

I was raised that I am me and I should not let my color hinder me or help me get further. However, I was looked down upon by the other blacks because they thought I did well. Because I was shy and an introverted they thought I thought I was better then them. That was so not the case because I really did not know them to even think I was better than them and they did not know me.

My school system also has this mentor program for minoities in place, which I thought was so odd. I was not told I needed a mentor because I was lacking teaching skills, but because I was black. This still does not sit well with me.

There are some blacks that feel like only blacks will understand them. IMO this is something that is instilled at home from generation to generation and will continue if the cycle is not broken.

I am not sure when people will realize we are all just people and that our race does not define us.
 
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Old 09-28-2012, 04:06 PM
 
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The mom most likely was claiming a reason for concern that in actuality isn't the real concern. She was worried that her child may feel like they stick out and may feel insecure because of it. I totally get her concern.
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I get it
Old 09-28-2012, 04:15 PM
 
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White people will never understand the feelings of minorities simply because they are so used to being the majority: on tv, movies, politics, etc. I get irritated that people get irritated.
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Old 09-28-2012, 04:43 PM
 
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Old 09-28-2012, 04:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Often and I mean most of the time my kids are the ONLY white kids in the class. I truly feel concerns and questions such as this are part of the problem. Can you imagine if I brought up "concerns" about my kids being the only white kids to admin at my school??
That's because it really isn't a comparable situation. Even if your kids are minorities locally, they are still very much part of the dominant culture in society at large. Odds are most of their teachers are white, school behavior expectation are rooted in their culture, etc., etc.
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I understand
Old 09-28-2012, 05:26 PM
 
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I can totally see where the mom was coming from. If this is a very affluent school then the black population is low, and her children might not otherwise associate with other black children outside of school. Mom is right, her kids will have to know how to relate to others in the real world, to the black kids she meets in college that did not go to an affluent school.
I went to a private catholic university, and in some courses was the only black person in the class. It's is never a good feeling thinking you represent your entire race on every issue. I even had more than one professor ask me to give the "black perspective" on different topics discussed, especially in Humanities and Sociology . Maybe the mom feels that by having a person from the same culture in the room, her child won't have so much pressure to "carry the race" so to speak.

Last edited by essence253; 09-28-2012 at 08:04 PM..
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Race always matters lets not be naiive
Old 09-28-2012, 05:50 PM
 
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We are talking about American Education right? We are more segregated now than in 1954 am I right???
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Better Understanding
Old 09-28-2012, 06:21 PM
 
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I really appreciate all your responses. I think I have a better understanding of the situation. As a white female, "White Privilege" is something I have never heard of, even though I have a few black friends and had a black roommate in college. I may be naive, but some things you just don't think about unless you are made to see it like I was today.

I too am surprised that the mother did not research the demographics beforehand if this was that important to her. It sounds like Dad kind of up and moved them suddenly and it was not much of a choice.

The student seems very sweet and was quickly befriended by the other students in class. I have several others that are new to this community this year who were so happy to be her "buddy".

I have no doubt that this will be a great year for this child. She will adjust to a new school, meet new friends, and she is going to be a cheerleader. She has all the tools to thrive in this environment and that makes me happy
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Old 09-28-2012, 07:28 PM
 
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Quote:
White people will never understand the feelings of minorities simply because they are so used to being the majority
Disagree. What about those living in Japan or China? The only people with my skin colour on TV was the "dumb foreigner" on TV it seemed. The Japanese or Asians only signs I saw on stores/bars....etc
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Old 09-28-2012, 11:21 PM
 
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Quote:
As a white female, "White Privilege" is something I have never heard of, even though I have a few black friends and had a black roommate in college. I may be naive, but some things you just don't think about unless you are made to see it like I was today.
If you are interested in learning more about the idea of white privilege, this is an excellent starting place.
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I'm kind of confused
Old 09-29-2012, 04:17 AM
 
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While I understand the mother's perspective, I am confused as to what she expected you to do about it. Run out and get more black kids to come to your school???

The responsibility here is on her, not you. She wants her child to be able to relate to other black people, then she should put her in a school with more black people, or move to an area with more black people, or join a black church, or join a local black organization. There are plenty of things she can do and she has control of instead of hassling you about things you have no control over.
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It's not unusual actually
Old 09-29-2012, 04:25 AM
 
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That mother is concerned about her children's racial identity. It is very difficult to be the only African-American or one of a few. I just finished working on a grant for our school to purchase more multi-cultural books to help facilitate conversations about race and racial identity and viewing the world through multiple lenses and perspectives. We begin these conversations in kindergarten at my school. I love that!

I was very often in the same boat as Essence. Often the only African-American in my classes in elementary, middle school and high school. My dad didn't have a choice where his job transferred him and perhaps this family didn't either. (I mention that for those that seemed surprised that the mom didn't research the demographics of the school before she enrolled her children there.) For a while, I was the only African-American teacher at my school. It can be very difficult and lonely at times, despite the well intentions of others. But then again, I love who I am and I have had a lot of years to develop my racial identity.

The notion of white privilege is real and allows anyone in the racial majority to live a life where race isn't a daily factor because you almost always see your race represented in a positive light on a daily basis, whether that be in the media, in one's community etc. The idea of white privilege allows those in the majority to sometimes believe that there isn't a need to have these racial concerns anymore. I was speaking with a white friend and she said how she only really thinks about race when is is put in the rare position of being in the minority for a short time. I told her that I think about race almost every single day, I have to. Thanks for posting that link grav def. This is a pretty interesting thread by the way.
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White Privilege
Old 09-29-2012, 08:47 AM
 
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Thanks to grav_def for posting the link to Peggy McInotsh's article. I remembering reading this is my multiculturalism class during my teacher education days (I hated the class, BTW, thought I'd suddenly gone back in time to 1968.)

There are criticisms I would make about the article and the author's list if I were writing a rebuttal essay. If this were the political board, I'd probably address my concerns specifically, but here I will just say that I think the article a good springboard for discussion and the sharing of experiences.

I, too, am finding this thread giving me food for thought. I work at a school that is 95% asian, so latino, black, and white students are definitely in the minority. And if a student has red hair, he really stands out!. Most of the teachers are white, with a large minority of Asian staff, as well. We have one black teacher.

I'm sure the mother was just expressing her worries about her daughter feeling comfortable and fitting in. I agree with subczy, though, if a white person would have brought this up, it would be considered racist.
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