Friday, September 07, 2007

What should my 8 year old grand daughter learn about white people?

We are regularly told that school diversity is important because we live in a diverse world and in order to be able to get along with other people successfully, we need to learn about them and have some experiences with them as early as possible. With that in mind, I want to share a story with you.

I was just talking to my daughter today about some issues she has of where to place my 8 year old grand daughter in school. With what are recognized as some of the worst public schools in the country nearby, my daughter Nandi is interested in placing her daughter, Ellise, in a private school, and by going back to work as an engineer, she should have the means to do so.

One of the schools that would be convenient represents a problem. Ellise would be the only little brown child there. Nandi tells me that she just can’t do that to her daughter. I told her that she might try to describe the likely scenario to Ellise very carefully and offer her the challenge of doing it for a while to see if it is alright, with the promise to monitor the situation closely and rescue her if necessary. Nandi told me that she had done just that, and Ellise had said, “You mean I would be the ONLY one?” I told her that that was her answer. Ellise does not want to do it and shouldn’t have to.

Now Ellise has had some experience with white children. She was recently in a new Sunday School class with two little white girls and wanted to know when she got home just what the proper attitude should be toward them. “Do we even like white people?” she asked. She was not at all happy with the fact that they had tried to boss her around and she wanted to know if this was some general characteristic of whites. Her mother told her that there was nothing wrong with all of them but that some of them could act a little strange.

I thought that was funny. Her question from this uncomfortable incident was “What’s wrong with those children?” She wanted to know why in the world they would think that she was someone to be bossed around. Never once did she wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” And that is how it should be.

All of her life Ellise has been home schooled and recently included in a private home based school run by her mother. She has no sense of her own intellectual or academic limitations. She has no sense of anyone in the world being better than she is in any way. Anything she doesn’t know, she feels that she can learn. She would have no problem interacting with anyone as an equal, but she knows no superiors.

It causes me to wonder: What is it that my 8 year old grand daughter needs to learn about white people? She found out quickly that some would try to boss you around. But she has never learned that it is OK for them to do so, and that is a lesson that I don’t want her to ever learn.

Right now, I’m not worried about how well she will function in a diverse world.


Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Good post.

2:12 AM  

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