Girl mom here. And I must admit, sending my daughter to school has me pretty freaked out. I don’t mean in the sense that something will happen to her but…that something will happen to her identity. Granted, this isn’t her first time in public shool. She attended Pre-K last year and her class was very diverse. There were children of many different backgrounds but most especially, there were children who looked just like her. Other Black children.
Last week we attended her orientation and as I looked around at the other students in her class, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of representation. This is an unfortunate reality of many minority children. Of the handful of students in her class, majority were White. I saw one Asian student, one biracial student, and there was my daughter, the only Black child in her classroom. Granted, we only stayed for an hour and I only saw about 70% of the 23 students that made up her peers. I watched the parents and children come in and out to meet the teacher (who was also White). I said a silent prayer that maybe there would be another Black child that would be in her class that I had not seen yet.
How is this the reality in 2018?
For a moment, I felt a tinge of guilt. We strived to put our daughter in a great school. In fact, her school is rated as a 10 out of 10 school here in Atlanta. Positive reviews of intelligent children flood the internet. There are great programs and exposure to advanced technology. But what about the exposure to culture? This is something many Black parents face. The decision to send our children to school in Black neighborhoods where the school rating is suprisingly low or to send them to school in a more affluent area where the schools are suprisingly White. For a moment, I thought – did I make the right decision?
Parents should not have to choose between the two. While many things are at fault – gentrification, income disparities, and zoning, I can only focus on how to come to a solution to the problem.
As the parent to a minority student in a predominantly White institution, it is important to make yourself known as much as possible. Sign up for volunteer opportunities. Get involved with the PTO and make sure their teachers know your face. Be an ally to your child by showing up.
Your child is probably the first Black child many of the other children have spent long amounts of time around. This can lead to curious conversations between children pertaining to things like their hair and the color of their skin. Make sure you are having daily conversations with your children about their day that goes past the usual – what did you do in school? questions. Ask questions about their friendships with their classmates and the topics they talk about.
Make sure you are having daily conversations with your children about their day
Exchange contact information with other parents and don’t hesistate to reach out if your child mentions interactions that make them uncomfortable. While children are mostly innocent in their questions, it is wise to make their parents aware if there is any tension that may be occurring in the classroom.
Don’t Rely On The School System To Teach Diversity
Get involved with other programs in your city that focus on diversity. Instead of just joining after school activities at the institution, sign your child up for a dance class or soccer team at the local YMCA or Boys and Girls Club. Make sure they are watching television shows that involve characters that look like them.
Always remember, Black history didn’t start with slavery. Expose your child to Black people in history who have made a difference.
Learning Self Love Is Just As Important As Learning The ABC’s
The school years are a pertainent time for learning self identity. Make sure you are talking to your daughters about their hair and why it is beautiful. Talk to your sons and let them know they are more than just ball players. We have to teach our children to be strong in their identity so that they do not lose themselves in the identity of others.