by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Cloudscome
When I was in third grade we were living in a working class suburb of Cleveland. My school was about half Black and half White, with some Asian kids too. My parents bought a house in a neighborhood about a mile away so I had to change schools yet again for fourth grade. When I told my friends that I would be going to the other elementary school in the district they said,
“Oooh, you are going to Westwood? Those kids are tough over there. They carry guns to school!”
I was scared silly. Then school started and I went to Westwood and started making new friends. When I told my new friends that I had come from the other school they said,
“Ooooh! You came from Eastwood? Those kids are tough over there. They carry guns and knives to school!”
I had to laugh, which made them think I was even tougher. It was an Aha! moment for me. People are just scared of what is different or distant from them. There are tough kids and nice kids all over and you can’t believe what they say about each other.
In that fourth grade class I made friends with a Black girl named Cookie. When I say friends I mean I liked her a lot and she tolerated me sometimes. She was one of the cool kids. I thought she had an amazingly spunky, brave, funny, clever outlook on life. She used to sing at the top of her voice “What the world needs now, is more of ME!” ala Dionne Warwick. I thought she had the most gorgeous café au lait skin in the world and I wanted to be Black like her. One day I told her I thought her skin was beautiful and I wished I was Black. She looked at me like I was crazy and laughed at me. She told me that was foolish. It was one of the first times in my life I felt like a dumb little white girl. I still feel that way sometimes, and I still admire Black women who stand up in the world and sing with all they’ve got.
My oldest is 19. He is a freshman in college and I feel like he is launched into the world with the best I could give him. I have shifted my focus to dreams for my younger boys now. I want my little sons to grow up strong and determined and good-hearted like the Black men I have known in my life. I want them to have the best education possible. I want them to be proud of their heritage and steeped in the legacy their people have brought from the African cultures that hold their roots. I want them to be men of peace and justice, bold enough to let their light shine in a world of fear and confusion.
I wonder about what type of school is best for them. I dream of a school with a balanced mix of all races that teaches rigorous academics as well as peace and justice, creative problem solving, integrity, simplicity and equality. I want them to grow up in a community of diverse ethnicities and races. I want them to have Black friends and role models and be comfortable in a variety of situations. I want a progressive education with a diverse faculty and student body in a school with fantastic resources and a community of families that are connected and committed.
I would love to be in a conversation here with other parents about what type of school you dream of for your children. I am intensely interested in hearing what Black parents say they dream of for their children and what strategies they use to get there. I am equally intensely interested in what White parents with Children of Color and/or White children dream of for their children’s education. I’d like to be part of the discussion that approaches the question: “How do you find or help build the schools that will best prepare our children to combat racism and have the greatest positive impact on the world?”
Cloudscome is a single mother of three sons. The oldest is biological and European-American; the younger two are adopted, African-American and African-Hispanic-American. She is a Library-Media Specialist and on her blog a wrung sponge she writes about the books she is reading, poetry (particularly haiku), gardening, teaching, adoption and mothering. She tends to focus on books by and about People of Color.