by Anti-Racist Parent Columnist, Karen Walrond
Sorry for the long absence; the truth is, my family and I have recently moved from my homeland of Trinidad & Tobago to Houston, Texas. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had a few trepidations about it.
I come by my apprehensions honestly. Although I’m from Trinidad, I’d lived close to 20+ years in Houston – it is, of sorts, my adopted home. And while there’s lots about Houston that I enjoy – the great restaurants of all types of cuisines, the fact that real estate here is very cheap compared to other parts of the United States, the friendliness of its residents – I’ve also lived in Texas long enough to know that race relations in this state are… well, let’s just say it’s different from my Trinidadian experiences. This is the south, after all. Vidor, that city of not-so-brotherly-love, is only 90 minutes’ drive away.
I certainly don’t mean to imply that Houston is a hotbed of racial hatred: truthfully, I can only think of a couple of times in the past where I felt like I was the recipient of outright racist hostility. Remember, Houstonians, by nature, are friendly folk — and, obviously, if I didn’t think I could make a comfortable home here for my family, I (a) wouldn’t have lived here for over two decades in the past, and (b) certainly wouldn’t be moving back. That said, my strongest memory of going to school, and then university, and then law school here is that people of different races rarely socialized together. My white husband and I were (are?) somewhat of an oddity – it’s very common for hostesses at restaurants or check-out attendants at supermarkets to register a brief flicker of confusion as they realize that my husband and I are, in fact, together. The number of times I’ve been told, “I’m sorry, Ma’am, I said ‘MARCUS, party of two,’” and therefore have been required to respond, “Yes, I heard you, I’m with my husband, MARCUS, tonight,” is too numerous to mention.
Still, I’ve become used to this, and it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to. What was concerning me, however, was how to ensure that my daughter Alex, now only three, continued to grow up with the innate acceptance of racial and cultural diversity to which she’d been exposed. At her small preschool in Trinidad (as is the case with most schools in Trinidad), the great majority of her classmates were multiracial, like she is. Most of her friends’ parents were of different races and cultures – their mummies and daddies didn’t necessarily “match.” Her teachers were of different religions and racial backgrounds. In addition to learning about Christmas and Easter, she learned about Divali and Eid. There was no way, I thought, I’d be able to find a scholastic experience anywhere close to what she’d been experiencing in Trinidad.
I’m thrilled to report that I was wrong. Without very much trouble, we found a Montessori school very close to our home that is at least as diverse as the school from which Alex left – her teacher (and the director of the school) is from Pakistan, the teacher’s aide is American, other teachers and Alex’s fellow students are Chinese, Nigerian, Arab, American, French – from just about every country you can think of. In fact, I’d be pretty hard-pressed to identify one race that is under-represented at the school: it’s like the United Nations up in there.
It’s been so refreshing to learn that maybe my perceptions of Houston and Texas are perhaps a bit outdated. In any event, Alex is thriving. Watching Alex develop her new friendships at her new school gives me hope for both the South and my daughter’s generation – could it be possible, dare I hope, that racism will be a thing of the past by the time she’s an adult?
What do you think?
Karen Walrond is an attorney, a writer and photographer (not necessarily in that order) who has contributed to such parenting publications as Blogging Baby and AlphaMom. She is the author of now-retired Chookooloonks, which was named one of the Best Adoption Blogs on the internet by Adoptive Families Magazine, and was featured in the book Blogosphere: Best of Blogs. She currently resides with her husband and daughter in Houston, TX.