The folly of diversity as the holy grail

So we’re visiting a fellow TRA family in another city and one of the parents and I got into a conversation about diversity in school for our children and something along the following came tumbling out of my mouth: “I don’t care about diversity anymore. School diversity is held up as the holy grail of transracial adoption (TRA) and I’ve worked my butt off to get that for her. I’ve achieved it, in TWO schools, but we’ve seen the same thing in both. She’s got Black friends and of course that’s important but that’s not enough. She’s witnessed her Black friends being over disciplined in relation to their white peers and she’s clearly identified for herself that as the only Back child in her grade in the gifted program, she’s not viewed as being as bright as her white peers.” I was honestly surprised by the intensity of my feelings and words. I was really looking forward to having a relaxing summer for us to regroup and heal from this last school year. The combination of a truly anti-racist summer camp and vacationing with TRA kids who share my daughter’s cultural heritage and are like cousins to her seem to be doing the trick for her but I’m feeling defeated and worried. Based on what I’m reading, it seems as though the key to truly equitable education for Black children lies with a high percentage of Black teachers in the school.

But here’s the rub, in the city where we live and one city where I’ve considered relocating (and this seems to be the case pretty much across the country), schools with high number Black teachers fall into two categories: schools that serve predominantly low income students and as a result of the high need to support struggling students, have very limited/non-existent gift program (which my daughter needs to be effectively engaged and challenged) or high achieving schools that are extremely strict, structured, and high pressure (which would not be a good environment for her given her history and personality).

My friend mentioned that she has a friend with TRA family and they experienced pretty much the same at diverse public schools so they moved their child to a private school where the child is the only Black child and they are finding the situation to be much better related to bias in teaching but, GAH, given the research on the damage caused by Black children being academically & socially isolated from Black peers, that doesn’t seem to actually be a good solution.

So here I am again, sitting in my privilege of choices as a result of my education, social and professional connections, and above all, my whiteness, with no real best case scenario choices for my brilliant Black child. THIS is what racism looks like and I cannot believe how invisible it is to white America, because it certainly was to me, though I definitely thought of myself as a thoughtful and anti-racist white ally. I was wrong and I am heartbroken.

Edit: I’ve gotten some comments on a FB group that leads me to believe that I might not have been completely clear. I’m not arguing against putting TRA kids in diverse schools!!! I’m just saying, I naively thought diversity was the panacea and it’s not. I thought that somehow by living in a progressive and highly diverse community and being really diligent in making decisions for my daughter I could protect her, not from everything but from a lot. I was wrong. I honestly think the school where she is is a best case scenario and yet, it sucks. Not because I should move, or change schools or anything else, but because racism is so engrained in American culture and so unconscious, that there is no real and true best option. It’s just shades of suck and pick your poison. My privilege blinded me to the concept that I will be required to make hard compromises in my daughter’s education simply because she is Black, and that’s why I’m heartbroken.


One thought on “The folly of diversity as the holy grail

  1. Sara_Alissa says:

    Oh my word, all of this! The talking about it when you weren’t planning on talking about it, the back and forth decision making, the lack of clear cut answers… Deciding on which school to put my son in has been one of the most angst ridden decisions I’ve ever had to make and possibly the worst in that every option seems like there are so many negatives that there doesn’t seem to be any with which I’m going to be comfortable. To complicate matters further, I’m a public school teacher in an area of high diversity and often see from the inside out what the general public thinks. (Sometimes when people find out I teach in a challenging school their response is, “Are there a lot of black kids there?”) Heartbroken is an understatement. I feel you, Mama!!


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