I was talking to a friend the other day who told me that some of her friends were concerned about sending their children to the schools in the Silicon Valley area due to their children being in the minority as Caucasians. She went on to say that they had concerns enough to consider moving their families to a state like Colorado where their kids would be in schools where the majority of the kids would look like their kids.
As a child it never occurred to me to be concerned that I was considered a minority or to wonder which ethnic group I fit into. As a child of a interracial marriage I could not pass as Caucasian but I also could not pass for Asian. It did not become an issue until we moved to Jamaica when I was 10 years old and it became impossible for me to ignore that I was in the minority. Was it because I was older and more aware of the color of peoples skin? Or was it because we had just moved to a country where 98% of the population was darker than I was?
I was watching a show late last night on PBS about retracing the history of African American families in this country and how slavery and discrimination has wiped out entire family histories and how entire generations have swallowed who they are to avoid censure, it was narrated by Henry Louis Gates Jr and very thought provoking.
As I was watching this show I was reminded of an interaction I had with a nice boy from my church and school shortly after moving to Jamaica. His name was Harold Campbell and he was an adorable 12 year old boy who approached me one day and asked me if I wanted to be his girlfriend. I was only 11 and had never had a boyfriend but I looked at him incredulously and said, "I can't be your girlfriend, you are black".
Even though I went on to have a Jamaican boyfriend (at the much older age of 13) I cringe when I think about what I said to Harold. Understandably Harold never spoke to me again in the next 4 years and I spent the next 4 years trying to get him to forgive me. I wanted to explain to him that I was raised by 2 white women. I wanted to explain to him that I had changed my mind. I wanted him to know that I was too young to have a boyfriend, I wanted to explain to him that I was changing my mind but in that one comment I had sealed my fate with Harold and he never gave me a chance again.
I'd like to think that I am raising my children differently and that by sending them to schools that are integrated and diverse they are becoming color blind and accepting their friends and classmates by their virtues instead of what they look like. I have to let my girlfriend know that the word Colorado means "colored" in Spanish - I am not sure her friends are in the know.