Tomorrow is the first day of school and I am more angst filled about this than my eight year old, third grader. This year the girl will enter a larger school that is a combination of kids from all over our town; including kids who have had zero exposure to people of difference. I hadn’t really thought about what this might mean until a friend of mine, a man of color recounted to me some months ago, how his biracial daughter was taunted and teased at this school, her crime? Not being white. Bathroom visits became sheer hell because she would be chided and things were said, words that can lay the foundation to a lifetime of pain and confusion over that which we cannot change. Our skin tone.
A few nights ago, we attended the Open House at the school, the Spousal Unit and I put on our best clothing to impress because for us as a mixed race couple appearances do matter. I have had to drill this into the Man Unit. We never have the luxury despite our credentials of just being casual even on a warm night in an un-air conditioned school. I thought of that as I saw a professional colleague whose child will be in my daughter’s class and how my colleague and her partner were dressed in comfortable and casual clothing. In my role as observer as I waited patiently to introduce myself to the teacher, I watched how my white colleague was having what appeared to be a true connection to the teacher and starting the school year off on the right foot with the new teacher. By the time, the Man Unit and I introduced ourselves the teacher was pleasant enough with a halfhearted smile but in that millisecond her eyes gave her away. She made the decision that many make, at first glance we are just a mixed race couple and no one she need make extra efforts with. We make choices every day in our professional lives, I know that I do, we lavish extra time and attention based off who we deem to be worthy. A fellow teacher, even in the school district next door receives more attention than the lowly nigger and her nigger loving husband.
My daughter is excited about school but scared, she is scared of being bullied and I am too. I am scared that a thoughtless group of little girls will make her hate who she is and that she will see the richness of her two cultures as a shameful burden. Already I see signs that living in this state is starting to shape her identity in ways that are concerning. Friends of color who have left this state have been telling me to be prepared to either battle for my daughter’s soul or start making plans to get out of this state. I am doing both, I will battle until which time I can leave.
In Maine third grade is when the standardized testing starts and while I have my concerns about the pressures of testing, Common Core and wondering why today’s schools seem eerily like mini correctional facilities. I worry more about that which cannot be quantified, scored and easily explained or solved. Days like this are hard on me; I don’t want the pity or sorrow of others. I want change; I want a world where I don’t have to carry so many damn worries. I want to know why laws have changed but hearts have not?
Note: If you are planning on attending a Night with BGIM, discussions on race, class and life, tickets are selling fast, I am halfway to being sold out, so if it were me, I would get a ticket now.