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Thursday, August 26, 2010

7 out of 28

Last year I completely freaked out the first time I walked into the Tongginator's kindergarten classroom and saw only two children of color in a class of 20 students. It took my husband - calm, rational Tonggu Daddy - to talk me down from my obsessive "we are ruining the Tongginator's life" mantra. I mean, we live in the Washington, DC area... it's not like our area is completely lacking in diversity. And it's not like it's too late to make changes for our family if, in fact, we do need to make changes.

The husband urged me to consider the big picture.

So I did. I took a deep breath and looked around me. And what I saw was one kindergarten class that did not match the overall diversity of the Tongginator's school. I mean, don't get me wrong, the school isn't as racially diverse as I would like it, but it also isn't terrible. The Husband and I also work hard to expose the Tongginator to more racial diversity outside of school, most notably through our Saturday morning Chinese culture classes. Plus, while our county is about 75% Caucasian, we live close to two more diverse counties, one of which is 62% Caucasian, with more than 12% of the population Asian-American, and the other which is only 28% Caucasian.

I decided to wait it out... to take it year by year... before freaking out again.

This year the Tongginator is one of seven children of color in a class of 28 students. And I'm left wondering... as do all parents who adopt transracially... how much diversity is enough? Where is the line? Is this area racially diverse enough? Or do we move in order to ensure more diversity? In one of the neighboring counties, the middle and high schools are some of the worst in the state. And, unfortunately, we seriously cannot afford to purchase a single family home in the other neighboring county.

Besides, neighbors like ours are worth their weight in gold. Not to mention the fact that we live just down the street from a Chinese-American family that is ALSO an adoptive family.

I think fretting about diversity is part and parcel with being a parent that adopted transracially. Last year I felt confident in our decision to stick it out. And this year? I don't know. My insecurities came to the forefront when we dealt with that whole "Chinese food looks like throw-up" comment. The school handled the situation beautifully, but still... I can't help but think that such a comment would never have occurred in a more culturally diverse school.

Seven. Out of 28.

How much diversity is enough?

39 comments:

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

I think about this ALL THE TIME.

I don't know the answer. I often feel like where we live is not enough. But then again . . . it's not like we live in a non-diverse area. Then sometimes I think we should move, and then I think how devastated my kids would be to be far from their grandparents.

Yes, I think every transracial parent must think about it a lot.

Kim said...

I know what you mean...our daughter is starting kindergarten this year and I have been obsessing with schools since last year.

We live in diverse area, but our feeder school was anything but.

We opted to "choice" her into another school (still close to us, but more paperwork to get into) which we love plus has much more diversity. (African American 36%, Asian 17%, Hispanic 10%, Caucasian 37%)

How much difference will it make? I don't know

Kohana said...

I USED to think about it all the time. We lived in Nashville and spent years trying to cross the color line. Then, we move to Sydney's (Australia) Inner West.

I hardly think about it now. Our neighborhood is not very diverse, but the locals where we spend our time are very much so, and we only have a couple "anglo" Australian friends. Our group of friends is so diverse, we are constantly in the minority. I LOVE it. We've opted for a private school that we have to drive to (as opposed to our local school within walking distance) because it is diverse and right for our values.

Moving was the best thing we ever did.

Aus said...

Morning TM - I'm less concerned about percentages than I am about attitude! But I'm also adament that our kids get exposed to all the diverse opinions out there. The sooner our kids meet a bigot the sooner they will come to terms with the way they will deal with this stupidity!

We need to remember that our kids (and both of these 'our's have been intended in the collective - all of us that are parenting trans-culturally adopted kids) will - someday - encounter prejudice. They will. A part of our job as parents includes preparing them for that so that when it happens they don't get blindsided.

To date our kids haven't had any problems. But hopefully they'll be prepared when they do!

Don't fret - the color of the skin of our kids classmates doesn't matter - only how accepting of our kids as their friends does!

hugs - aus and co.

Laurie said...

Ditto Aus!

Raina said...

The first time I attended our FCC book club, they told me about Jane Brown. They said she advocates for moving your kids to a diverse school, even if it's not as good as the non-diverse ones. I snickered inside when I heard that! Really??? As a minority mom with 3 bio kids (Stitch wasn't home yet), I NEVER would have considered their need for diversity over their need for a quality education, stable neighborhood, etc. But a part of me has to wonder, how much of that is the "white person" in me? If I had immigrated with a Korean family, I might seek out other Koreans. Or, I might not.

Anyways, Wild Thing hangs out with a Chinese au pair all day, he's only 3. Martian Child is 1 of 20. Stitch is 1 of 18. Junebug is 6 of 23 (she is in the gifted/blended program, another Asian and 3 Indian-Americans. And her TEACHER is Asian YAY!).

But they get to come home to other Asian faces. So I guess I'm not much help :/

Raina said...

I should add that (I think you already know) I was one of almost no minorities growing up in a very racist part of the country. I didn't mind being one of the few, but I hated the racism and always being the conspicuous one. No flying below the radar for me. Perhaps not coincidentally, the other Asian girl (from Laos) became my best friend and continues to be one of my closest to this day.

LucisMomma said...

I agree with what Aus said, I guess if I'm being really honest mostly because we cannot move and we live in a small town that has not many Asians (have no clue about percentages).

Anyways, kids say stupid things. I don't think having a more diverse group would keep comments like "Chinese food looks like throw-up" from happening.

Elizabeth@Romans8:15 said...

We recently moved because of this. My (Korean) son started his preschool 3 weeks ago. As it is a special needs class, it is very small and here are the stats:

1 caucasian
1 Hispanic
1 Korean

So I was very happy about that. The preschool he was bound for before we moved was 100% white, except for 1 child who was half Chinese. I just couldn't have that.

Kerrie said...

I'm having the same dilemma. We're moving 15 minutes away, into another school district. My girls are biracial, and the school they attend now has a decent biracial and aa population. The school they'll attend next year has a 7% non-white population. Not what I was going for. But the school has more people special-needs-geared, which my eldest daughter is going to need more and more. So where's the balance?

Briana's Mom said...

Oh my gosh! My hubby and I just had this conversation the other day! I am soooo much like you. Definitely have my concerns about diversity.

Briana right now is the only child of color in her class of 10 kids in her preschool, though there are several other Asian adoptees in her small school. She will not be in this private school next year, and right now, I'm not sure what type of diversity exists in the elementary school she will be attending next year. My hubby and I are going to check it out soon.

But, thank goodness she has several children of color in her gymnastics class. She and I just started taking a Mandarin class together where all but one child is Asian. And I make sure she still has play dates with her China adoptee friends. It is the best I can do to make up for the lack of diversity in her preschool (the school is really wonderful though - awesome teachers and staff).

Buckeroomama said...

That food comment definitely would have raised my hackles, but then again it is one of probably many similar ignorantly mean comments that our children might encounter (and not all of them will be racial in nature) as they grow older. Being in a more diverse community might not necessarily mean that we'll get to avoid those types of comments, though.

Hong Kong is as diverse as they come, but still sometimes you hear similar comments... It's not about whether you're in a diverse community, but more about the kind of people around you (how they're raised, their values, etc.)

Do come to HK; you'd love J's new school! J's class --out of 30 kids --has at least one kid with the following "ancestry" (that I know of): American, Korean, Japanese, British, Indian, Filipino, Irish, Chilean, Australian, Canadian.... and of course, Chinese!

jen@odbt said...

I don't know if it will ever be enough. I was the only Asian in the classroom throughout elementary/middle school, at parties, in the neighborhood, etc. It definitely bothered me more than it should have. The times I experienced racism was with people/kids who did not know me.

I wonder the same thing about my kids but our school is very diverse and for now any of the kids I've encountered don't seem to see "color." They just care if someone is nice or not. I hope that continues but what makes me sad is knowing it's probably not the case.

Jennifer said...

Hmm... I don't think I would have thought about this as an adoption issue specifically had you not brought it up. As an all caucasian family, it is important to me that my daughters understand there are different races (i.e. skin colors). And I certainly want to expose them to different cultures (our trip to Nicaragua and our exchange student being the 2 biggest things we've done to that end).

But a quality education in a supportive environment would be more important to me than them seeing a rainbow of faces each day at school or church.

I think for me, the diversity of class is more important than the diversity of race. If everyone at her school is solidly in the middle class, then you only have diversity of skin tone, but maybe not diversity of experience, which is more important to me.

But, I don't live in a multi-racial family, so my thoughts on this might not be relevant.

Dawn said...

Ditto, Aus. I think the prevailing attitude is much more important than the actual numbers.

We are blessed to live in central Texas in a very tech-savvy, college-town-type area. The geographical location provides a lot of the diversity. The tech jobs and colleges bring in more. However, it is an area that also promotes lifestyles and morals very contrary to ours. So, we spend a lot of time talking with our children about being the "minority" in that sense.

I know it's not the same as a physical, outward difference - BUT, there will always be areas of life that cause everyone to feel as if they are the minority. And, that "lesson" is valuable one.

Patricia/NYC said...

I also think about this all.the.time! Last year, in Kiara's Kindergarten class she was 1 of 3 in a class of 22...unfortunately, the other 2 students left the class by mid year...so that left Kiara, solo, in terms of race. I freaked. My husband also told me to look at the big picture.

Big picture? Sure, we live in Manhattan, one of the most diverse places on the planet...just not in the classroom & kids spend most of their days in the classroom...we'll see what 1st grade brings...we may have to switch her around until we find the right balance in the classroom. There are 9 1st grade classes, so we may get lucky! ;)

Good topic, TM!

Wendy said...

I completely agree with Dawn. Diversity comes in all different shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. So, even though there may not be as many children of color as you would like in your daughter's school, there are probably children from all kinds of diverse situations whom she is going to come into contact with. Because there are all kinds of families, all different ways in which we are unique. So, there may be many opportunities for you to share with your daughter the great wealth of diversity that is humanity, to help her become a tolerant young lady, and to reinforce your own values as well.

We live in a community that is over 90% Caucasian. Neither of my children has ever expressed feeling singled or left out or different (I have an eighteen year old and a six year old). My eighteen year old has frequently been the ONLY racial minority in her clsses at school. Last year my six year old was the only minority in her kindergarten class. This year she will share a class with one other minority child, who is Chinese. We involve our kids in cultural experiences from their native countries as much as possible, but on a daily basis, they are certainly minorities racially.

I've had students in my own classrooms who have made off-handed remarks that might be construed as racially insensitive (like the Chinese food looks like throw up comment) or played hand clapping games that I found offensive (the "I Went to a Chinese Restaurant Game" is not one I allow in my classroom). I've used these opportunities to very lovingly teach my students why these remarks are hurtful using my own children, whom they adore, as examples of kids who'd be offended. I know that made a HUGE impact on them.

Having said all this, my eighteen year old has a hugely diverse group of friends. They have very different families, come from very different backgrounds, have a wide range of beliefs, opinions, and points of view. Getting together with them at our home and talking to them is completely fascinating. Some are gay, some come from single parent families, some have strong religious beliefs, some are agnostic, some have blended families. ALL are super kids. I have learned to appreciate so many different perspectives from these young people. They may not all reflect our family's beliefs, but they all have something amazing to contribute.

So, diversity, as Dawn so eloquently (and more succinctly) put it, isn't just about race. There are so many different people out there. So many teachable moments for you to have with your daughter.

Colin and Jill Canada said...

I take it you've seen a recent post on the Rumor Queen about this very subject. Me too.

And yes, ever since I read that post I've been absolutely freaking out about ruining my daughter's life - AND she hasn't even started school yet. But I know the closest school, just a walk up the street, is pretty similiar to your Tongginators. AND all the Chinese children there will be from adoptive families in our area. Which is actually huge. The actual street we live on, there are 10 adoptive children (that I know of), all but 2 are from China. Incredible, right?

But it still doesn't make me happy knowing she will be 'different' from the majority at school. We would have to move to a different area of the city to get that very high ratio, in fact in some area's it would be about 80-90-100% multicultural. Amazing. But is that what we should to do? I don't know. It really worries me.

Jill

PS - Here is the RQ post, in case you're wondering what I;m talking about...

http://chinaadopttalk.com/2010/08/10/identity/

sara said...

I'm so happy you found my little corner of the world, and can't wait to get caught up on yours. I haven't had a chance to poke through the Alltop list yet, but I'm excited about who I might find.

And I can't wait to see the Sunday links. My daughter is adopted adn multi-racial (though she doesn't look it) so I'm all for help, tips, thoughts from those who have already gone down that path!

Ok, now that I've left a really long comment...

Colin and Jill Canada said...

I should add that the Church, playgroup and all other means of activities we participate in are usually multicultral. In fact, the playgroup we attend is totally for adopted children and the majority are from China, Vietnam and South Africa. Also, the Sunday School she attends is almost 50% Chinese/Caucasian. We also have a Chinatown in our city and we attend as many Chinese cultural activities as possible.

Because her life and heritage and past has become our life too, and we embrace it and love it.

Jill

Shirlee McCoy said...

I think about this a lot. Which is weird because I homeschool and because my daughter looks more Caucasian than Asian.

So...how much is enough?

And how much worrying about it is too much?

I don't want to put my concerns onto my daughter. For now, she feels exceptionally more like she 'belongs' here than she did when she was in China even though our area isn't that diverse.

Of course, we attend Chinese festivals and participate in Chinese language school. There are many people in our lives who are Chinese, but I don't know that she really feels like she relates to them any more than she does to us.

She's caught in the middle. Not Asian enough and not Caucasion. I think it must be a very odd place to be.

How much diversity is enough? I think until we can accept each person as a unique individual, there will never be enough.

autumnesf said...

WE are on our third house since bringing MM home. The first place was not very diverse...but there was a large Asian community and lots of events in the city and we did pretty good. Minorities in the school tended to be one race -- not hers -- so I wasn't sure how that was going to work.

Second state was better for diversity. Totally different minority set -- still not hers and it was very hard to find an Asian population or events of any kind.

Now we are on state 3 and it is the most diverse yet. So is the school. It is also a sub-par school. As in we could have her bused somewhere else at the schools expense because they are a failing school.

I have stressed the diversity every move.

And now I'm thinking a better school IS more important than the diversity of the class room.

But it took putting my kid in a situation where I considered diversity the top priority and living through it for a year to come to this conclusion

If there is another move some day I hope 4th time is a charm and I can find diversity and quality in the same location.

Here's hopin'.

prechrswife said...

And sometimes, you really don't have a lot of choice. In my husband's line of work, you go where you are called to go, and so sometimes your choices on schools, etc., are made for you. Our girls are in a private school for preschool and pre-k, but will go to the public school when they get to kindergarten. It is an excellent school, from all I have been told, but I feel like the numbers will be pretty close to what they are at the Tongginator's school. Last year, MJ was in a class where there was one other child of color (who was hispanic), and she moved out of state in the first semester. Her teacher, however, was from Colombia, so there was still some minute level of diversity. This year, thankfully, she is not the only child of color in her pre-k class, but as far as I can tell, she is only one of two. In K's 3 year old class, which has only 8 students, their are 2 children of color in there, so her percentage is actually a little better. I'm really curious to see the make-up of MJ's kindergarten class next fall. Anyway, in our situation, we just have to make the best of it. At least our parsonage is in a good school district...

AwesomeCloud and family said...

My guess is that the sooner you stop freaking out, the better.

Someday she might find herself the only girl or person of color in her rocket science class, and if she's grown up with the idea that small group demographics is a huge issue, then she won't be able to give her full attention to rocket science because she'll be worrying about where the other girls/PoC's/etc. are..

Sometimes in life, she will be the only one. And that's perfectly all right. It's a lesson a lot of people are terrified to learn. There was an article recently about how Boston firehouses are segregated, because when it comes to picking their assignments, few of the firefighters want to be the only black guy or the only white guy. I think that's tragic.

I have many times been the only girl, or the only white person, or by far the youngest in a class or group. If one can learn to stand out gracefully, that's a lesson few people learn.

You should definitely give her opportunities to be a face in the crowd. I'm not saying you should give up on giving her a diverse environment - not at all. But obsessing over it sends a message that may be harmful someday when she finds herself a minority of one.

YoonSeon said...

From my experiences, I don't think there's a set no. that equals a "good" amount of diversity. I think a "good" amount, though is when it's enough that your daughter doesn't have to think about it. I only realised and "discovered" racism when my family moved from Sydney (where our school had a huge amount of Asian girls - it was an all girls' school) to an area where I was the ONLY one. I didn't even *really* know racism existed because I'd never had to think about it. And I'd been lucky in this sense: to not even really know of its existence in the real world.

Sorry if this makes no sense. It's Friday morning, I'm at work and I'm half braindead. Just let me know if you want to talk about it more. I'm always here to chat to you about these things. ^_^

cw said...

I think about that too but then I also think about the studies that show that a diverse environment is not the ultimate "cure all"- that studies show that often more diverse environments are more segregated than less diverse environment. I would never want my kids to be "onlies" (or close to onlies) but I also know that it is as important that my kids have other experiences- with positive portrayals of their race in books and media, that they see people of their race engaging in meaningful work in all areas (so not just the janitor but also the doctor) that conversations about race happen in their lives- it is a combination of things so I make sure there is diversity in their schools/ our neighborhood but I don't worry that it isn't enough. Chapter 3 of the book NurtureShock has really interesting reading about race and identity and diverse environments.

cw said...

I think about that too but then I also think about the studies that show that a diverse environment is not the ultimate "cure all"- that studies show that often more diverse environments are more segregated than less diverse environment. I would never want my kids to be "onlies" (or close to onlies) but I also know that it is as important that my kids have other experiences- with positive portrayals of their race in books and media, that they see people of their race engaging in meaningful work in all areas (so not just the janitor but also the doctor) that conversations about race happen in their lives- it is a combination of things so I make sure there is diversity in their schools/ our neighborhood but I don't worry that it isn't enough. Chapter 3 of the book NurtureShock has really interesting reading about race and identity and diverse environments.

Cavatica said...

Interesting discussion here. I think about it too and have no answers.

Cavatica said...

Ps. I think a lot of food looks like throw up. I have a strange urge to list them, but I'm going to resist.

Elaine said...

Hmm. Well currently our girls are in an International School where white kids are the extreme minority - they stick out like sore thumbs. My girls blend in with the Pan Asian majority - Koreans, Indonesians, Indians, Chinese etc. But when we go back to the US next year it will be to a neighborhood and a school that has very very very few Asians. In fact it is a neighborhood we want to move away from (anyone need a cheap house in North CArolina? I can cut you a deal!!) but couldn't sell the house. I do not look forward to having to manufacture diversity for my kids. And I worry how they will adjust - my older daughter is very popular here.
So yeah, I'm all about moving if we can. Though next time I'll draw the line at moving to the other side of the world. At least for awhile!

Saint Louis Family Robinson said...

This is a hot topic at our house too.

This year we feel lucky; she is in a class with a 35% Asian population... and that's at our designated grade school within our public school district. And our school district is a top rated district... so yep, we're feeling pretty good this year.

Now I have a question for you: We have been attending a church where the population is 97% Chinese-American. On most Sundays I am the only Caucasian Female (my husband adds to the small number of Caucasian Males). And for the most part, our daughter enjoys going to services and Sunday school classes.
However, our beliefs do not match that of the church and yet we continue to go... we go for the Chinese-American Connection rather than the religion. Is that wrong?

The Gang's Momma! said...

Great conversation. Not sure I've thought about it enough to have any valuable input that differs greatly from the rest of this very sharp gang.

Partially because we've been in a very diverse school district for almost 6 years now and it's a bit of a non-issue for our situation. (Meaning it feels very diverse, we're content that it's enough for this stage of our life, and we can't change it right now even if it weren't okay with us.)

And partially because I've spent most of my "thinking time" regarding her particular differences be being focused on the hearing issues she needs to conquer and accomplish to be successful in school. That feels more important than the demographic mix to me, based upon the research and the information I've been gathering about unilateral hearing loss and learning.

A momma can only focus on so much at one time, right?!

The Gang's Momma! said...

Great conversation. Not sure I've thought about it enough to have any valuable input that differs greatly from the rest of this very sharp gang.

Partially because we've been in a very diverse school district for almost 6 years now and it's a bit of a non-issue for our situation. (Meaning it feels very diverse, we're content that it's enough for this stage of our life, and we can't change it right now even if it weren't okay with us.)

And partially because I've spent most of my "thinking time" regarding her particular differences be being focused on the hearing issues she needs to conquer and accomplish to be successful in school. That feels more important than the demographic mix to me, based upon the research and the information I've been gathering about unilateral hearing loss and learning.

A momma can only focus on so much at one time, right?!

Michelle said...

Oh goodness, I spend entirely too much time worrying about this too. My kids school is a lot like yours...but the school is phenomenal and the attitudes there are really good as well. Because of the low diversity in our school, we look outside of school for our kids. We are lucky enough to live very close to a internationally acclaimed arts high school academy which gets students from all over the world. I'm working with them to get a student from each of my children's birth countries (Colombia and Taiwan) to act as mentors for my kids. This among many other factors, hopefully will help offset the lack of diversity in their school.

Aunt LoLo said...

Ok, you know we don't have QUITE the same situation as your family...but it has a lot of similarities.

And, from a graduate of a VERY diverse high school/middle school set? Yes, that comment can happen anywhere. Because unless ALL of your "diversity" comes from ONE country...there are going to be weird comments. Because what we eat in Hong Kong is nothing like what "they" eat in Japan. But because "we're" in America...we're Diverse. Am I making any sense?

I think what you're doing is perfect. Miss T. can see that no, not everyone looks like her. And no, she doesn't look like everyone...and that's how the world is. There are people who look alike, and people who don't, and people who eat homemade bread for lunch every day (man, I was jealous of that kid ;-)) and people who eat homemade Thai eggrolls every day (man, I was jealous of her, too!)

But, when kids can be taught that food is food, and different is just different...then we're getting somewhere.

(Take this with a grain of salt...I moved back to Seattle so Ming Wai wouldn't be the only Chinese girl in her class, and just came home from a vacation in "Little Hong Kong" where I only met two people, in three days, who didn't speak Cantonese. And I liked it. Loved it.)

Pros and cons.....

Anonymous said...

I have to go anon on this comment. I have given this a lot of thoughts over the years. I think maybe it is because your own close-mindedness that you think everybody else would think like you. If you had embraced your racially different child 100%, wouldn't you expect other people to accept him/her as much as you do? If yes, then why worry about diversity? The very fact that diversity is so important to you shows that you don't believe that your adopted child is your equal. Therefore, out of love and obligation, you would everything in your power to giver him/her a diverse environment.

Jennifer said...

I can't believe that the last commenter (who "had" to go anonymous) had the guts to say what they said. But I am not shocked they didn't have the guts to put their name on their post!

Just because a parent is 100% content with their racially different child doesn't mean that other people will be. We live in a world that is full of racism and contempt (your comment being a great example).

And while I also commented that I didn't think what Tonggu Momma was seeking was the MOST important thing, it is important for children to have role models and examples who look like them... if it is possible.

I'm just guessing, but you probably had the benefit of being surrounded by people who looked just like you, so it doesn't seem important to you that this little girl see other Asian people in her community. But it is. And if you knew anything about this little girl, you would understand it even more.

autumnesf said...

Anon is a scream.

That's a joke post right?

Or someone who has read nothing but this post?

Since there is such a large number of adult adoptees out there telling us as parents just what a HUGE deal the race issue is for our kids...can't be somebody actually paying attention.

It's a super valid question for parents that want to do their best by their children -- and our struggle with what that looks like.

mama d said...

Interesting question. Our school is incredibly diverse, which is great when we choose to point out that there is no majority. (There is on certain parts of campus, a self-chosen hierarchy. But, I digress.)

The not-so-great part is that the principal preaches being "colorblind." So, International Night is the night when some white parents bring KFC and make their own "American" table at the potluck.

To me, enough diversity looks like a community in which folks are proud (and unafraid) of talking about what makes them different.