Thursday, August 23, 2007

Race, class, and another strange day in America

Went to the central office of our school district today to register my daughters for bussing to their private schools.... I really believe in supporting public schools and also hate the whole culture of privilege of private schools. But my special needs kid can't get her needs met in the public schools and my youngest was bullied and miserable. So I left my ideals at home and went to do the right thing for my kids.

The scene at the office was so disturbing. For the hour I was there, every white parent that came in was registering their kid for bussing to a private school and every black person was signing their kid up for public school. And then a bleach-blond, toned, tanned, 14k-flashing mom from a rich suburb didn't want to let a woman who was 8 1/2 months pregnant, hot, dishevelled, and out of a job "because I'm so far gone" go the the registry window because she had been sitting down to wait (gee, I wonder why?), not standing in line. And even though I spoke up vociferously for the pregnant woman, I still felt a taint by association with Mrs.tidy Suburbia - not just because of our shared skin color, but also because of our shared class, our sense of social confidence, and entitlement to what we damn-well deserve. It was a sad place to spend an hour.

The other thing I noticed was that all the black kids were quiet and well behaved and the white kids (e.g. Mrs. Rich lady's) were running all over the place not listening to their parents ineffectual chiding. "Come on Jonny, stay in here.... you're not allowed to go in there. Come on...." as little jonny blithely ran out the door. I mentioned this to my husband when I got home, and he told me about a recent study that talked about this very phenomenon. The researchers found that in ignoring/defying their parents, white kids were learning negotiating skills that would serve them well in later life. Whereas in behaving as their stricter parents told them to, black kids were learning a passivity that would keep them from getting ahead in college or work. So basically these kids are getting screwed both ways: if they behave well they're passive, if they're defiant they're stereotyped as troublemakers that justify all the white people pulling their kids out of public schools.

As I said, a sad place to sit for an hour and contemplate the screwed up state of our country.


Anonymous said...

I understand your blog to state that a public school district is paying to bus your children to a private school. Why is that? Thanks for considering this question.

Elizabeth said...

Because the law requires them too bus any kid to any school, within ten miles. We would be doing the school district a huge financial favor if we waived bussing. It would save them tens of thousands of dollars per year. Thanks for asking. E