Thursday, January 22, 2009

These Historical Times

I have been thinking a lot about how diversity has been a part of my life. As a kid I was always taught that people are people. It doesn't matter what color or ethnic background they are- we are all the same. Just because someone does something good or bad, they shouldn't be classified in a race or ethnic group. My parents have always been fair about race and ethnicity. My grandparents must have taught them this. Even though they were all born around 1920 and brought up in a different time, I never once heard one of my grandparents say a discriminatory remark. If they had these thoughts due to their generation and upbringing, I never knew about it.
When did I first notice that people look different? Growing up in a predominately white suburb, diversity was not engrained in my everyday life. I have a distinct memory of my kindergarten class. A boy named J. who lived in the neighborhood was in our class, he was black and for many of the students it was the first time we had a black friend. I remember my teacher talking about different people and we asked J. if we could touch his hair. I have carried this with me through out my life. J. and I used to walk the same way home. At the traffic light with the crossing guard I would go left and he would go right. We got into a habit of racing to the crossing guard.Other memories of diversity in my life include different African American friends in school. In my school district we have a program where students who live in the city and would normally go to a city school attend a school in the suburbs. Otherwise our classrooms would have greatly lacked in diversity. I had a very close friend named K. in fifth grade. The last day of school she knew she would not be back for sixth grade. We were both sad. Even at that young age I think we both knew our paths wouldn't cross again. I still have notes from her in "my memory box." There was another great friend named D. He was the sweetest and most kind hearted boy. He left after sixth grade was over and we said our goodbyes. I also have notes from him and fond memories.

However, I know there was not enough diversity in my life growing up. And, I am proud of the changes that are being made in our country today. I am now part of a bi-racial family. I am now part of a diverse community of families who have adopted internationally. I too will have to answer questions about the difference in the way I look and the way my son looks. He will be forced to answer questions from schoolmates and strangers. And, I will have to explain to him why we look different and that it is okay. In fact, we should be so proud.

It is a more tolerant world. I hope that the excitement and enhancement of acceptance will continue to grow. My son won't know President Obama as the first black president, he will simply know him as President Obama. If Barack makes it to eight years, Fyn will only be 9. Who knows what his world will look like at that time. Hopefully race and ethnicity, straight and gay will lose the definitive nature of their title, and we will start to look at people like people- our neighbors, friends, co-works, teachers, and politicians.

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