Chapter 24: Everyone is Different; Everyone Belongs
The chapter title is the motto of her children’s school, where diversity is valued but children of color fall behind white students nonetheless
The Study Question
Make a list of all the factors that you believe contributed to your own achievement as a student. How do you think being a white person or a person of color influenced each of those factors?
When I was 4, I watched jealously as my mom sat on the sofa and listened to my sister read Janet and Mark books. I listened til I memorized them, then learned to shape/sound out the printed words. I never got mom’s attention, but reading became a refuge. Reading homework was just more reading – something to do that didn’t get me in trouble. At 8, I found Tolkien and Heinlein – and had to read more to understand them. With mom mostly absent, there was no one to make me do anything else.
We moved so much, friends were scarce. Inability of parents to coordinate with my mom – or their unwillingness to have their kids in her house – meant they didn’t come to my house much. Lots of time, nothing to do but read or watch TV. Fortunately, I liked to read.
To this day, I can pass any test you can *study for.
Would that have been different if I had grown up in a black family? An Asian one? A Hispanic one? I don’t know. I never saw families of color where the kids were left so unsupervised and moms so uninvolved. But then, I didn’t see many white ones that way either, so I don’t guess you can say race was the factor in that.
My belief – which probably suffers from some tunnel vision – was that I did well in school because I loved it. Bullies and other kids aside, school was mostly-safe, it was possible for me to do something right, and the rules were consistent. Bonus: new knowledge was interesting to me. So, basically, school was the one place that didn’t suck. Why wouldn’t I love it there and give my attention and energy to it?