Waking Up White: Chapter 25

Chapter 25: Belonging

The Reading

The author discusses how white parents dropped their kids off at school (while children of color rode the bus, like I did); how they volunteered, formed a community, arranged play dates and served as room parents (I had to look that term up).

One of the most resounding patterns that has echoed through my conversations in recent years is the way that white people, in general, grew up with a sense of belonging in America, while people of color did not.

She talks about messages sent to people of color that clearly show they are not wanted, not valued.

Growing up feeling like a belonger is a key ingredient in my perceptions and belief system.

Is that it…Guess that explains a lot about how we differ….

Understanding that the context, or environment, I mainstream America can feel simultaneously threatening to one racial group and empowering to another is a key to appreciation racial inequity

The Study Question

Did you or your parents ever ask for specific teachers or classroom placement? Did you or your parents ever volunteer for a school role, such as room parent or committee chair? How might you navigate these situations differently now? List three specific ways for a white parent both to be involved and to be inclusive of parents of color.

I’m not actually sure that my mom knew who my teachers were most of the time. As long as I got passing grades and didn’t act up in ways that made the school bother her, she mostly left that alone. She did volunteer to help with a high school play, mostly an opportunity to tell everyone how she had played the starring role in that one when she was in high school.  That was a rare period where for about six months she decided she was going to be “a part of my life.” She signed me up for beauty pageants (despite my never having expressed an interest – but it gave her a chance to tell me stories of her own teenaged “modeling” and how close she came to having one of her pictures used for an AT&T ad), helped with the play where I worked as a production crew member, and actually learned the names of two of my friends.

With no kids of my own, and having been far away when my nephews were young, I don’t really know how parents operate in school communities other than, I guess, being in PTA/PTSA.  I would think that parents could make an effort to reach out to parents of other kids in their class, and try to include them in the conversation about whatever-it-is they do (carpools? Field trips?), and to understand what things they need from that kind of participation. Maybe noticing when kids – of any color – don’t have the things they need, and try to work out ways to (a) fill that gap and/or (b) try to learn/understand what is causing it and how that family can be supported  and feel like a member of their school/class community.

That seems like a very vague and useless answer – I guess it’s really just a variant of “doesn’t being inclusive start with actually talking to people and asking them what they want or need?” Which is probably a little naïve and narrow.

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