rose’s last day at south fant – remembering the big decision
Today was Rosebud’s last day at South Fant’s 3K Program and what an amazing year! Not only did Rose learn so much, but were learning right along side her. I remember her first day of school like it was yesterday. As we were getting out of the car, putting on her backpack, and making our way to the front door, Rose said, “Mommy, her skin is brown?” Sarah responded so beautifully, “Yes Rosebud, look how beautiful…you should ask her name.”
It was that moment in time, we knew we made the right decision; and so began our journey of truly learning about race, class, ethnicity…and most importantly, white privilege. As our journey began, we knew that South Fant was the most wonderful decision we made as parents!
Here is what I write the days leading up to her first day of school in 2015. This is one of many posts I will be sharing from this past year. I hope you follow along this journey!
We are making a new decision…
We are making a new decision and trying to be proactive. Rosebud is turning four this September and a new school year is about to start. Last year we put Rosebud into a half day program at Boulevard Baptist Church’s Child Enrichment (CEC) Center and is scheduled to move into the 4 year old classroom this year.
Boulevard’s CEC has been wonderful, a great place to start Rosebud into a strong educational curriculum that is more than just childcare. It was a half-day program that allow her to integrate into a scholastic environment that was not only familiar but also a great jumpstart for Sarah and I into the world of education.
Over the last year, the term “white privilege” has been presented to Sarah and I in many different forms, but most recently this term has become the center of the social conversation here in the south. After the Ferguson uprising, Charleston shooting at Mother Emmanuel AME, and then Confederate Flag coming down from South Carolina’s statehouse, we have been more exposed to this conversation.
Sarah, Rose and I are noticeably white, with lots of privilege. We lead a relatively privilege life and have no idea, no clue, no language, and no context to even being to understand what it means to grow up as a person of color.
It was just the other day, I was working on a project and the person I was interviewing was a black woman. Our discussion led to an open forum surrounding race and I asked her, do I say “black” or “African American”? She responded, “I am not African, thus I am not African American…so black is just fine.” I have no idea what words to use and what is appropriate.
If I counted the number of black people I talk to daily, I could honestly say that my close relationships do not include lots of people of color. I can’t count on one hand, on a daily basis, the number of people of color that I associate with daily.
A few months ago, while planning for PRSA’s Southeastern Conference in Greenville, SC…it was brought to our attention that the speakers for the conference lack diversity. When you navigated to the website, you not could find a large percentage of people of color presenting during the three day event. It was my assessment why this happened, because the steering committee that was tasked to not only organize the event, but to attract speakers, lacked people of color.
How am I supposed to expose Rosebud to a diverse crowd of individuals during her very formative years when I am not even surrounding myself with a diverse set of people. This is more than a diversity issue…this is an issue of context. This is an issue of not trying to put Rosebud in a position to completely understand the life path of someone with color, but to see this person as a person and that color is a sign of beauty and not a sign of marginalization.
A few years ago, Rosebud’s cousins were able to go to South Fant School of Early Education. From the moment we learned about South Fant’s mission and diverse child demographics, we were attracted to the school. We knew we wanted Rosebud to experience this opportunity. Bottomline, we wanted her to start her educational process alongside many different children from all different backgrounds including skin color.
I was raised in the pubic school system and even from an early age, I was surrounding by kids from all background including race and other socio-economic status. I was also raised in a generation where the “N” word was still used by some of my relatives, even used as a common phrase for describing people of color. From the “N” to other racial slurs, my generation has slowly been distancing itself from that discourse, yet those words are still a part of my vocabulary. What do I mean, I know that word, I know what it means, I have heard it been used, and even as a youth used that word not knowing the hatred behind that word…I have had to learn to re-learn what is no longer an appropriate word. I still hear it today, on occasion, from some of my relatives.
I want Rose to grow up not knowing that word, not forming those fundamental pre-dispositions based on age-old words filled with hate. I want her discourse to start fresh, well beyond those words, embracing people of color for their heritage, their backgrounds, their everyday lives…stepping further away from this notion of colorblindness.
South Fant might just be that opportunity. During the summer, we inquired about Rosebud attending and were informed there is a huge waiting list. We thought, if it was meant to be, this opportunity will present itself. Well…we were moved up the list and Rose is now going to start South Fant on August 18th. But, we have been faced with a new decision. Boulevard’s CEC has asked us to reconsider, challenging us to consider the educational curriculum CEC has to offer Rose.
We are faced with questions like this:
- Is South Fant’s curriculum on the same level playing field as Boulevard’s CEC, or vice versa?
- Is the intellectual growth more important that the social growth? Or is that a legitimate consideration?
- Are we making a choice based on race just because of recent events or are we making a decision that is best for Rosebud’s longterm development?
I am surrounded about the far reaching elements of this decision…but I think Sarah and I already know where we are leaning. I think this decision is more than just putting Rose in a diverse school setting. I know that Rose is a smart girl and will thrive and grow intellectually no matter where she ends up. I know the world is bigger than the white privilege she has already been born into. I know that Rose has many ceilings to shatter as a girl who will one-day be a smart woman. I know that my legacy is dependent upon *me* to recognize my limitations when trying to delete the hard drive of my brain’s dictionary *and* the fact we have a huge opportunity to expose her to a new discourse…one of many words that are not used just for hate.