Home Education Magazine
March-April 1999 - Articles
Thanks to those that have helped me integrate this most important lesson into my life and heart.
"Racist? Not me!" Who wants to see that in themselves? Yet, once the question is asked, it echoes, reverberating off the walls that segment our psyche and ultimately our lives, until the truth absorbs the disturbance.
For me this meant examining the reasons I decided to homeschool - my ideal - as opposed to what was actually manifesting. My decision to homeschool was partly inspired by my desire to have my children grow to know themselves before meeting the labels society had in store for them.
We are a bicultural family. I use the term bicultural instead of biracial, because we are all one race, the human race, but we inherit numerous cultural legacies. This point speaks directly to what I aspire to share with my children through our approach to home-based education. Since I mentioned we were a bicultural family, you may be wondering, "What are they?" My husband is Polish-American, though it seems odd to apply such a title because he doesn't appear to identify with that label. I have been assigned the African-American label. Since I identify strongly with my predominate inherited culture, I am quite accepting of this title. I have embraced the culture of my family of origin, and then integrated aspects of those that enhearten me. Technically, I suppose we are all multicultural, but for the purposes of this article I will stick with my own version of traditional terms.
We live in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, and are fortunate not to live in a subdivision. A couple of years ago I began really seeking out a homeschool group and the search yielded nothing close to my vision. One thing I kept running into was a lack of diversity. This presented a problem because it is important, I thought, for my kids to grow up having the opportunity to meet people of various socioeconomic, spiritual/religious and cultural backgrounds. At least that was what I said when I decided to leave the first groups I checked out or began. One day, however, I was talking to a friend when I made the statement that I was "culturally starved". Bells went off. I knew what that was code for: I wanted to be with other African-Americans and I felt it was important for my children.
I then got together with seven or eight other homeschool moms looking for the same thing. I chose to overlook a very obvious (potential) source of conflict because my optimism won out. They were all very conservative Christian homeschoolers, and I am not. We tried to make it work, but as issues built up (for me) I steadily expressed my conflicting viewpoint. When a statement of faith was proposed I felt their religion had begun to overshadow everything and I could stay no longer. Since this seemed to be working for everyone but me, I announced my departure. I wasn't willing to pay any price for cultural connection. True desperation hadn't set in yet. I realized it was quality over quantity; I have African-American friends, Them is even a (Christian) homeschooler.
There was one other group I had heard of, yet I hadn't gone to visit them. Why? Red flags started waving! Did I really want to go here?
I had avoided this group because I knew it wouldn't offer the cultural nurturance I desired, nor would it provide the exposure to diversity I longed for in that situation. I knew everyone there was white. I wanted to bite my tongue, but I realized I hadn't said it out loud, so I could be spared.
What did I think I was avoiding? Having everyone stare when I walked up... wondering if they were just looking at my hair. Perhaps they'd never seen dreadlocks before and were just (silently) conspicuously curious. Are they wondering if these are my children? I hated that awkwardness of being "the only one" again. But what did it mean if I was avoiding these people solely founded on my ethnically-based assumptions? Could I be a racist? Why not me? my alter ego countered.
I happened to cross paths with someone from this group a few weeks later. We hit it off and decided to give our children a chance to meet. Everyone connected. She invited me to the group meeting I had been avoiding and I shared with her the reason I hadn't checked it out yet. She didn't seem judgmental at all, in fact, she understood. She has wanted the same exposure to diversity for her children and has been equally unsuccessful... but she did find a great bunch of folks at AAEN (Atlanta Alternative Education Network). I trusted her opinion, and felt secure I would not be greeted with cold stares.
I was right. I have even made a few new friends. We meet monthly for a "mom's night out," in addition to our weekly homeschool gathering. I am glad I took the chance because it has been a rewarding learning experience.
I realized this was a lesson for me that would help shape our family. The sin is not the racist thought, it is the action taken in its defense. I decided to homeschool because I saw a chance to continue the much-needed healing with the next generation. I see clearly now how easy it can be to deny our part in the perpetuation of separatism that births racism... and many other "isms," for that matter. I can only teach my children that there is no "me" and "them" - only "us" - when I know it for myself.
©1999, Yvette Dubel
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