Diversity isn’t the goal; we must do better

I have a confession to make. Raising non-white children in the whitest state in America is draining. I spent my first 13 years in Maine living in a town so utterly white that my dearly departed mother, who had a chance to visit Maine before her untimely death, referred to it as “Pleasantville” in reference to the film of the same name.

Two years ago when my marriage ended, I relocated to our bustling metropolis (granted, not a metropolis by the standards of most other states, but our most populous and vibrant city nonetheless, and a pretty cool one). Portland is touted as Maine’s most diverse city. Portland public schools are held up for their diversity and the many languages spoken in their schools. On the surface, it does look different from most of Maine. But the truth is that it is an illusion. It’s not real. It’s not real at all and the truth is I am tired of it.

I typically steer clear of discussing my children in this space but today I am going to break my rule because what we are facing is larger than being Black in Maine. It’s what life is like in any racially homogeneous space that is dominated by whiteness. It’s how we can lose our sense of self if we are not vigilant.

Last year, my daughter started middle school. Her school is known nationally for their style of teaching, and it is considered by some to be a good school. However, from the time mini-me entered middle school, our experience has been nothing but lackluster. Not even a week into middle school, my daughter pointed out that all her teachers are white and that the Black kids are Black immigrants from various countries who rarely interact with others groups…including Black kids like her. (My kids are biracial but identify as Black and, honestly, even if they didn’t most of the rest of society would).

A visit to any of the school-related events confirmed what my daughter was seeing: white people running the show and even at the parent level, parents tended to stay grouped together based on race/skin color. Most interaction along racial lines is superficial at best with the occasional interracial friends. Yet this school and most of the parents whose children attend it insist that the school is diverse.

Let me be upfront and just admit that I hate the word diversity; over the years, it has become the catch-all statement used to tokenize people of color. In predominantly white spaces, if we have a few flies in the buttermilk, we call it diverse but we don’t do the deeper work of dismantling whiteness or creating an anti-racist lens (or a truly inclusive and interactive space) because those efforts would require the deeper work of unearthing and restructuring. A commitment to “diversity” however allows us to do the work of adding color without really doing the work of changing anything.

Despite the reality of the “diversity” issue at the school, the co-parent and I were willing to keep the girl child in this school. However, as time went on, her enthusiasm for school waned and by this current school year, it reached code-red status. This isn’t typical tween ambivalence about school. This has become tears and angst in the weekday mornings, at night, fading Friday night and Saturday but beginning again by Sunday afternoon. Pretty much any mention of school was treated like a pending trip to the clink. Regardless of what was going on or which parent she was with, her feelings about school were loud and clear.

We reached our breaking point and brought the situation to the attention of the school, they were flabbergasted. The tween is a stellar student, never gets in trouble and is polite. I won’t bore you with the details but I hit the wall after meeting with all of the kiddo’s teachers and the principal and the tired diversity line being trotted out. As I said in that meeting, I am a Black mother sitting in a room full of white people in charge. I don’t see diversity, I see white people in charge. I am paraphrasing but you get the point.

The thing is, this isn’t just my daughter’s school. This is about how organizations and institutions in Maine and most white spaces approach people of color. POC are recruited or brought in and, in most instances, they won’t be there in a few years. At  one point, Portland had a Black police chief and a Black school superintendent. Neither one stayed longer than three or four years if memory serves correct. In my 15 years in Maine, I have known more than a few talented POC who moved to Maine, only to pull up stakes after a few years. Are people using Maine as a stepping stone to greener pastures? Possibly, but my gut says that it is tiring being one of the only ones. It is tiring never fully relaxing, it is tiring always being on guard. I can mostly say that feeling is what led me to take a job out-of-state.

The goal should never be diversity and tolerance, that is simply not good enough. Just having a mix of people (diversity) doesn’t mean anything fundamentally changes. And tolerance is terrible; I tolerate my annual mammogram but I certain don’t like or look forward to it. Organizations should be dedicated to creating a vision of wellness and an understanding that systemic racism is a barrier to that wellness. This barrier cannot be addressed or eliminated until a critical mass in any given system understands the systemic nature of racism and addresses it as a threat to the health of all members of the system. Any systemic barrier must be addressed within four dimensions:

  • internal: within the individual
  • interpersonal: within relationships individuals have with each other
  • institutional: within the organizations created to structure society
  • cultural: within the values, norms, belief systems, behavioral patterns, etc. of groups of people

In other words, we need to be willing to examine our systems and make sure that we are creating spaces that are not upholding the status quo and thus perpetuating the type of harm that too often is a part of being the diversity.

No doubt my words are  harsh but this space and my work puts me in contact with many POC throughout Maine and in other predominantly white spaces and the stories I am privy to are at times heartbreaking. They are also a reminder of how often white people don’t truly see POC as actual people. White people don’t see the real harm that is perpetuated onto POC—sometimes intentionally but sometimes out of sheer ignorance. Regardless, it’s not okay and organizations and schools need to do better.

As for my daughter, the odds are high that she may end up at a private school that, while not diverse, can at least meet her academic needs and is upfront about their diversity or lack thereof. At this point, honesty and intentionality are better than the superficial.

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51 thoughts on “Diversity isn’t the goal; we must do better”

  1. Not that much better in Boston Public Schools even though the denial is much stronger than that found in Portland. I so feel for your beautiful daughter and I agree – private school ! And we both know the one ! My understanding is that things there are a lot better since Rachel’s pioneering days ! By the way — you did not mention that Portland had an awesome leader in the Lady from Richmond, Virginia ! I think that Portland just catches such professionals off guard and this explains their moving on !

    • As far as I am concerned Boston is no better off and that ultimately is why I chose to commute to Boston.

      • Agree with you ! Boston’s problem is that it is sooooo in denial of what is really going on around here. Takes scandals such as the recent racism charges against Boston Latin to wake up the stakeholders here- at least for a while. By the way, your so wise and lovely daughter ( ironically as born in Maine, she is much more a Mainer that either of us from “away” shall ever be !) has picked up on the impact of the divisions even within the people of color living in New England. It is striking that those POC with an heritage from the American south are looked down or simply ignored by those newly arrived immigrants from either Africa or the West Indies. The groups share no real historical memory and the Islanders have little concept of what real racism does to the soul. In Hartford, CT, I was shocked to learn that if you are POC with southern roots, you are looked down by those POC from the West Indies . Hence the power and economic opportunities in Hartford are largely limited to Islanders, only. Associating with West Indian islanders here in Boston – it is unsettling to learn of the hatred that is directed against “black” Haitians living here. Where is such learning coming from ?

  2. Thank you for this great post. I hear this all the time from POC. I do a lot of work with nonprofits and they always start by asking how they can find POC to hire. I heard a quote awhile back that is so spot on. First you have to hire better white people. That doesn’t really mean rehire a bunch of white people. But it does mean as white people we need to do the internal work first…or at least start doing it. Because diversity can be just tokenism. The POC hired aren’t going to last long as the micro aggressions (and worse) start to pile up. Anti-racism/anti-oppression work requires resources–time and money–or nothing is ever going to really change.

  3. Hard stuff. I feel for you and your daughter. Can you think of any school that might be a model where school officials, school boards, parents, and teachers might get instruction for how to proceed at least *toward* real relationships among equals with awareness about whiteness and othering rather than mere diversity numbers? I can only imagine how “tiring” it is absent of that.

  4. It may not be perfect, but it’s miles, miles, miles (heck even ten times more miles) better than any Public Schools in the State Capital area (Augusta) such as Hall-Dale, Coney and Gardiner High which majority are poor xenophobic white students from poverty stricken families (low income housing, trailer parks) who have trouble deciding if they’re racist or not, zero ambition of wanting to do well in school and only join sports teams not for school pride/ spirit but to relieve themselves from their shitty life and status to bully people.

  5. Private schools in Maine such as Kent’s Hill and Hebron tend to be more diverse (not sure about Gould however) than any public schools outside of Portland. But most are situated remote rural white areas that you have to go out of your ways to get there. Also, no offense, do you even ask your daughter if she has cultural shock? I went through it awkwardly back in the late 90’s when I transition from being a token minority and someone who stood out in Hall-Dale to suddenly seeing diversity when I attended Kent’s Hill.

  6. Talking about culture shock ! As a older white woman , I experienced this big time when I relocated from CT to Augusta MA in 2005. Not only was I surprised by the poverty around me but the whiteness as well . Shocked to learn that racism here is directed toward those with a French Canadian heritage. And the few people of color that I met were treated as just novelties . The real sadness is Mainers like it just like it is and there is no drive or even any desire for change !

    • It one of the reason I don’t live there anymore nor do I have desire to return (high school reunion, visiting old friends etc etc). I makes me wish I grew up in Portland or anywhere in the Casco Bay Area. Kennebec Valley is a rust belt that’s fallen since the 50’s through the 70’s when all the mills departed from that area and hasn’t recovered since. Although there are new stores like Target and Bestbuy (which we should’ve gotten in the 90’s) the damaged has already been done. Not surprised the region voted for Trump, a lot of my poor white classmates were rebellious and vicious so I can easily see them being Trump supporters as adults. There was never that sense of anti Franco-Americans though. It was always strange how my classmates were big admires of gangsta rappers like Dr. Dre, Busta Rhymes, Warren G and Snoop Dogg (despite barely meeting anyone who is black) and athletes like Shaq and Deon Sanders yet in turn they make various racist joke like how the African slave trade was funny and the reason why blacks were slave was because they were ugly and inferior. Ironic isn’t.

  7. My little Midwestern city sounds like it may have similar demographics as yours (88% white, 5% Asian, <3% African American, <3% Hispanic). Our kids are in the most progressive, democratic, parent-involved school here, which is deliberately doing it's best to hire good teachers of color. We can't find them, at least not in our price range. As you're experiencing, its so hard to live in a constant minority status even in a hip little city like ours, so we haven't been able to attract the diverse staff we would love to have. We keep trying.

  8. I’m a white lady, but I used to homeschool in Southern Maine. It’s still a lot of white folks and not a lot of POC, but at least you can pick and choose who you hang out with, and you can pick your influences and your curriculum to avoid racist history and promote a healthy self-image for your kid. There are some POC who specifically homeschool to avoid racism in the schools and give their kids a more culturally affirming start in life. If this path is of interest to you, shoot me an email, and I’ll get you in touch with the folks I know who have kids in the right age group and/or are POC. Good luck no matter what you choose. Thank you for being such a wonderful teacher.

  9. The 2010 Federal Census, documents that in the State of Maine “94.4% of the population was non-Hispanic White, 1.1% non-Hispanic Black or African American, 0.6% American Indian and Alaska Native, 1.0% Asian, 0.1% from some other race and 1.4% of two or more races. 1.3% of Maine’s population was of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.” Indeed Maine is very white… and the further up the coast one goes, the more that this is true. When living in Portland from 2009 – 2014, I met a number of brilliant and very skilled professional POC— as Shay mentions, a Chief of Police , a Portland Public School Sup. and as well an excellent City Manager, talented artists, etc. so the issue is not recruitment but in retention. While Maine is a nice state to raise children it is however a difficult state in the realm of public management . Change simply does not occur here and is countered at every chance by those that like it just like it is — warts and all . So unless a POC either establishes a family here or as it more usual has deep family roots —they are going to split — simply because their talents are wasted here ! So the Chief of Police , Portland Public School Sup. and as well an excellent City Manager left for better pastures. The fact that the so gracious and talented lady City Manager found herself caught in the middle of a “chicken shit fight” did not help matters !

  10. Your words are not harsh. They are true, you have seen through to the root issue and I think you are a good mother for it. It requires a systemic change to fix, but removing your daughter from a place that’s not letting her thrive is the best thing any parent can do.

    The point is that Maine is not a nice place to raise children. It’s hurting the author’s child something awful, to not see that is another erasure of POC POV. I appreciate the other points in your comment, but that line was blind ignorance.

    • Oops – I said that “Maine was a nice place to raise children” and I stand by this especially within the Island communities close to Portland. Many families do sacrifice a great deal – especially financially to be able to raise their children in such communities — and as well within the greater Portland area. And as a born Mainer, little perceptive and gifted “Shay” is going to manage well in this environment– particularly in one of the area’s better private schools.

  11. Diversity isn’t the goal; we must do better

    Your article “Diversity isn’t the Goal: we must do better” resonated with me as it mirrors my 32 plus years of living and raising young black men in this oh so white state. I moved here over 32 years ago because I married a man whose job was here. I have always been an educated independent black woman so I thought, of course, I can handle living in a place that has so few people of color. At first, I even joked about how when we left the state there would be no black people left. But over time the joke became no joke at all. The simplest things; getting my hair done or finding black hair care products became a big production that intailed ether traveling to somewhere out of state and stocking up on hair supplies when I found them. Finally just cutting my hair so short that I didn’t have to deal with the issues became the answer to my hair problem. I had grown up in a middle-class black community and my father was active in the civil rights movement so I am used to interacting with those of a different race. What I was not prepared for was the fact that so many “white Mainer” did not know how to dealing with educated independent me. They questioned my hair, dress, career and the fact that when they ask to speak to the person in change that person was me. When we had kids all the issues we faced multiplied. It is one thing to constantly have my culture, self, questioned it is another to see it happen to my children. We worked to exposes our sons to the arts. We value education and monitored their schools. But at every turn, we faced a public system that did not understand or value our sons. When there were problems at school, they questioned why we expected so much, after all, they were well behaved what more did we want. When they grew older and began to try on different ways to express their black identity, their mear presence was seen as threating. They changed from happy, caring, self-assured young children to depressed and angry young men. One of my sons said to me one day that we had no right, bringing up black boys in Maine. It was not until that moment that I took stock of the tole this society has taken on my sons. They had to grow up in a place that did not understand or value their history, culture, or identity. They had to spend their childhood explaining and defending who they are. Whenever there was an issue of race or black history they had the burden of explaining and often defending their race and identity, much too heavy a burden for any child. When they dreamed big and want to try new things (dance, theater, music, art, or creative writing) there were those who didn’t think that young black boys could do that. Sure, it was alright to bounce a ball, be a track and soccer star but not alright to dance ballet or write poetry. This state robbed my children of the right to be comfortable with their own identity. My failure to see how the absence of a supportive community of color would have helped to insolate them from these social pressures and help buffer them from the feeling of being so devalued and alone hunts me to this day. Each of my sons struggles to make his way in this society that devalues them. My husband and I try our best to offer what support we can. But if I am honest, it is an uphill battle. I am tired and if I could turn back the clock I don’t think I would have raided my sons here in Maine. The toll it has taken on them and us is just too great.

  12. If you decide to pursue the private, aiming to be progressive, school in Portland, I am here now as a parent, as I have been for the past nearly four years now. The education is thoughtful, some of the teachers are wonderful. However. And its a pretty big however, and I’m surely not telling you anything you don’t already know. You will be dealing with a white neoliberal population here, and there is a particular kind of insidiousness this will bring to your and your families life as well. I have often thought that the self destructiveness of white folks here in Maine, that lately manifests in addiction and early death, is particularly about Whiteness, but thats a whole other discussion. What I mean to share with you is that many of the very well educated white people here are very much, as in most all other places in liberal America, still of course walking around thinking they are White. If there is to be a dismantling of Whiteness here, it hasn’t truly started. And, the white neoliberalism that is in direct alignment with capitalism and survival of the ‘fittest’ has also yet to be dismantled. So this is the particular kind of work that needs to be done here, work I am in no way suggesting you take on, but letting you know its here. And again, I’m here, and it would be amazing to have you join if you decide to enroll your child. The school would be lucky.

  13. Thank you for your article. I am a White woman with White daughters. As an educator, I love to develop world citizens, help students become more aware of the world. In the low-income environments where I typically work, this is especially needed. I love helping students see that the whole world is not like them, no matter who they are.

    What has this got to do with your article? My daughters ended up at an Independent boarding and day school (they were day students) – the students were from all over the world. Imagine the accents, the languages spoken, the varieties of skin tones, the different perspectives, traditions, etc., they became exposed to – especially interesting in HIstory classes, discussing, for example, the Viet Nam War with their Chinese, Russian, and Vietnamese classmates . This particular school sought to find the gift in each student, which also helped nurture a respect for differences.

    If this sounds like something you are looking for, you may want to look at Independent schools with particularly diverse student populations. They often have scholarship money if financial aid is needed. Otherwise, living in a diverse community, such as San Jose, CA, is another option.

  14. Great post. I too believe we can do better than “tolerate”: how about “accept” or even, gasp, celebrate? Let’s celebrate difference.

  15. This post resonates with me on so many levels. As a public school teacher, I definitely know what it is to tire of being the only one, to not be seen as a whole person, and worse, to feel (as I used to, but NO longer) that I have to hide parts of myself so that others will accept me. It’s not that the white folks in education specifically asked me to, and in their minds, since they didn’t, they didn’t do anything wrong. The tragedy is that the system and status quo that they uphold normalizes whiteness and others everything else. I am literally the only AP English Literature teacher in my entire region that serves most of the black and brown kids in my district. It follows that I am the only black one. I am also one of the most highly educated in my content area (because that’s how we do it). So, folks have started expecting me to spread my knowledge and expertise (for free) by advising middle management, and facilitating workshops etc. to teach their under qualified people my “recipe for success” with black and brown kids. I put up a fuss and got a little stipend. This was a band-aid, not a solution. My district went through a very public show of recruiting teachers of color a year or so ago in response to an 80-page report outlying all the ways the district is not serving its black students and staff. Almost every single one of the people I know who came from out of state left for exactly the reasons you lined out in your post. The sad part? Nobody tried to stop them from leaving. They had served their very public purpose.

    What you see as “fake diversity” is rampant. It has existed in every district I’ve worked in, and I’ve worked in 3. The real danger is that it allows those who think they are truly fighting for educational equity (if not revolution) to become complacent. My daughter is going to an IB school in a “Whitopia” and she’s managed to find acceptance and comfort with her group of diverse friends. She has many LGBTQ, bi-racial, Native, and Latinx friends, but she tells me that a lot of the other black kids don’t want to stand out, so they don’t go out of their way to befriend her. This is the consequence of a system that promotes that type of dysfunctional social interaction and contorts the minds, and spirits of our young people. This is what I experience as the #onlyblackalways in most professional settings. This is the way we fail at disrupting the system. This is the way we oppress each other: with subtle social queues, the “types” of people we include or reject, uplift, or oppresses, listen to, or force to remain silent.

  16. When you identify cultural homogeneity, you identify a problem. When you identify racial homogeneity, you identify a racist. My advice to you is stop seeing in color, and rise above your daily challenges. Good luck.

    • Heidi, I think you failed to understand Duncan’s point. We all see in color but to focus on that distinction is the wrong way to address the issue. The only way we get past racial or cultural bias is to get to know people for who they are. Race is only one aspect of that. If all you were to know about me is that I’m an old white man living in the Midwest what would pop into your mind? But if you made the effort to get to know me personally and to understand my experiences you might come away with a very different impression. The author needs to do what she thinks is best for she and her children but if every POC leaves a place because of all the “whiteness” then nothing changes. We should all be thankful that Rosa Parks decided to quietly sit down in the front seat of a public transportation vehicle instead of calling for Uber.

      • See, and here’s the problem with that idea. People of color, (poc) especially black folks do not have that very luxury you are describing of being an individual…you claim that as an old white man in the Midwest, you are perhaps different than what people might think. But black folks are treated as a group and not as individuals. That’s why, in Chicago where I live, black folks are treated differently by the cops than white people. Black people in this country are paid less money to do the same job as white people. There’s a long list here of ways in which we white folks are privileged to be treated as individuals and black folks and other poc are not allowed that privilege. So to say that focusing on race is focusing on the wrong issue is just a demonstration of privilege. POC do NOT have the luxury of not thinking about being black. They are reminded every step of the way. Whether it is through lack of representation on tv, in movies, advertisement, websites, etc. where they just don’t see folks who look like them. Or when they are followed through stores because people assume they are going to steal. Or stopped by cops regularly for “driving while black.” Or even “walking while black.” I work with a bunch of black folks doing anti-racism workshops and so I spend a ton of time on these issues. What you and Duncan have said is not unusual for white folks to say. But it is steeped in privilege and is lacking in any basis in reality. I also think you should be careful when mentioning poc who are icons and civil rights activists to make your case. Because it is kind of gross to use their efforts in order to prove your case as a white guy. I can’t speak for her, but I can say that your perspective is far more representative of what white people think than than any poc I have heard speak. When you do anti-racism work long enough, the tropes that are spoken by white people in conversations about racism are fairly predictable. “I don’t see color” or “You are focusing on the wrong thing–get to know people and racism will get better” are tropes I hear regularly. Well meaning, perhaps, but misguided. And totally unrelated to reality.

      • Actually calling Uber would only have worked in Ms. Park’s case if their was a “white only ” and a “black only” Uber service available to her. The issue by having dark skin in the United States is that you are impacted by it , if, when , where , why and by whom — every time you show up with your darker skin. No white skinned person in the United States is impacted only because of skin color ! The issue here – seen over and over again in these comments -is that white people can neither accept nor acknowledge this reality !

      • Indeed.

        Also, it makes me wonder that the girl was fine in the “whitest” little town before, moved to a bigger city, joined a new school and THEN she started doing worse at school. Because her teachers are white. Uhummm.. ok..

        and the other black students/ immigrants do not talk to others (even her)… What is wrong with that picture? These students are alienating themselves. It’s not the white kids that are ostracizing them.

        And “dismantling whiteness”? Why does it need to be an attack of a different skin color?

  17. Oops – I said that “Maine was a nice place to raise children” and I stand by this especially within the Island communities close to Portland. Many families do sacrifice a great deal – especially financially to be able to raise their children in such communities — and as well within the greater Portland area. And as a born Mainer, little perceptive and gifted “Shay” is going to manage well in this environment– particularly in one of the area’s better private schools.

  18. I am not a POC but I empathize with your daughter’s school experience a great deal. I don’t live in Maine either but in Tennessee where I am, they have a very similar attitude towards those with disabilities. I remember crying those same tears every Sunday of my fifth-grade year. It was so bad at the end that I was homeschooled through middle school. When I returned to public school for high school things weren’t much better. Every time I would raise some issue they were shocked and appalled that a disabled student would speak ill of the school many claimed was the most prepared to serve the disabled students. To your daughter, your struggle is real, valid and heard. You are stronger than then the crap they throw at you. I know you’re tired of hearing this but know that school is finite, it’s not even the middle of your story. You will go onto so much more. Adult life sucks too sometimes but you will find your allies I promise and the world will be better because your star is shining.

  19. Being a white woman who attended an all black church I understand how you feel. I was a token white who made the church look diversified when it really wasn’t. We eventually left because, although my skin tone made them look good, my whiteness was inconvenient.

  20. This post is an important one as it explores the value of diversity In schools through the lens of integration. You might enjoy the book ‘Learning in a Burning House’ as it explore whether authentic integration ever took place and how that leads to mindsets around inclusion and the actions that follow.

  21. Thanks for your thoughtful piece. We indeed need to do better on all of these issues. I can relate to the feeling of isolation and otherness, but as a “pale Latina” I still have the privilege of passing as mainstream so I have not faced the same daily struggles. I really appreciate you giving voice to these concerns and hope this helps raise the consciousness of these issues, so we can have open dialogues about how to address these challenges. Peace to you and your family.

    • Hi Tcha43,
      I agree with your opinion. Not easy to change even slight something, which is built over decades. It just happened to me at work here in Bali, Indonesia. I was coming from other island to find a better life, but the acts of local-tribe people showed different from what I expected. If I’m a foreigner, especially white-skinned tourist, the reality might be better. Now I feel stuck in this island for it’s treatment to other Indonesian from other islands.

  22. Thanks for talking candidly about this! My family and I moved to the inner city and purposely sought out a mostly African American church (including black leadership) to partner with them in ministry. The first place we tried, we were tolerated and as you said, you can only stand tolerance so long before you decide there has to be a better way, they’re not ready for me, and move on. We’re happy to have found a church now where they are welcoming and prepared for us and see the value in working together. There is such a difference between being tolerated and being accepted as family. It makes a world of difference and when you’re part of the family–you can let your guard down and just be yourself.

    We’re finding a weird dynamic of being viewed with suspicion, because let’s face it, how many white people go to the inner city to put themselves under the leadership of someone of color? I totally get it, so I just tell myself that I have to be patient and give people time. They have to see what our intentions are and if we’re legit or just some misguided idiots trying to “do a good deed.” It has been a very strange and enlightening experience!

  23. A lot of interesting material here, and food for thought for all races, as there is a tribal tendency to gravitate towards a person that is similar to themselves, usually involving race or income, and it’s not privy to any one skin color, place of birth, etc.

    One of the saddest things today is when one proudly touts their “multiculturalism” with their chin lifted high, and mentions how diverse they are (which in itself is an obvious implication that they are viewing people through a particularly lens). That viewpoint prevents them from judging a person based on who they are on the inside, usually according to; race, religion, income level, or something else, but usually one is judged on one of those three things by the myopic viewer/judger, even if the person with the myopic bias, whether conscious or subconscious realizes it.

    Almost everyone does it on some level, regardless of race, which is sad as much for them as the recipient of the behavior, because those who do it are missing out on expanding their mind, social circle, talking points, overall perspective.

    The great Martin Luther King said it best when he remarked, “I dream of a day when people will not be judged on the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”

  24. You say that ‘parents (at your daughter’s school) tended to stay grouped together based on race/skin color.’ Do you think that it’s what each group wants or do they find it more comfortable to stick to their own? Or is it too much like hard work for people at that school to push out of their individual comfort zones? Can’t blame white people for everything. But as you say, it’s your blog and your call.

    There were some interracial friendships, you say. How did that come about do you think? Does it take work? On both sides? Perhaps your mother’s generation didn’t have a chance to change in-Pleasantville, but while things aren’t perfect, (never will be given human nature), you do have a chance to change your surroundings. When I was a young mother, I was a volunteer at the school tuck shop. We raised money for out-of-budget school needs; we made friends with each other; we kept an eye on our children and we were an influence with the staff, when influence was needed. No one has time any more for that sort of thing. It’s all about raising fists and blame.
    I’m sure you won’t be bothered posting my comment, so my query is to you, blackgirlinmaine. If we are talking about diversity, surely we should expect non-Western countries to do the same. Can you name any?

  25. Diversity is a necessary start, and diversity was never about tolerance. Diversity is about getting the horse to water. Whether the horse drinks is another matter.

  26. I also agree that diversity is a tokenized form of segregation, which classifies people into categories or groups. Ultimately what it does is exploits differences rather than embrace differences. I do not understand why accepting things as they are is so challenging? However, I do know that the unacceptance of people based merely on their skin color is heart-breaking for me. I agree with Martin Luther King “Judge by the content of their character”

  27. An excellent blog post, thank you for writing this. I am not a POC but as an educator I felt that in my very white organisation I had to ensure that students were taught that POC do not have the same luxuries as white people. Through no real fault of my students own, many had little understanding of the Black Lives Matter campaign and its significance from emancipation through to the modern day. Many did not think that POC might feel intimidated by the whiteness of an area/organisation or how it might affect their lives when they do not identify with people within the area/organisation. Many white people simply do not understand this and I feel that as an educator it is vital that we do everything to ensure that students do understand it. I challenged the mantra of “I’m colour blind” and showed students the reality of this and how damaging it can be.

    Doing this came from being interested in critical race theory for my doctorate and challenging myself about the term colour blind amongst other things. I was shocked when things that were so blatant were pointed out to me and I felt that it was my duty to address them. This started first with me, then my children, then my students. I did not know it before because I have the luxury of not needing to know it. Thankfully I also have the ability to know that I can in some small help to change this.

  28. I think the mention of people self-segregating resonated with me the most. It’s something I’ve noticed in every state I’ve lived in, in every community. I grew up a military brat, and a am a military spouse now – things are a little different in this community because you can end up neighbors with anyone, and you need the support of the military community. Things like race and religion just don’t rank as high. Because of that, though, it’s hard to adjust to the way people are…everywhere else. Because it’s obvious.
    My childhood best friend (another military brat) and I always noticed how outside of the military community people of different races and ethnicities would keep to “their own kind” even in neighborhoods or schools that were supposed to be ‘diverse’. I grew up in a multi-ethnic household (Hispanic/white) and she’s black, and this was uncomfortable for us sometimes. Our friend groups wouldn’t naturally mingle or speak to each other. We’d try to throw mixers and people would group off and not talk to each other.
    We still see it as adults. She lives in a “diverse neighborhood” – but white kids and Hispanic kids won’t play with her black son. Some won’t even sit next to him on the bus.
    We wonder why it came so naturally to military kids living on a base to interact naturally, and play, and see each other as human, but doesn’t seem to occur anywhere else.

  29. I appreciate the honesty when you said we need to “dismantle whiteness.”

    Being white, with 4 white kids, and also having grown up quite poor in Maine, this is refreshing because it actually states what most whites who care to open their eyes have known for years about the ultimate goals of those who advocate “diversity”: white skin, in of itself, is the problem and its culture, whatever that is, must be dismantled.

    Thank you for stating this explicitly. Always better when the light shines. I only wish more would be as truthful.

    Any sense of guilt, shame, etc., I have though for being a white man, that train left the station many, many years ago never to return.

  30. I am a Philippine-born Canadian man living in French Quebec.

    I find the posts on this subject very interesting but I am not surprised.

    I have two sisters living in the US and one of them lived and worked in South Carolina. She used to talk about the white and black divide. This is similar to the French and English divide in Quebec as late as the early 1970’s when I moved to Montreal.

    Human beings become uncomfortable when they are out of their comfort zone that is why people in general stick to their own kind, i e. marry their own kind. They don’t intentionally exclude other groups.

    I am married to a French-Canadian white and my younger sister is married to a white Canadian. I have been with my wife for more than 40 years and almost the same as my sister.

    Being married to a white didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. I learned French. In family gatherings I was always the lone non-white, non-French.

    We sent our three sons to private school so I don’t know if the public schools here have the same problems as your public schools. Most probably it is the opposite here because immigrants live in “ghetto s” so the white French would’ be the minority.

    I sympathize with you and your daughter. We do our best to provide the best for our children but sometimes there are things that we cannot control.

    Maybe it was naive for me when i first arrived here but i had this attitude of being different, being “special.”

    Our three sons are never looked at as different. The youngest sometimes is asked if he is part Latino, Italian or Arab but it doesn’t bother him.

    Maybe it is better for you to live in a cosmopolitan city where diversity is the norm and is welcome by the majority.

    Good luck!

  31. I happened upon your site through the “Discover” feature and even though I have only been to Portland, Maine once in my life, I could feel what you described in your post. I am East Asian and I went to the mall and it felt eerie.

    I grew up in an all Dutch town and my family was the only family that wasn’t “white”. I completed all my schooling there, but it wasn’t without struggle. My parents went though a lot keeping me in school and did all they could to keep me sane, informed, and respectful despite how I was being treated.
    You sound like a wonderful mother!

  32. Thanks for sharing your views on this topic. I do not live in America and so I cannot fully relate to your personal situation. However, as a British woman living in a central European country, there have been many times when I have been sidelined, treated second rate and dismissed as stupid. Simply because I’m ….. different. Unfortunately, this is a global problem and I plan to return to a more cosmopolitan, multicultural part of the world. The word ‘diversity’ can have negative connotations, but only by accepting diversity as being a normal part of life can we all move forward. Good luck!

  33. Politically, diversity has been given a token definition which has stripped it of all its beauty and power to truly harmonize the process; and tolerance is what tides us over until we finally get the right opportunity to swat that mosquito. It really means we don’t like a situation but we will ignore it until we have the opportunity to do something about it, for better or worse, and that is usually stressful for all involved. It may serve some short-term purposes that support attitude or personality adjustments but it should certainly not be a way of life…or death, as any mosquito will tell you.

  34. It’s not so different in the U.K if you’re not in a big city – I was bullied for being the only non-white person in my year and the teachers did very little to stop it. It was so bad for my younger brother that he moved schools. I remember teachers making obviously insensitive and prejudiced comments singling us out (everyone should wear sun-tan lotion but Symone doesn’t need to wear it…!), how does teacher training not address this? It’s horrible feeling like the odd one out, especially when the (all-white) staff exacerbate it.

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