While sitting and eating ice cream on the patio we asked my 9 year old daughter what she liked about living in our neighborhood.
Here are a couple of her thoughts:
She likes our back yard and our fruit trees. She likes that we have a community garden a few houses down. She liked that we have an orchard near our house and a playground at the school nearby. She didn’t like that her friends don’t live close by.
We often wonder how raising a white child in an all black neighborhood will impact our children’s lives for better or for worse. One negative is that it is challenging to find kids their ages that it would make sense for them to be friends with. Parents in any neighborhood should help guide decisions about who their young children have as friends. Living here adds another layer of complexity. We have to think about if it is appropriate for our daughter to be friends with the same age child as one of our renters. If we have to make a tough decision to not renew a lease, would we be forcing her friend to move. Approximate levels of wealth also play a part in these decisions. While most 9 year olds won’t care, we have to ask ourselves if it is really appropriate for us to invite a child over that has almost nothing, while we have a 70 inch tv hanging on the wall and a massive three car garage outback.
The positives surely outweigh the negatives. If there was ever a chance for someone to be considered the opposite of racist, a kid that looks like ours growing up in a neighborhood like ours would have a really good shot at pulling it off. At 9 years old, she has been asking questions for years that grown adults are just starting to consider. She has a deeper understanding of white privilege than most adults. When she was a month old, she had already spent more time in a poor, black neighborhood than most people do in their entire lives. She can speak fluently about why it is important for us to be talking about why black lives matter. She can articulate her understanding of why rioting and violence is sometimes needed to get attention so a point can be made. She lives fearlessly in a place where most whites are afraid to drive through, much less live.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests, we have been talking about what a post racist America could start to look like. Children that understand the privileges afforded to them by their parents, skin color, and environment as an adolescent who mature into adults that fearlessly advocate for those not afforded the same privileges will shape what that America becomes.