Periodically, I get emails (or comments) like this one from last night:
Subject: Just Saw Your Article on Milliken v. Bradley
So do tell: where do YOUR children go to school? And if you don’t have any, do you realistically see any future children you may have going to these “integrated” schools that you champion?
I think there are two things about these emails that are really fascinating. The first is how common the “just wait till you have children!” argument is. Now, to be fair, it is true that I don’t have any kids. I have, though, recently passed from the phase of my life in which zero of my close friends had children to one in which some of my close friends have children, so I think I’m in an okay position to appreciate how significant a shift in perspective it can bring.
But even if that doesn’t count, people like the author of this email seem to have forgotten that I was once a child. I have first-hand experience! And, as a child, the schools I attended (there were four of them) were all between 35 and 70 percent non-white. I did not always enjoy school, but I can confirm that exactly none of the reasons for that were related to excessive racial integration.
Now, it’s true that I was fortunate to attend public schools that either had special academic requirements or in which the majority of students came from solidly middle-class families. But that’s sort of the point (especially the latter): there’s no reason an “integrated” school has to be mostly poor, or have low academic standards. In fact, by far the most troubled American schools aren’t the integrated ones, but the segregated ones.
The second thing I think is fascinating about these emails is how they reveal the worldview of a particular kind of racism: that of white people who hate/fear black people so much that they can’t conceive of other white people who don’t hate/fear black people as much as they do. It’s as if attending school with non-whites was some sort of obviously absurd dare that can be neutralized by turning it around on the dare-er, who will surely reveal themselves to be unwilling to perform the ridiculous act they proposed for you.
I don’t know what else to say about this, except that if you are inclined to send me an email along these lines, please don’t. I have enough.
* I should note that the other issue that I get “just wait till you have children!” emails about is living in apartments. “Wait till you have kids, and see if you don’t want a single family home in the suburbs!” The problem with this, again, is that I was once a child, and as a child I had the opportunity to experience both living in an apartment in a large city and living in a single family home in the suburbs. To the extent that I had a preference, it leaned strongly towards the apartment, where I could go play with my friends without bugging my parents to drive me.