A Diverse Raising May 10, 2010Posted by Matt in family, race.
Tags: children, demographics, diversity, friends, Mississippi, population trends, race, suburbs
Like Steve Martin in The Jerk, you might say that my kids are growing up as black children in Mississippi.
Last night my oldest daughter, Rachel, was doing one of those little girl playground chants and I was halfway listening when two words caught my ear – “black power.”
“Honey,” I said, “what did you say again?”
She repeated the lines for me, complete with the two words that grabbed my attention earlier.
“Where did you get that from?”
She looked at me with a sly smile on her face, “I learned it from T____”
I smiled back at her, “That’s cool, honey,” and she scampered on her way, saying the little rhymes she picked up from her friends. It’s not often that you hear a 7 year old little white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes use the term “black power.”
Later on I was talking with Diana about it and we both found it very interesting that most of our daughter’s friends are African-American. It seems as though they gravitate toward each other. In close proximity to our house there are six little girls around Rachel’s age (she is 7, so I’ll consider anything from 5 to 9) and of those six, three are white and three are black. While she is friends with and plays with all of them, she shows a definite tendency to prefer the company of the black girls – including the aforementioned T. From what I gather from her about her school friends and who she invites to our home, the pattern tends to hold steady. It’s the same way at our church as well. Though she has close white friends, they are outnumbered by the black ones.
While some of this stems from us – her church friends are the children of our friends – much of it comes directly from her. It is so amazing to me the way that kids do not see color as an issue, a barrier that separates them from each other. The continued experience of diversity is the answer to the prejudice problem that still plagues our society.
I read an interesting article today regarding race and society, this dealing with the changing face of America’s suburbs and how they are moving from being deliberately lily white to something that more matches the general populace. The article details a sort of reverse white flight trend, in which many whites, particularly young professionals, are moving back to the cities, while at the same time the suburban areas are seeing an influx of racial and socio-economic diversity. It’s quite fascinating to look at the numbers.
We live in Southaven, the largest suburb of Memphis, and have been here for six years. During that short time I can tell you that we have seen a good deal of demographic change. According to the latest population estimates I can find, Southaven has about 45,000, making it the fifth largest city in the state – though I suspect that once the latest census figures are tallied we will move ahead of Biloxi and maybe even challenge Hattiesburg. Though our city retains a decidedly white majority (65% vs. 25% black and 10% other), it is quite smaller than the other towns in our county (Olive Branch – 86%, Horn Lake – 83%, Hernando – 76%). In addition to that, our kids’ school is among the most diverse in the county, with a racial breakdown of 62% white and 30% black. This stand in contrast to some of the newer schools in the county which have much larger white majorities (80%+). So, in our section of the Memphis metro area, we have seen many move out to greener (or should I say whiter?) pastures farther away from the Memphis city limits – either to the far, more rural, reaches of the county or out of it altogether.
A large part of me would much rather live in Memphis than where we do now, but if we are going to be suburbanites, at least we can hold know that our children will grow up with diversity. I can think of few things as important as that.