A nomad. A wanderer. A traveler. Those are all words you could use to describe me. I have moved almost every year since graduating high school. I’ve called seven different cities and countless more rental houses home in the past 20 years. Each time I’ve moved, there are numerous decisions to be made: where to live, where to work, where to play being among them. In the past, I have always been free to pick and choose the best neighborhood I could afford, closest to the biggest park and the amenities that were important to me at the time.
Not once–not one time–did I have to rule out a neighborhood I desired based on the color of my skin.
With the adoption of my African American son, that has all changed. We can no longer live anywhere we want. We can no longer simply choose the best neighborhood in the best city with the best schools. We have a Black son, and we don’t want his face in the mirror to be the only other Black one he sees. We don’t want to worry about him getting arrested (or worse) simply for walking home or to the park. We want him to go to a good school, but we know that dealing with racism at the best school would be far worse for him than a poor education at a diverse school.
My husband and I used to daydream every so often about moving back to Colorado, where we lived for almost a decade. Maybe we’d live in Boulder this time, or the mountains. But that’s no longer even a remote possibility. Those places are among the whitest in the country, and our family no longer fits in there.
I read this article, Where Should My Black Son Go to School? the other day written by a Black mother who was trying to figure out where to live in Los Angeles. She chronicles her struggle to find a good neighborhood, with good schools, AND a healthy black population:
“Looking for a place with good schools, a healthy environment, and diversity has taken over your life. You can’t help but mention it in conversation at your son’s preschool. A White mom says she has never thought of diversity as being important when choosing her daughter’s school. She says it doesn’t matter. You know she is only saying this because it has never been her experience to be at risk of harm because of her race. You wonder how fast it would take her to react if no one in her child’s classroom looked like her child—if her child came home crying from being teased and insulted by teachers and peers alike from being the only one.
You realize that White moms of White children are lucky. This is the essence of White privilege. They can live anywhere and be safe. They never have to think about how these decisions will shape their sons’ educational future. And sometimes, quite literally, also his life and death.”
Before having a Black son, I never realized the extent to which race affects every decision a Black family makes. Among many other things, I can no longer freely pick anywhere to live. Every major decision we make as a family will have the question of diversity at the very heart of it.
White privilege. It’s real, and manifests itself in ways you’ve probably never even thought of.