Where Are All the Black Kids?
Okay, those who really, really know me, know that –despite running a site called African-American Conservatives — I’m not big into labels and racial descriptors. Having grown up with a Caucasian mother and no father in the home representing all the other ethnicities housed within me, I was raised to look beyond color — to the extent anyone is really able to — and focus on that precious trait Dr. King calls us to focus on, that being character.
However, despite our current politically charged environment where the “race card” is thrown around indiscriminately, there are times I consider racial issues. Some know that due to my upbringing in subsidized housing in a less than affluent neighborhood, I have real issues with “any gun for any one,” and depart from the stance most conservatives hold regarding access.
As with much of what I post here, it’s “thinking out loud” as I let you in on my thought process as I churn about various issues, and tonight was no different.
Regular listeners of the show know that I homeschool my children. About three or four years ago, I established a support group for homeschoolers of color, mainly because it seemed that we were such a rarity that whenever we came across each other in a class or on a trip, we’d gravitate toward each other. But tonight, this “rarity” really hit home:
My oldest has been involved with Robotics since he was six and in first grade. He’s been involved with, and competed in, JFLL, and now FLL. Most think it’s a male dominated field, but due to the push for girls to get into the sciences, we see a lot of girls in the classes and competitions. However, I can probably count the number of Black kids (or Hispanics) that I have seen in our six years in the field.
Tonight, my oldest began a Java programming class. He was the only Black kid in the class.
I finally decided to approach my husband (a computer programmer!) about this observation. This was a night time class, after the traditionally schooled kids in the class had been at school all day. So, it wasn’t a “you are a bourgeois Black family that can afford to have a stay at home parent” issue.
Back to my upbringing as a poor kid in San Francisco in the 60′s and 70′s: my mom put me in ballet classes, tap dance, and all sorts of extra-curricular activities. Classes through Park & Rec during the summer, and private classes during the school year.
So, if she could afford it somehow, as a single, poor mother, not on any type of government assistance, other than the private subsidy we got for our apartment owned by a faith-based organization, again, I wondered: “Where are all the Black kids?”
We live within easy distance of one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Next month they will host a full weekend of classes and activities for 7th – 12th graders (homeschooled, public and private schooled…it matters not…it’s open to all). The fee is a very affordable $40 bucks for the whole she-bang. I am anticipating, despite the aggressive recruitment efforts by these institutes of higher learning, that once again, we will be one of a very few, if not the only, family of color. Why?
My brainiac kid will probably have a job as a programmer for his first job in 3-1/2 years from now, rather than the obligatory fast-food job. Is it because, as with my upbringing and that of my husband, it is expected that he will succeed? That it is expected that he will go to college?
I’ve talked about this with both Walt Williams and Ken Blackwell. But still I am stymied when I encounter this. With all the hoopla about The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, could there really be something to it? Are we failing our kids by not setting out the expectation?
At work today, my husband was talking to one of the other programmers there about our son’s class tonight. His co-worker is from India, and he said that classes such as these are in the curriculum for children the age that our son is now, with the full expectation that they will find high tech jobs here in the States. Again, “expectation” is at the heart of the issue.
I don’t believe in the extreme “Tiger-momism” wherein it feels — to me — that kids are robbed of a normal childhood. I went to school with kids in the same gifted programs I attended who felt they couldn’t go home with an A- or B on a report card. But, that said, one thing that keeps coming up as I discuss this with leaders in the Black community like Tim Scott and Charles Lollar, was that our mothers sacrificed for us and never discussed “will you” but rather “when you” with respect to college.
Yes, I support school choice. And yes, I am outraged by the way that programs like the successful DC voucher program have been treated. And, I believe Jonathan Kozol got it right in Savage Inequalities. But even so, is it something closer to home that holds our children back?
I don’t have the answers to any of this. And again, I am thinking out loud in front of the millions of people on the internet. But, if I don’t ask these questions, then we don’t get to dialog and brainstorm any solutions.