My daughter K is named for my sister, who died of cancer when she was 17, in the fall of her senior year of high school. Our family set up a scholarship for a graduating senior who has displayed “the courage to face adversity and persevere.”. Each year the school sends me the applicants’ packets, who must write an essay describing how they meet that criteria.
Adversity for many 17 year olds is entirely relative. It’s been interesting to read the essays over the years – they range from kids with sprained ankles who couldn’t play soccer, to one kid who emancipated herself from abusive parents who was actually living on her own.
It’s also been interesting to see how the demographics of the kids has changed over the years. When my sister and I were in high school our town and school were very, very white. I cannot remember a non-Caucasian student except for the exchange students in my senior class – one from Peru and one from Mexico. This year’s crop of 12 applicants include 3 Asian students, 1 Syrian, and 1 African-American. And the reason I know this is because the adversity they describe relates to their race and/or country of origin.
My mother and step-mother would like to believe that racism no longer exists, and that my kids have nothing to worry about. Right now my kids have my white-ness as their shield in navigating the world – they are rarely without me and my privilege gives them access where it might otherwise not. But I also see the racism exhibited in my own family – the same mother who claims racism is no more, holds her purse tighter when a family with dark skin enter the fast food restaurant we’re visiting with my kids.
No conclusions here, only thoughts, observations, concerns. And the knowledge that I am not doing enough for my kids.