I worry that my daughter's school is too fantastic for its own good. Her teacher is magnetic; she is an elder teacher who has taught Montessori for almost twenty years yet springs with delight at the thought of each new day and each year's introduction to the Great Lessons.
The head of school is dynamic, a woman who loves words and the ways in which they can inspire innovative and compassionate learning. The head of school reads. She shares her reading with her faculty. She reads historical and informational books, about quilting, for example, and she turns the idea and execution of a quilt into a metaphor for working with kids as a community without judgment and with great gratitude for the fortune of the profession.
Each teacher in the school is "friendly" to a degree that makes any normal human feel that they've given their smile muscles away at the toll booth on the bridge. Each teacher is always happy and their fingers never wag with contempt in the face of any child.
Three times in one week a different child announced my daughter's country of birth: to the PE teacher, to other children, to my daughter herself. And each time, other little ones around her put their lips into a perfect circle and emitted loud OOOHs and then they widened their mouths to let out booming WOWs.
And when I asked someone, not yet (and maybe never to be) a friend, Am I wrong to be concerned that the children are so in awe of my African daughter? She said, Yes. Oh, children like new things; they like new and different and interesting things.
And that's just it. And you know what I am about to say. It is this that bothers me: the thing-ness of my child within the walls of what is supposed to be (or become) her (our) school "community." It bothers me that no other child (to my knowledge) is a thing in the same way that our daughter is. That no other human is new and different and interesting in just the same way. And I don't want any child to be 'discovered' in such a way - discovered to be a new and different and interesting thing. Our daughter is these things to these children because their world has been distorted, shrunken to the size of a lentil.
My daughter has entered into the world of these children, which they believe to be real. And it is highly likely that the other world in which my daughter, our family, and 75% of the world's people live will only be entered by them through food, feathers, and dancing - through, in essence, the novelties of 'Others.' And she, our daughter, will learn (is learning) to be in their world. Our task as parents, Mark and I, is to help our daughter see that adults who love their kids as much as we love her created this small place where white children could always feel that their place and position and existence was - problematically - "natural" and "right."
Daily, we help our daughter understand in her words, through her level of conception that the world of white children is just one 'reality'; it is false and disturbed, yet it is a place that is porous allowing for moments of clarity. Inside the world of white children our daughter needs to know that forgiveness is still possible - of each other - but this will truly only be so if these children learn to see themselves as not so alone in a world but instead of a much larger one. And it is this work that belongs to adults.
Photo credit: "Black & White" by Man Ray, 1936