Raising the specter of race in the classroom is even dicier because not only is race a subject that most people think they know all about, but it makes a lot of folks uncomfortable. Almost all the teachers at our school are white, and though nearly 20 percent of the students are children of color, I always get the feeling that I’m one of the only parents who has ever thrown the subject of race out there with a straight-forward, yet complex, question like: “My child looks different from most of the children in the class. Have you dealt with race-related comments or teasing among students in the past?”Yes, I dread these back-to-school conversations, too. But given the racial teasing incidents my girls have experienced at school, I persist . . . .
Every time I’ve posed that question, the teacher has simply blanched before quickly recovering to reassure me that nothing like that has happened, ever. This is the moment in the meeting when I’m certain that I’ve totally screwed things up by making the teacher feel insulted or marking myself out as a rogue officer with the PC police. In these moments, I take a deep breath and share an anecdote or two about race-related comments that my kids have endured at summer camp or in the park, right here in our lovely community. I try to reassure the teacher that I’m not expecting this kind of problem at school but that I know from experience such things are possible. If any kind of teasing or bullying happens at school, including race-related incidents, I would like to work with the teacher to address it appropriately.
Invariably, I leave these meetings feeling jangly, worried, and exposed. I may actually be a hyper-vigilant nut.
What about you? Have you talked to your child's teacher about race as well as adoption?