...or lack thereof.
I lived many years in Colorado, Southern California, and Washington, D.C., each of which has a large variety of ethnic representation. Colorado has a large Hispanic population, as does California. California also has a large Asian-American population. Washington, D.C. has a large African-American population.
Each of these places has many other diverse backgrounds represented, as well – I’m not trying to leave anyone out – I just want to give you a sense of how they all differ from Maine.
Suffice it to say, I grew up and spent the first several years of my adult life in areas with rich ethnic diversity.
I am white and I was raised by parents who both grew up in Texas during the 1940s and 50s. THEY were raised by parents who were openly racist. If someone wasn’t Caucasian, then my grandparents had a name for them, and it usually wasn’t pretty.
My parents (thankfully) wanted to break that legacy and they taught (by example) my brother and me to accept, befriend, and love all races of people. In fact, the really great thing about my upbringing is that I was taught not even to notice color, race, or ethnic background. Though my parents were far from perfect (sorry, Mom and Dad) they did do THIS right.
Yet when my husband and I came to Maine with three little children, I noticed that most of the people were white. Again, not all, but let’s face it, the vast majority of Maine is white. There is little ethnic diversity here.
This greatly concerned me. How was I supposed to raise children who wouldn’t see color when there was so little color for them NOT to see? Would they grow up to be ethnocentric? Would they be uncomfortable around people who were not white? Worst of all, would they judge or look down on others based on their ethnic or racial differences?
Well, I soon learned that it wasn’t so much about my kids’ experiences, but rather, the way I taught them to think. Call me paranoid, but I spent a good part of our early homeschooling years trying to educate my children about ethnic diversity. And I think they’ve turned out ok.
I’ve never seen any racism in my little circles in Maine, but I know it’s out there. It’s nothing like what I saw the year I lived in Texas during college. I was appalled at how I saw an African-American guy treated by a couple of white guys on a Christian college campus. Totally appalled. It haunts me still.
Of course that was 20 years ago, and in the South. I’d not only be appalled, but shocked if I heard of that kind of behavior here in Maine. Am I completely ignorant? I don’t think so.
While racism and prejudice will always exist, I think Mainers are on top of it. The schools all preach diversity. My son, who is an R.A. at a local university, is required to be on the diversity committee. He tells me he never sees racism, and that actually the diversity committee is mostly concerned about how to treat homosexuals... which is a whole ‘nuther subject that I’ll just have to address some other time.
Anyway, even though I’m sure, like my own parents, I’ve ruined my kids and given them countless reasons to need therapy later in life, hopefully they won’t be judgmental or prejudiced in their insanity.
Copyright © 2008 - Paulla Estes