Sadly, it appears that I am breaking Goodwin's law on my very first post! Well, not really.
Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who blogs for The Atlantic, operates one of the relatively few online spaces that consistently produces comments that are not only readable but worthy of reading. In the process of doing so, I stumbled across this fascinating, nay, almost mind-blowing anecdote:
It starts with a response to an earlier commenter (I guess “commenter” might not be a word per se, but it seems that it should be) who discussed white flight:
The difference between the melting pot ideal espoused by some whites, and what they actually do when faced with the reality of a rainbow, is perfectly expressed here in ultra-liberal San Francisco where the public schools are 13% white. And remember that here the flight is not from blacks and Latinos, so that whites could point to lower test scores as an excuse for removing their kids from public schools. Here the public schools are filled predominantly by Asians, whose educational statistics are often superior to whites.
But, as they say, no one could have foreseen what would come next:
Growing up white in SF public schools is a great education for white kids in understanding what it is like not to be the majority. I had one Chinese-American teacher point out my daughter (the only (blonde, blue-eyed kid in the room) in class as an example of what the followers of Hitler looked like!
One thing I appreciate right off the bat is the woman’s graciousness. She doesn’t lash out and declare that this is “proof” that whites are the most put-upon population group. To some of you, this might seem like faint praise, but the rest of you know that some (many? most?) of us whites have a habit of flying off the handle at far less. Whether the teacher here was “racist” or not is a game of semantics; some assert that only the dominant race can be racist because racism implies power, many others disagree, and still others might assert that Asian Americans are in fact the ones with power in this situation, while the response to that might be that San Francisco whites still have power because most of them can send their kids to public school.
The truth is, I’m more interested in the daughter’s reaction (and in fact I replied, asking her about this). The commenter implies that her daughter got a chance to (however fleetingly) experience the other side of the often-overly-simplified majority/minority divide, and chalks this up as a learning experience. Yet I have some young relatives who find themselves in slightly different situations, and without going into detail, they don’t seem to have received any degree of enlightenment from the experience.
Not to frustrate whoever deigns read this too much, but there is no conclusion yet, then. It’s more food for thought; can such unusual experiences generate more sympathetic, humanistic individuals, or will they rather inspire new, more unfortunate genres of resentment?