Friday, March 02, 2007

Stardom Week - Epilogue

A few weeks after J's infamous Stardom Week, my neighbor called me one evening to see if J and I might want go to school to watch her second grader's performance. Their class was staging a musical. Her youngest one goes to Mrs H's class with J and the two are good friends. So we tagged along with Terri and her two girls.

The parking lot was packed as was the auditorium. In the sea of white, a few oddities like myself stood out like sore thumbs. We so did not belong here. Near the stage armies of camcorder toting parents stood in readiness to catch their kids in action. After a few false starts involving a malfunctioning microphone, the performance finally got under way.

A year ago, my friend Chloe had invited me to watch a musical at her daughter's school. This is a private school and the ages of the kids who were performing ranged from 6 to 16. It was amazingly well done and the crew could pass off as professionals.

Watching the 7 years olds at J's elementary school was a whole different experience. Amateurism was writ all over it. The kids lacked energy and passion not to mention adequate training. It took an effort to sit through it for thirty minutes. I am sure I was not alone in my underwhelment - the applause from the audience was quite restrained despite the fact most were parents and grandparents of the kids on stage.

The second grade had six Asians and two African Americans. That was the extent of ethnic diversity. This came as no surprise given the racial makeup of my neighborhood. What was noteworthy was the fact that not one of these minorities got a chance at a solo performance.

Twenty odd kids got a chance to speak their lines on stage alone and not one of them was remarkable in any way. Surely Craig Hong or Shruti Pandya could have done equal or better. It may have been in my imagination but the Hongs and Pandyas did not appear to be having too much fun. Their demeanor was much too serious and posture unrelaxed.

I mentioned my observations to E and she said "I am not surprised at all. You have to decide between raising J in a backward place like that and being a victim of prejudice and moving someplace else." I did not bother to bring this up with other friends knowing by now that they would merely echo E.

Back in Mrs H's class, the next kid in line after J for the Stardom Week was her best buddy Alicia. Interestingly enough, her week was a replica of J's and J came home complaining that Alicia was not being treated fairly. My friend D chuckled when she heard this "Mrs H is trying hard to prove that J was not isolated for discrimination. She picked a random white kid to make her point. Too bad for Alicia but maybe you and J won this round". She must have been right. In her weekly report the following week Mrs H had written "J is a pleasure to have in class"

Advantage J. Game and Set Hicksville, America.

I revisited this piece when J started third grade in the same school. There have been many ups and downs along the way. I have come to realize that my color or J's is less important than our perceived social status. Some of the initial problems I had with the school stem directly from there. Being a single parent did not help either - there are negative stereotypes associated with single parent kids and J was possibly subject to some of that.

J or I don't go around dripping designer labels and what's worse I rent and don't own.This is a neighborhood where folks have been around forever and everyone knows everyone. The apartment people are drifters and usually the ones without the money to make a down payment on a home. Some of the most important people in the PTA are Asian, the spelling bee winners are almost always Indian but they don't participate in a great deal of non-academic activities. This is just another suburban public school.

J's experience has been very positive overall. She has complained of being bored very often but never about being singled out for "different" treatment by any teacher. She has made some very good buddies over the years. I have learned the hard way not to take every problem with the school to my diverse group of friends who out of their desire to protect me and J, tend to see us as victims who they need to rush out and protect - race, color and ethnicity are inevitably the first thing they see at play. It is only too easy to fall into the victim trap as I had done a couple of years ago.

As I have demonstrated time after time, that J and I are not the stereotypical Indian parent and child they have been familiar with, I have found attitudes to be far more warm, welcoming and inclusive.Acceptance, I have learned is a two way street and that it is never helpful to prejudge.


Ricercar said...

lol :)

The Real Mother Hen said...

Interesting observation