As I sat in the auditorium at my nephew's graduation ceremony last Saturday I was shocked at the lack of diversity that I saw in the audience and in the student body. The school that he goes to is located in a well to do part of the county that I live in. Most of the parents of the kids that go there make well into the six figures I would imagine and it shows in the clothes they wear, the houses they live in and the cars that they drive. I'm not trying to imply that any of them are racists. I don't know any of them well enough to make any kind of a judgement on that. I just know that as those children walked proudly across that stage I couldn't help but feel a little bit sick to my stomach because almost the entire student body was White kids. I kept asking myself, "Where is the diversity here?". "Why in the world are there no kids of color in this school?". "How can these kids know what the real world is like without getting to know kids from different socio-economic and racial backgrounds?". I started to count the different ethnicities as they crossed the stage. At the end of the ceremony I had counted only six African-Americans, four kids with oriental sounding names and only two Hispanic kids. Out of the entire school there were only twelve children of color...twelve. That shocked the hell out of me. I was of the assumption that all of our schools were integrated enough by the communities that we live in in 2011 that busing kids was no longer needed, but I have to say what I saw made me ashamed. I was wrong and the lack of diversity astonished me.
As the student awards were being presented the speaker asked that if all students who were going to college in the fall would please stand up. All but a few of the nearly three hundred count student body rose to their feet. Next he asked that if all students who had received a full or a partial scholarship to the college they were attending would please rise. More than two-thirds of the kids stood up to the applause of the audience. The speaker then announced that the class of 2011 had received over eleven million dollars in scholarships...eleven million dollars. It was an incredible number, but that gnawing feeling was in my stomach again asking why some disadvantaged kids couldn't have gotten some of that money, some of that recognition, some of that opportunity. I have to tell you that the experience of sitting there changed me on the inside. It made me want to know how it is possible in 2011 that almost no children of color were going to that school and I am going to find out. I am writing a letter to the principal of my nephew's high school to ask him why there is no room at the inn for the poor kids, the disadvantaged kids and the children of color. It may not do any good, but dammit, I want to know what the man has to say about it. I want to know what his plan is to get some kids in that school who need a break in life. I want to know what his plan is to share the wealth, the knowledge and the warmth of his school with some kids of of color. I want to know if the man has a heart.
I have to say that it seems things have gone backwards in the 26 years since I graduated from high school. The place that I went to high school had a very diverse mixture of kids. We all hung out together at lunch, between classes and even on weekends. By the time I graduated I swear we had erased the color lines in our school. We were all just human beings getting along. Have I really been that naive about this sort of thing going on now or have I just passively ignored it until it was pushed in my face at this graduation ceremony? I really don't have a good answer for you. All I can say is that now that I know it is going on I can't just sit still and say or do nothing. This is America and all of our children deserve the very best we have to offer them in ours schools. Their parents income, the part of town they live in and the color of their skin should have nothing to do with the opportunities that we present them with. From now on I will not stay silent when someone says that our schools are now integrated. From now on I will do whatever I can to promote diversity and equality in our schools. I want all of our kids, regardless of their color, to have the exact same opportunities at greatness, the exact same opportunities at success. They deserve nothing less.