The family that lives to my right is Mexican-American, and the family that lives across the street is mixed-race in the exact same way that Barack Obama’s family was mixed-race, meaning that there is a white parent but that the kids are clearly black. But, for the most part, I live in a pretty lily-white area. The most significant minority populations are East Asian, mainly Chinese, and from the Subcontinent, mainly Indian. Finn’s pre-school doesn’t have any black kids, unfortunately, but the roster is at least 25% Indian, possibly more. I’d say that the Indian kids might be a little tighter-knit than the others for the simple reason that their parents tend to know each other. But there’s really no sense of self-segregation. My boy is simply not growing up in a community where he expects being white to be the norm. And the Indian kids aren’t growing up in classrooms where they are oddities. Forty years ago, this area was almost completely white except for the folks they brought in to pick mushrooms.
In a way, the current Chester County is more like where I grew up in Mercer County, New Jersey. Because I lived in Princeton, I was exposed to all the people the university attracts. And, so, between international students with families and professors from all over the place, I went to school with Iranians and South Africans and Lebanese and Ecuadorians and Mexicans and Ethiopians and Somalis and Nigerians and Koreans and Filipinos and Vietnamese and Chinese and Koreans and Taiwanese and Swedes and the French, English and Scottish, and Australians and Danes and on and on. Princeton has a healthy black community, too, most descended from folks who were brought in to act as servants to the university students. My mother was a nursery school director and she made sure that two of my earliest playmates were black kids because she had worked at Head Start from its inception and she’s progressive like that. And, it worked. I never had a prejudiced bone in my body because I never had the idea that blacks kids were different from me.
So, I feel like I had my own head start in living in the modern America. The demographic changes that the country is experiencing aren’t any adjustment for me. It helps that I made Los Angeles my first home once a graduated from high school, and that I later lived in Philadelphia for several years. I’m more comfortable in a diverse setting. When I first moved to the Burbs, I was actually nervous in all-White settings because it wasn’t what I was used to.
I get bored if I’m forced to hang out with people with whom I have too much in common, unless the commonality is that we all expect diversity of background and thought.
I’m sorry that so many folks in this country feel like they’re losing the country they grew up in, but I’m excited that the country I grew up in is getting more like the town I grew up in.
That’s a change I can believe in.