Seeking out diversity

In Austin, cabin fever sets in during August. Everyone is tired of the swimming pool. Or at least I am too tired of wet swimsuits and towels to even suggest he pool. We’ve checked out more books from the library than we can get through. We’ve tried (and failed) to teach Henry to play our Curious George memory game. The only remaining option is to sit on the couch and work our way through our stash of children’s movies.

Inevitably, Greg and I discuss moving to another city. We miss the four seasons; a winter without snow just doesn’t count. I begin to research one of the cities that we are considering and discover that it is lacking in racial diversity.

This isn’t something I thought much about before kids (white privilege, I know). And when we moved into our house 11 years ago, our neighbors were almost all white. Things have changed in Austin though. Namely, the blazing economy here has caused housing prices to leap. Closer to the city, tear-downs are selling for $400,000, and new homes are double that. Austin is a great place to live — if you make plenty of money.

Families are being pushed out to the suburbs, and when I walk through the neighborhood, I see a lot more diversity. This is the first time in my life that I’ve lived in a neighborhood that is relatively diverse, at least in racial and ethnic terms.

And I’m questioning now whether I would be willing to move to a less diverse neighborhood. I like that Eleanor’s classmates look different than her and in some cases speak different languages and eat different foods. Her best friend in first grade was a girl who had moved here from South Korea, and Eleanor would sometimes bring home notes written in Korean. Society is becoming increasingly global, and I think our kids will be better prepared (and just be better people in general) if they are exposed to people from many backgrounds.

I’ve read a few good pieces lately that have me thinking about the way we talk to our kids versus the way we lead our lives. This piece by Nikole Hannah-Jones addresses the inequality in our schools. Hannah-Jones, who has done a lot of fantastic reporting on school segregation, writes about choosing between sending her own daughter to a private school or to the local public school that serves mainly poor, black students. Today, I read this essay by Zadie Smith about the Brexit vote. She talks about how the highly educated people who criticized the vote tend to already live in walled-off worlds. Just a little light summer reading.

If you’re a parent, has parenthood changed the way you think about your neighborhood?