Most people know that our kids go to Downtown Elementary, which is a public school here in Memphis that happens to have mostly black students enrolled. This is not an accident.
My journey started when John suggested we submit an application for Jac to go to Perea Preschool, which is a predominantly black preschool that serves mostly those beneath the poverty line. Though we lived in an urban community, I was cautious about sending my tiny white 3 year old to a school where almost no one looked like him. So we visited the school to scope out the situation and I was incredibly impressed by the curriculum, staff, and mission of Perea. It seemed silly to pass up this kind of opportunity to we packed up our preschooler with his tiny unnecessary backpack and gave it a shot.
And here’s what I learned almost immediately – Jac didn’t care. During the first week of school he was talking about a boy in his class named Brandon. I couldn’t place which child this was so I asked Jac to describe him. He said, “you know, the black guy.” This was more than amusing because they were ALL black guys. So the next day, when I went to drop him off I asked the teacher to point out Brandon. Turns out, he was the darkest child in the class – to Jac, black was just one of many colors he saw in his friends. He would later describe Andre as the tan guy, Mario as the brown guy, and Zahnder as the guy with curly brown hair. To him, these were PEOPLE. Not an entire ethnic group.
Fast forward to today – where all four of my kids (the white ones and the brown one and the dark brown one) go to school with mostly black peers. A school where my white kids are learning what it means to be in the minority. A school where my children are around strong, educated, confident educators and leaders of all different colors. A school where my black children are the majority since they aren’t the majority in our family or our church. A school where I partner with parents that don’t look like me, but want the exact same things for their kids that I do.
Our life is richer and fuller because of Downtown Elementary. My kids are connected to friends from all over the city. The teachers at Downtown are unbelievable. And I hope that my kids are a blessing to their friends and teachers as well.
I’m not there to rescue anybody or be someone’s hero. This is not Dangerous Minds and I’m not Michelle Pfieffer. My kids are there to learn, just like everyone else’s kid. And Downtown is an incredible school – we are blessed to have it as an option.
And here’s the thing… I don’t pass judgment on anyone else’s choice for their kids’ education. The last thing any of us need is to feel guilt about our decisions as parents. We all just want what’s best for our kids. And for the Carroll family, that’s Downtown Elementary.