FILED IN: Social Issues

When Being The Same Is Different

Today I drove an hour to a faraway/nearby suburb to deliver my eleven year old daughter for an hour and a half of?‚? fun with her sleep-away camp friends.?‚? ?‚? Yes, it was the?‚? long-awaited, much anticipated?‚? Camp Reunion! For two weeks in the summer she lived with these girls, rode horses with them, ate with them, sang songs with them, and made memories with them that are undeniably some of the best she’ll ever have.?‚?

In addition to some outdoor living skills, water-skiing, archery and ceramics, my daughter also learned another lesson on the banks of that lake in the boonies of Michigan.?‚? She learned what it’s like not to be a minority.?‚? Although not a Jewish camp, 95% of the campers are Jewish, like we are.?‚? The other 50 weeks of the year she lives in an economically, racially and ethnically diverse suburb.

Upon coming home from camp this summer, after listening to her sing “the Banana song” (don’t ask!) about twenty times, she asked me a question, “How come [sic] we don’t live where everyone is white and Jewish?”

Good question.

Answer? We just don’t.?‚? We moved?‚? where we live now from 2,000 miles away?‚? for?‚? career reasons?‚? that no longer exist, but now it’s our bonafide home.?‚?

I also feel strongly that diversity is a good thing and tolerance is something learned by living with and experiencing diversity.?‚? Or do I just think that because I had no choice but to live it??‚? Would I be less tolerant if I lived in a somewhat homogeneous community – or more so??‚? I grew up where everyone was white and Jewish.?‚? I didn’t know Jews were a minority until I went to college.?‚? There, I admitted it.?‚? But the world is different today.?‚? Even if you don’t live it, there is no denying that the United States is indeed what it was noted to become in the early 1900’s.?‚? A melting pot.?‚?

I dropped?‚? my daughter?‚? off and went and found ample ways to spend my 90 minutes as well as a couple times ninety dollars.?‚? I walked a little, drove a little, thought a lot.

Everyone was white.

It was an upscale shopping area, in busy area where many suburbs converge.?‚? It was equal distance from the closest city as my hometown, just north, and I’m south.?‚?

Everyone was white.

It was strange.?‚? It didn’t bother me…I’m white after all, and that being said, I kinda melted in.?‚? But it was so obvious to me that it was different from where I am on a daily basis. It was so strange to be the same as everyone around me.

I’m a little ashamed to say…I liked it.

Does that make me a racist??‚? There was an inherent comfort level?‚? I experienced by?‚? looking the same as everyone around me.?‚? And I know that?‚? it’s different than being the same, which is how I feel when I’m in Temple, but in a way, that’s like a 18th century Eastern European ghetto. Go outside the confines of the?‚? protective?‚? walls?‚? and *poof* reality hits. Not everyone is Jewish anymore.?‚? It’s a safe haven but it’s not the real world, even if it’s a world unto itself.

Today?‚? made me realize that I am very conscious of not being the same on a daily basis.?‚? Don’t get me wrong, we’re not the only white family on the block and nobody points and stares when we walk or drive by.?‚? I’m not sure of the racial and ethnic mix?‚? at the Junior high, but there are fewer than a dozen Jewish kids in the sixth grade class of about 300.

So no wonder she questionsed why we’d choose to live where we’re different instead of the same. And today I pondered the merits of sameness — I wondered the exact same thing.?‚? And I thought, maybe, perhaps, someday, somewhere down the road, I might like to move and and area like that would be just right for me.?‚?

I surprised myself.

As my children grow up and mature in an enviroment rich with diversity that mirrors major American cities; as they make their way in a world?‚? that communicates across international time lines like they are merely crosswalks at the corner;?‚? am I?‚? heading backwards, searching for sameness??‚? As they expand their horizons will mine shrink??‚? With the world getting smaller can I afford to be small-minded??‚? Does the apparent appeal of sameness equal racism?

What does it say about me if I believe that the right place for me to live when my kids are gone would be somewhere with less racial, ethnic and economic diversity than where I live now.?‚?

I’m not sure.

And why is it OK that if I ever mention moving, to my children, that I say I might want to live where more people are Jewish (which is true) but that I would never say that I want to live where more people are white.?‚?

I’m not sure of that either.?‚? ?‚?