This is an interesting read. I have white friends in Cupertino who sent their kids to private schools because their local public schools were “too intense” for them. So I’ve certainly see this at work.
On the other hand, I wonder if racism is exactly the right word. Perhaps culturalism? Perhaps something else? Certainly I’ve seen the same debate around intensity play itself out in Mandarin immersion schools between Chinese-Americans who have been in the United States for two or three or more generations and recently-immigrated Chinese families.
I remember one parent, a fourth-generation Chinese-American doctor married to a third-generation Chinese-American engineer, who said to me after a heated meeting about how many characters the kids were learning, “Wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever been called lazy and someone who didn’t care about my kids’ education.”
And then there was the white mom I met on school tours in San Francisco who wouldn’t even look at public schools that didn’t have a high percentage of Asian students, because she was actively seeking the academic intensity they brought with them.
All of which is only to say that families in Mandarin immersion schools need to be very aware of what we ourselves bring to the table, so we don’t unconsciously (or consciously) add prejudice to the mix.
Essayist & literary critic. The Guardian, NBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and elsewhere. anjalienjeti.com.
Aug 25, 2016
Ghosts of White People Past: Witnessing White Flight From an Asian Ethnoburb
If diversity is so important to liberal whites, why do they keep fleeing ethnically diverse suburbia?
By Anjali Enjeti
For the first time in my life, I am not a racial minority when I move to Johns Creek, Georgia. People from myriad cultures, ethnicities, religions, and nationalities deem this patch of earth home. Persian and Indian markets bookend strip malls. Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian, Korean, and Chinese restaurants perch on the corners of major intersections.
One blustery winter morning, I tour a preschool for my then-youngest child. The director, a petite woman with light brown hair, greets me warmly in the foyer, hands me a pamphlet describing the classes, the curriculum, the school’s philosophy. At the end of the tour, she asks if I have any questions. I shake my head, thank her for her time, and open the glass door to the parking lot when she calls out in a cautionary tone: “This area has changed quite a bit in the past few years. It’s really, really different.”