Today I counsel a Mom, frustrated with her town’s homogeneity, longing for a Multiracial Utopia for her family.
I am a White woman and my partner is Biracial. We have a son who is two and we recently bought a house in a nice historic neighborhood in our town (Jacksonville). We both wanted to move to this neighborhood at the time and we love our old bungalow, but it is very homogenous here and now I regret the move. Jacksonville is pretty segregated so there isn’t a lot of in between and I feel uncomfortable with gentrifying too. I long for a place that is middle class, semi-urban and diverse. And it’s just messed up that the only time my son is around a person of color is when someone is cutting the neighbor’s lawn. You might have covered this before but I just feel stuck and sick. Is it wrong to want a diverse, middleclass utopia when this is the reality of our city? And also- where can I go to find the type of neighborhood I dream of? We want to move eventually and I don’t know of any places like that, is there a resource for finding diversity where you live? If there isn’t there should be!
Finding a Multiracial Utopia is on the agendas of nearly every young family like yours—which is why the topic keeps coming up in this column. You are right to be upset that the only person of color outside the family is your neighbor’s lawn guy. Not that there is any shame in working for a landscaper, but children do internalize messages about race and class from what they see. If a brown child only sees brown people engaged in unskilled labor or in roles of servitude, it can negatively impact his or her self-concept. Does having brown skin mean that I can only aspire to be a groundskeeper rather than a geoscientist?
School settings may amplify the problem. Though you didn’t mention the demographics of the schools in your town, I’m guessing they correspond to neighborhoods and are also segregated. If you stay put, this means your little one will be entering a largely White school when he’s ready for kindergarten. If your child’s schoolmates are exclusively White, he may wonder: Why am I the only brown one? Where are the other brown children? If he gets the message that his school is better than a school in another section of town, where the brown kids go, that may lead to feelings of isolation and insecurity. Am I in the wrong place? If I make a mistake, will I get sent to the “bad” school where the other brown kids go?
Unfortunately, anyone living in this country ultimately becomes aware of connections between race, socio-economic status and opportunity. But in a Multiracial Utopia, where schools are truly diverse, your child wouldn’t make these associations until much later—when he is capable of critical thinking and understanding nuance.
In a diverse school in a Multiracial Utopia, your child would not be burdened by assumptions about race and achievement.
In other words, you are correct to be concerned—justified in longing for a Multiracial Utopia in which to raise your precious boy. So, what to do? Fortunately, your child is still young. You are not uprooting a middle schooler with strong ties to a friend group. For you and your partner, it may be more complicated. Is it possible for you to relocate and still be close enough to your respective jobs? Is it possible for you to afford a desirable home elsewhere? What can you sacrifice? Maybe a Multiracial Utopia would be worth a longer commute and a smaller property. It certainly sounds as if you are willing to make this step. If your partner is on board, it may be time to start looking.
Your question about a real estate list of diverse areas for Multiracial families is a great one. You might check City-Data.com. Another suggestion would be to reach out to Facebook groups for Multiracial families, such as Parents of Multiracial Children, which may have more ideas fo you.
Ask around. Talk to other parents about how they found their Multiracial Utopia towns.
Once you’ve done your research, talk to your Real Estate agent. You may have to educate her on what you’re looking for. Often real estate agents boast to clients about a town’s diversity, but they are referring to an international presence or a religious diversity, rather than a specifically racial one. Be very clear as to what you are looking for and don’t make compromises you may regret. Above all, make sure you check out the school districts. A Multiracial Utopia for your child is only as diverse as its school system.
Best of luck!
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