Friday, September 10, 2010

Muzzle Me

I live in Texas.... I do realize that I live in Texas. And I love it here. If you're not sitting here on the back porch with me right now you may imagine that there are tumbleweeds blowing around on the road out front. You might also imagine that I have big Texas hair, live in a suburb with houses that look all the same, live to paint my nails, drive a gigantic vehicle, hang out at the mall or other nice chain restaurants, and attend a mega-church. Maybe that's me, maybe that's not.

There are lots of people like that here in Texas. I have a very intelligent and unbelievably trained and talented pediatric immunologist friend (he's also Burmese-American) who wouldn't consider a job offer from Baylor Medical Center because he felt like he'd be spit on. Clearly, he's never been to the Texas Medical Center here in Houston. There's no ethnic majority there. And the community in those 24 institutions are just grateful to have wonderful practitioners.

But there certainly is a perception out there that Texas is comprised of all white bible- thumping, closed minded, ignorant and sometimes loud-mouthed people. Not so much around here. There are some, but generally speaking in Houston I can find the most beautiful saris I've ever seen, the best Vietnamese food around, friends who speak Arabic, Spanish, American and Scottish English, and hang with El Salvadorians and Ethiopians in restaurants from their own countries. There are huge mosques along with the mega-churches. Our mayor is an openly gay woman. I love this diversity- even thrive on it.

But I do live among those who don't. And I probably need to remember when to shut up.

So we decided to send Quirky to a Baptist school this year. I loved the inclusive and welcoming community, the class size (12 versus 26/27 in our neighborhood public school), and felt that he would find the best balance of nurture and challenge there. So far it has proven to be all that and more. Quirky is not going to be able to weasel himself through the cracks.

But I had a conversation the other day that stopped me in my tracks. After school we were hanging out at the indoor playground (another perk of the school- you don't have to roast and sweat like a pig in September in Houston) with other moms and kids. This one mom introduced herself to me and we began chatting. She asked me why we had chosen that school over others. I responded that it was the class size and balance of support/challenge. I also mentioned the public school option that we didn't feel was a good fit.

Her next comment? "Well, I didn't even go look at that public school. You know there are just elements in the public school that I just don't want my kids exposed to. I mean, I don't want my daughter to come home saying that her friend has two moms or anything like that."

My. Jaw. Dropped. I am afraid I might have even flushed. She didn't even know me. And my response probably was unnecessary considering I was sitting in a Baptist Church facility.

"Oh- are there no single sex parent families at this school? I thought it was illegal to discriminate against children based on race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. You know, I have a friend whose child was really being courted by a Christian high school in town and when they found out that he had two dads they told the dad on the phone that there was no place for their family at that school. He wishes he had it recorded. You know if this school is going to go up for this big accreditation this year I wonder if that is going to be an issue."

Now here's what I have revealed in that stupid comment: I have friends who are gay (not to mention parents), that I'm interested in the legal aspects of school discrimination, and that I'm probably not fit to be a mother in the eyes of many of the parents at that school. Can you say "SOCIAL PARIAH?"

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

But what if Quirky were to go to school and talk about his friends who have same sex parents? It's out there, right? I mean, just by sending a child to a school where it's not an option, you can't deny that it's there. Is it smart of a parent who wants to protect their family's values to deny the existence of stuff that they don't like? Or is it wiser to help a child decide that it's not something that he or she wants to associate with?

Whatever. There are a lot of different opinions in Texas. Perhaps I just need to know when to keep my mouth shut.

1 comment:

  1. Whatever. I would have said something WAY worse. "Elements?"! Unbelievable.