Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Young, Black, Gifted, and Homeschooled?

I believe there is within every human a desire to belong. Unique is wonderful, within reason, but we all long to find our tribe. One of the reasons I was so happy to have three children was I felt they had a better chance of having their "built in" tribe at hand. Thankfully, it worked out that way. If each were an only child, I am not sure how easy it would be to find their piece of "home".
First let me say, we are not isolationist. We are very happy and very comfortable with our large diversity of friends. Our friendly gatherings generally have every color, culture, and custom represented in our neck of the woods - it brings a smile to my face and a dance to my heart! However, I also realize family reunions have a much different fell than neighborhood cook-outs and picnics among friends. There is a familiarity there that is unspoken, an acceptance of faults as well as gifts. There is an amazing freedom in being able to be your complete, imperfect self.
Blacks (or African Americans depending on your liking) represent just under 13% of the United States population. Gifted people represent less than 10% of the population, with profoundly gifted people representing less than 2% of the population. Home schooled children represent less than 2% of the school age population in the United States. With those numbers, my children have very few people in this country, let alone this world - that live a life similar to their own. Now, we know other Blacks, we know other gifted children, we know other Black gifted children, we know other profoundly gifted children. However, I am not sure we have had an opportunity to for my children to step into a room and find another family of children "like them". There is always something different about them, something not in common, some gap of experience. Kind of like walking into a classroom and being the only Jewish kid that celebrates the Sabbath in a school full of Protestants and Catholics. You realize that no matter how much you have in common, most birthday parties will be on a Saturday and you won't be able to participate. It takes nothing away from your classmates and friends, you just always have that tug of being, at least on this point, a bit alone.
One of the reasons I started this blog was so often coming up with a void when looking at things on the internet from other Black, Gifted, and Homeschooling families (wait, did I forget to mention Twice Exceptional children as well - add that one too). Its not so much that we only associate with others "like us" or we want to only associate with others "like us", its just sometimes wanting to have that conversation with someone who "gets it".
It really does get hard sometimes when you are at an event and no one looks like you, then you go to another event where everyone looks like you, but no one educate their child like you do, then you go to another event where some people look like you, they even home school like you, but they don't have a first grader that took a course on the "Anatomy of the Human Brain" like yours did, 2 years ago - when they were four.
Race generally isn't an issue for me, but I had the recent experience of looking at an article online about a researcher who "proved" Black women were categorically unattractive. As I looked through the comments I saw Blacks referred to as ugly monkeys, big fat welfare queens, and other things I would rather not mention. It wouldn't have been so bad if those comments didn't have 300 likes and only 4 dislikes! However, even my White friends couldn't help me from feeling a bit alone and overwhelmed. I don't just have to prepare my kids to for academic life, work life, religious life, I have to prepare them for a world where my daughter may see someone posts about Black women looking like monkeys and 300 fellow humans "liking" the comment. Those are the times when it feels overwhelming. If they were just young, I could ignore such nonsense. If they were just Black we could probably go to school and sit with friends. If they were just gifted I could post to other parents of gifted kids and ask what resources they pulled out for their inquisitive, yet sensitive little ones. If they were just home schooled I could shield them from even knowing about such people. But we don't  get to ignore it - they are intelligent enough to pick up on the subtle things that separate them from the rest of their fellow Americans. And while they are proud to be Black, they understand we live in a diverse country with many wonderful races and faces and they must learn to live with and love them all. And I can't just pick up a book or show them a video and help them understand the intellectual faults and limitations of racism and prejudice, for they will be living in a world filled with good as well as bad people. And I can't just shield them, because at some point they will live this nest, and being profoundly gifted they may leave for college or other intellectual pursuits much sooner than their age mates. At those times, my heart is heavy. At those time, I tremble a bit with fear. At those times, I want a tribe. I want someone who not only understands intellectually, but feels my hurt, my pain. I need someone who also read those comments and cried. Cried not just for herself, who looked in the mirror at her natural twists and mocha complexion and wondered just what the world saw. Cried not just from the anger of it being 2011 and there still being this type of hate in the world. Cried not just because it hurt that even though she has a PhD she is assumed to be an uneducated "welfare queen" by some in this world. But cried for her beautiful daughter; cried for her beautiful young, black, gifted, and homeschooled little baby girl. I cried because her brothers have each other, but sometimes a woman needs a girlfriend to talk things over with. As I held my baby girl in my arms as she fell asleep that night, I cried at the weight of my task. I know the numbers, I know how hard it is going to be for her to find another person "like her". She is a social butterfly, she will have plenty of friends her entire life. However; I cried, because I realized that I must prepare her that somethings she will be facing in this world completely alone.


  1. Found you here after following your link on the tagfam list. I appreciate and admire you very much for sharing this. I am reminded of the Nina Simone song of a similar title (love her music). I can only imagine what it must be like and I am glad for your kids they have you for a mom, what amazing people they will grow up to be! I can only hope that the responses to 'that' article were so one sided because most people felt it didn't deserve the energy it would take to post a thoughtful refutation. Thank you for your blog. You are insightful, encouraging and it has a very inclusive and welcoming feel.

  2. ((Doresa)) I feel like I've found a kindred spirit. Thanks for posting this.

    No. We're not black (at least in this house, though my nephews and cousins are mocha (love that!)). We are multi racial though. Growing up a female Hispanic and Native, and only sometimes "passing", I might have an inkling of your concerns.

    Your daughter and sons will grow up strong with your support. We can create our own tribes (even if they have to be virtual).

  3. I tend to agree with the first post. Rightly or wrongly, most days I don't have the energy to post a response to such stupidity. I've also noticed it depends on the feed for example in my opinion, yahoo is one of the worst, and WSJ is one of the best in regards to appropriate comments.

    Really, I don't understand those people. More people have a mixed, extended family today. I have first and second cousins that are as you say "mocha". I have nieces and nephews with one hispanic parent. One of my best friend's children are Asian and Caucasian. Many of the families I know are mixed either by race or ethnicity in some way.

    I wish I had been able to have a second child. It is difficult for an only child in a low population state; there are not a lot of PG kids, but on the other hand, we have been fortunate in regards to well- educated adults willing to teach or mentor.