The inter-racial divide
When our two girls were in elementary school, I walked them to school every day and felt pretty connected to the school culture. Even through middle school, I felt like I mostly knew what was going on. With both girls in high school now, that has all changed—it’s a world of which I have little or no first-hand knowledge. What little I do know is gleaned from dinner-table conversations (which I hear is a dying tradition—but that’s another story). The advent of texting means that there is even less need for us, as parents, to facilitate communication. I try to keep up with what is going on but with everyone’s busy schedules it’s hard sometimes.
Where we live in Port Moody there is a sizeable Asian population—mostly Korean and Chinese—with many living in the Westwood Plateau area. Our kids’ high school is fairly mixed—although they tell me the Asian students outnumber the non-Asian students perhaps two to one.
Given the high rate of intermarriage within the Canadian Nikkei community and my own experiences growing up, I have always taken it as a given that cultural blending is not only healthy but commonplace—and I assumed it would be the same within the school population. I brought up the subject with Emiko one day while we were driving to field hockey practice (did I mention we live in the suburbs?), asking if the Asian and non-Asian kids all got along together. I was surprised when she told me that essentially the Asian students sit at one group of tables in the common area and the non-Asian kids sit at another group of tables. And where do you sit? I asked. With this Asians, she replied, as if it the obvious choice.
I’m not sure what surprised me more, that she had to choose where to sit, or that she chose to sit with the Asian kids. After all, she is only a quarter Asian herself. Well, she explained, most of her friends are Asian. Hmmmm. Interesting.
We were on our way to pick up Sarah, a member of Emi’s field hockey team. Sarah is non-Asian. Still surprised by what I had just learned, I asked Sarah to confirm the racial divide at the school. Oh sure, she said, that’s the way it is. As if it was the most natural thing in the world.
The most natural thing in the world . . .