Last month, I spent several days caring for both a white child and a black child. I'm white and so is my seven-year-old son. I'm also a licensed foster mom and we took care of a black preschooler for a few days.
We all went to WalMart, the library and to a basketball game at the local YMCA. Each time we left the house, I wondered — and perhaps worried a bit — about what people's reactions would be. I was happily surprised that there was NO reaction.
My experience made me grateful to be raising a family in the Philadelphia area, which has evolved so much in terms of race and acceptance in the last 30 years.
When I was growing up in the Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia in the 1970s and into the 1980s, the only black people we saw were on the El when we went to Center City. There were only white people in my neighborhood, my grade school and my high school.
Now, when I drive through the Northeast, I see faces of every color. It makes me glad, but I know many people in the area have the opposite reaction. They say: "It's not like it used to be" and "The neighborhood is going down" or "Section 8 ruined everything."
The neighborhoods in the lower Northeast are definitely different, but I believe that has more to do with socio-economics and the changing nature of cities, than race. But try convincing some people of that.
I had to sell my father's house in the Northeast a few years ago when he moved to a retirement home. The buyer with the highest bid on the house was a lovely, smart SEPTA employee who was a former veteran of the first Iraq War. Oh and she is also black, which gave some of my dad's neighbors a bit of a jolt. But I was happy to sell to her and am glad she lives in the home where I grew up.
Perhaps all this talk about race makes me sound hopelessly naive, considering I am a white middle-class woman. And trust me, I am VERY white.
I recently took a BuzzFeed.com quiz called "How Stereotypically White Are You?" The questions included whether I have ever: "Eaten soup from a bread bowl," "Recommended an NPR podcast" and "Had an argument over a boy band." Yes, I have, to all of those. (And the answer to the boy band argument is " 'NSYNC!")
Despite my naiveté, the evolving — and IMPROVING — nature of racial acceptance in the Philadelphia area gives me hope. My seven-year-old goes to grade school with kids of every color and one of his best friends is bi-racial. Our neighborhood has many mixed race families.
It makes my heart glad to know that the next time I take in a foster child of color, we could walk together down the street in my old neighborhood of Tacony and not get stares. And we will be sure to wave at the street where I grew up, which is now no longer just for white families.
Kathryn Quigley is a journalism professor and freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author.