Recently, after I’d just watched the documentary about food deserts called A Place at the Table, I was being taxi dad, driving kids around town. I discovered that a kid I know and see relatively often is not only poor, but experiences every day what is now euphemistically called “food insecurity.” Also, not incidentally, the kid is African American.
All three of my kids are musicians, the circles in which they move at school are integrated, and they have formed close friendships with their black peers. It is heartening to see what appears to be Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of “little black boys and black girls…able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
Outside of school however, things can get awkward fast. The disparity is undeniable—even if it is uncomfortable to talk about. These kids are on a path that will likely split along racial lines as they grow into adulthood. Not only is it not likely they will remain friends, it is not likely that their life trajectories will be anything alike.
First, in this group of close friends the line between the haves and the have-nots is drawn on racial lines. Second, while they are reaching an age at which they are noticing and showing discomfort with these inequalities, they are also encoding poisonous systemic notions about race, wealth, merit, and opportunity.