Several months ago Kate wrote a letter to the Alderman, pointing out the lack of coffee shops and bakeries, and the abundance of banks, in her neighborhood. We never heard back, he did not email or mail any response, which I found to be a bit odd, especially for a newly elected Alderman whose correspondent was a 7 year old future voter. We stopped in his office last week, on the way home from school; the Alderman did not remember getting her letter but apologized and spent some time listening to my daughter voice her concerns about the neighborhood.
Kate labored on for quite some time about the abundance of banks within walking distance of her apartment but a sad lack of restaurants and coffee shops. He assured her that she was not alone and that they were working hard to bring more dining options, and fewer banks, to the neighborhood; in fact they had just turned down a proposal for a new bank on a corner only two blocks away from home. This was all good news, and good news has the effect of making Kate just a bit more talkative. The Alderman asked her about school: where she went, what grade was she in, what did she like to study? He should have cleared his calendar for the afternoon.
How did we choose our school? What did we like about it? Rather than cede the floor to her mother, to offer the chance to blather on to an elected official about the painstaking process of getting two children into a Chicago Public School, Kate took this one. It went something like this, although I was so horrified that I might have blocked some of the more painful statements from memory.
"The first school we tried was not a good fit. Everyone was Hispanic! At first we liked that, because we are learning Spanish, but then, oh no, it was crazy! We went to the first meeting at school and looked around the room and saw NO white people, not one. Not one other person in the room who looked like us. And then it just got crazy, everyone yelling at each other. There were children running wild and the principal was just screaming over everyone. I saw several older boys throwing chairs with absolutely no consequences at all, none! Mom and Dad just decided that was not the school for us, even if they spoke Spanish. We could not go to a school where we were the only white people!"
I smiled over her head and said something profound like, "it's interesting, isn't it, the interpretation of our perceptions?". Kate continued on, speaking for what seemed like hours on her family's general distaste for minorities, ethnic and cultural differences, and Mexican food. I cowered, and tried unsuccessfully to interrupt and get her out of there.
The Alderman was quite nice, and humored me, listening to my nervous chatter trying so hard to explain our want of diversity in a school, not accomplished with one ethnicity alone. Unable to stop myself, I felt it important to point out, repeatedly, that our favorite restaurant in the neighborhood, hands down, is the small taqueria near our apartment, "Oh we are just like family there, really!".
He promised to try it soon, perhaps we might run into each other? But not for breakfast, they don't serve desayuno, most unfortunately for Kate.