The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Travel, Education and Black American Children: Concerns of Two Parents on the Move

by Rukiya McNair

Lately, I’ve found myself in a predicament of sorts. You see, being a lover of travel and adventurer... whilst being a mommy of two toddlers does not always go hand-in-hand.  True, my children loved Washington D.C., St. Croix and they also love their home here in Puerto Rico.  As my husband and I contemplate our next move to such places as Jamaica, Bahrain, Indonesia, or even the United States, we also have to take into account the two little people who are on this journey with us. Our daughter will be ready for school soon and it is imperative to us that she receives, what we deem, the best education.  Prior to coming to Puerto Rico I was set on sending her to an international school, preferably abroad. We do however, love it here in Puerto Rico and have contemplated staying on several occasions.

"Remember, this is Puerto Rico, USA"

We’ve been looking into schools here, which to be honest, aren’t the best… we were, however, pointed to a “great” school that isn’t far from where we are living. So, hearing about how wonderful this school is from several people I eventually decided to check it out…on the internet.  What I found was both interesting and disappointing. I logged on to website; it looked pretty good at first…until I decided to take a look at the photos. Sigh. What I saw next was probably the epitome of ignorant American culture (as a Puerto Rican friend of mine always says, "Remember, this is Puerto Rico, USA”)…children at their school’s annual “Harvest Fest” dressed up as “Indians” eating all the “traditional” Thanksgiving fixings. It is this very reason why people don’t like America- the blatant disrespect for people’s cultures.  I won’t even get into what is wrong with the traditional story of “Thanksgiving” that was probably taught as well.  The thought of sending my children to a school where they are taught to be ignorant of people’s cultures, including their own, is something that I cannot let happen. 

All of this got me thinking about the fact that my children are Black Americans and how they need to know their own history before they can (mis)understand someone else’s. So, if I do send them to an international school abroad would they be missing out on a formal education they could get at an African-Centered public , grassroots or charter school? In a neighborhood and surroundings that not only reflect others but themselves as well.  Of course, they will learn from my husband and I, but is it not important for them, particularly at a young age, to be immersed in their own culture?  Right now, I’m thinking that putting the children in elementary school in the United States where they can get the education that we, as parents, feel is appropriate, then moving them abroad. I mean, everyone knows that the foundation is the most important part of a stable home…right?

So, why do I still find myself doubting this idea?

Maybe if my own school experience wasn’t so traumatizing this situation would be a bit easier. I went to (and grew up in) a predominately white school district.  I’ve been called the “N-word,” dealt with ignorance from the ridiculously infamous “Can I touch your hair?” to “Hey Rukiya, what is that Bloods and Crips thing about anyways?”  Yes. It’s true. And I made through without catching a case (to my white readers-“catching a case” means “going to jail” in this particular situation it means, “punching you in the face and having the police called ….then going to jail”). I mean, hey, I actually turned out pretty good.

So, exactly how important is a formal education without parents who instill in you who you are (as mine did) from the very beginning? The conclusion I have come to is that it doesn’t matter as much where we send the children to school so long as we uphold our parental and human responsibility to educate our children ourselves. To explain to them what really went down on “Thanksgiving,” why they and their hair is beautiful (and to sucker punch anyone who touches it or them without their expressed permission- ok…maybe not), why their history is part of American history regardless of how much of it is swept under the rug, and why their history is part of the world’s history.


  1. I love it! Don't be teaching kids to sucker punch you know white people thing we are all violent anyways, do make it true! lol

    I think that living abroad and being able to see the world in a different light will give the children a heads up and head up on those students who only get a one dimensional television view of the world. So, follow your heart and teach the children your core values and they will be ok!

  2. Believe it or not my husband forwarded me an article from this site when I was contemplating accepting a position in Puerto Rico. I accepted the position and we have recently relocated our entire family and house to the island.

    Today, I decided to read additional articles on the website because I enjoyed the article he sent, plus I recommended it to my Culture Trainer (company requirement for expats). Your article was funny, particularly the explanation of "catch a case" and teaching the kids to "sucker punch". I found myself laughing out loud. I'm glad I read it today since I a virtually alone in the executive suite, save the adminsitrative staff, no one commented on the loud ghetto laugh that snuck up on me while reading your last two paragraphs! Thanks for that!

    My husband and I have been trying to locate the Black people or Black communities in Puerto Rico, but have not had much luck. Please let me know if you know where we should look or how we can create an opportunity for us, as a people to support each other while we are here. Thanks again!

    1. Hello Alytrice,
      Sorry for the delay in response. I'm so glad you enjoyed the article! I unfortunately cannot tell you exactly where to locate Black communities there. At the same time, I felt very comfortable and didn't feel an immediate need to search for "us" like I have in other places, haha. Enjoy your time there, it is a beautiful place to be!

  3. hi. loved reading such a coherent and relevant blog post. will be back for more updates.

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  4. I have been wanting to travel abroad with my family for a while. Thank you for writing this. It just further more cements our dreams.