Growing up in Miami, Part II: My 11-year-old daughter jumped up and down in her seat on the way to school the other day, excited to tell me about her new music teacher and how she played her electric violin for the class. The teacher, a young, talented musician, has a thick Cuban accent.
"She played a Beatles song for us," my daughter said happily. "Hey You."
Growing up in Miami, Part I, actually happened a few years ago, but I still tease my youngest daughter about the time I checked her homework on the first president of the United States and found that the father of our country was identified as Jorge Washington.
Think this is a rant against Latins or Miami? Incorrecto. It's safe to say most of those people and their complaints left a long time ago. (They're huddled in Maine and Montana having a lovely winter.) Frankly, I was tickled by both episodes – enough to note them in the journals I keep for my kids. The spiral-bound notebooks are full of moments from their childhoods, which have been spent entirely so far in Miami.
For all its many flaws – lack of green space and parks, too few youth sports programs, overcrowded schools, the high cost of living and way-too-stressful hurricane seasons – I happen to think that Miami is a pretty cool place to raise kids. As the children of two white Americans, my kids are a "minority" in Miami, and they're entirely comfortable with that. I'm not saying they have an inkling of what it's like to be an ethnic or racial minority and face racism or discrimination, but they are growing up in a city that is leading this country into the 21st century.
One in three Americans is a minority. There are now four states and a slew of cities and counties (including Miami-Dade, Broward and Orange) with so-called "minority majority" populations. By 2050, the U.S. Census people predict that the combined minority population will outnumber whites throughout the country. Maybe then we can retire the word "minority" (because I'm tired of writing it).
At the risk of sounding like another bad remake of We Are The World, I like to think that a Miami childhood is preparing my kids for a time when we stop being Us-vs.-Them and become just Us.
Last week, my youngest daughter told me one of her best friends – the daughter of a Mexican father and Cuban mother – is "tutoring" her in Spanish while they wait for their after-school trumpet lessons to begin. This is the same daughter who when asked which Baby Alive Whoopsie Doo Doll she wanted for Christmas – black, white or brown – chose the Hispanic model. No surprise there since the Rainbow Coalition has nothing on her Barbie collection. Some white people might perceive this as self-loathing. I like to think it's self-love, and that my daughter sees a bit of herself and her friends in each one of them.
And don't you know that it's just you, hey Miami, you'll do. The movement we need is on your shoulder.