My mentor teacher was a lovely woman. She and her husband, knowing we had no family close by, included my new groom and I in her family's plans attending local oyster roasts or fairs. We lived and I student taught in a rather conservative community, in the middle of what is known as the Pennsylvania Bible Belt where many belonged to evangelical-type churches. This was not an integrated community -- in any sense of that word. One was either white and Christian or -- well, there wasn't anything else.
When Mrs. E learned that I'd be moving to Baltimore County to teach in the public schools there, she was upset. She said she didn't know if she could ever live in an area or teach in a school with so many who did not share her beliefs.
Her statement came back to me almost 25 years later when a friend with whom I'd attended school in suburban Philadelphia visited me at school and described the high school I was teaching in as the 'United Nations'. (He would know as he had been an aide to Madeline Albright). He'd never seen anything like it: kids and teachers, my friends, of every hue, nationality, and ethnic background walked the halls together. Gays, straights, orthodox Jews, born again Christians and girls in veils all had learned to co-exist. I take pride in the diversity of the community in which I live; I don't think I could be happy anywhere else. My children, having been raised here, learned tolerance at an early age and now carry that idea to their own children. This is normal to them.
I know this is not commonplace; that people tend to tribe with folk of the same ilk. It's comforting and safe. But, I think it's also dangerous as it perpetuates separatism and lack of understanding.