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What Divergent Taught Me About Raising Bicultural Kids



Clearly, the Divergent book (and now amazing movie) is about race and ethnicity. No, just kidding. I don’t think it is. Or is it?

Well, it does offer some interesting perspective about how much comfort people gain by categorizing people.

For those of you who have no idea what Divergent is, I’ll give a quick, Sarah-fied recap. Post-destruction Chicago. A mythical past of an America torn apart by war. A desire to purify human nature by dividing society into five factions, each one focusing on a positive human attribute.

Amity faction exudes kindness. Dauntless are brave. The smart ones are Erudite and the selfless are Abnegation. Finally, Candor are honest. The Divergent, however, do not fit neatly into one of these categories according to the society’s fail-proof serum test.

The leader of the Candor, Jeanine Matthews, says, “The future belongs to those who know where they belong.”

When the main character, Tris, is labeled Divergent, she is told, “You’re different. You don’t fit into a category. They can’t control you.”

In general, categories make us feel comfortable. We use them as shortcuts in our brains to help us understand the world.

But this gravitation towards factions does reinforce the point that my children, who may identify with a several different cultural groups (white Latino, American, Guatemalan, and 2nd generation immigrants for starters), may feel uncomfortable. Or maybe… the more frustrating reality is that their multiculturalism may make other people uncomfortable.

It’s like the man looking at my white husband and exhausting his list of explanations why a white guy would have an accent and say he’s Guatemalan. When Billy responded “no” to all his questions about missionary-status, all he could say was, “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

Divergents threaten the system.

People who don’t easily fit into our categories can make others uncomfortable. Sometimes they experience dismissal: “Oh, you’re not really black.” They might be excluded from all groups like the Faction-less in Divergent. Or they may be confronted with confusion or abandonment when people walk away, unsure of how to understand someone outside their paradigm.

Typically, the multicultural divergent find each other: missionary kids, immigrants, biracial/bicultural kids, etc. Countries of origin may be different, but the experiences overlap enough to offer community.

But I am constantly inspired, interested and encouraged to see how much those of us who don’t fit easily into a category are growing in number. (And I include myself because while I may ace the census with clear responses, I have a divergent heart.)

This cool National Geographic project shows some images at what our future multicultural society will look like. So maybe Divergents don’t threaten the system. Maybe we are building a new system.

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