I Completed My Second Half Marathon and I Feel Great

Best Time: 2:15
Tinkerbell Time: 2:18

Photo from left to right: I was honored to run the race with my best friend and MotherTalkers.com partner, Erika Chavez, her mother Guillermina Chavez, another dear college friend of ours Courtney Dyar, myself and dear childhood friend Rachel Johnston. (Not pictured: my other MotherTalkers.com partner, Gloria Riesgo.) Here we are sporting our Tinkerbell medals after the race!

Fitness is important to me. My mother’s family has this nasty tendency towards obesity, Type II diabetes and heart attacks that kill only the women in our family, not the men.

My grandmother died of heart failure in her late sixties – very surprising, considering she was the youngest and spriest of all of my grandparents. Almost three years ago, my aunt – her daughter — died of heart failure in her early 50s, leaving three children behind, ages 13 and under. My mom, too, has dealt with weight issues and type II diabetes for as far back as I can remember.

Needless to say, I undergo regular checkups, eat as many fruits and vegetables as I can, and exercise every other day. The latter is especially hard with two small children, a paying job, a marriage and a house. But when I look at my family history of diabetes and heart disease, it is motivation enough for me to get up when my alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m..

Yes, I actually get up between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. at least two weekdays a week to go for an 8-mile run, or work in the morning so that I can run later in the day. Running has been my passion since I was a kid because it is free, I can do it anywhere and I feel great when I am done.

I didn’t run my first half marathon (13.1 miles) until June 2011 at the age of 34. This past weekend, a month shy of my 35th birthday, I ran my second half marathon through Disneyland and finished in 2 hours and 18 minutes!

Here were my times throughout the race:

• I completed a 5K, or 3.1 miles, in 31 minutes and 21 seconds, at an average pace of 10 minutes and 5 seconds.

• I completed a 10K, or 6.2 miles, at 1 hour and 4 minutes at an average pace of 10 minutes and 19 seconds.

• I completed a 15K, or 9.3 miles in 1 hour and 37 minutes at an average pace of 10 minutes and 30 seconds.

• I completed the half marathon (13.1 miles) in 2 hours and 18 minutes at an average pace of 10 minutes and 35 seconds.

I tried to run the 12th mile as fast as I could, but I felt incredibly fatigued and could not will my legs to lift high enough. That is my challenge for next time – oh yes, there will be a next time! – to end as strongly as I started. But I am savoring this personal triumph as I share my Tinkerbell medal with my 4-year-old daughter, who actually took the medal with her to school earlier this week.  

I smile as she reminds me what all of this is for: my personal fitness and health.


Why We Need to Teach Young Children About Race

This issue is fresh on my mind as our school recently hosted a facilitated workshop on race and diversity aptly named “Courageous Conversations.” I helped put it together and spread the word, and we had 100 parents, faculty and staff at the event.

The turnout was great and the conversation at times was amazing, powerful and…awkward. In the middle of the discussion, our facilitator showed a five-minute video called “Silent Beats,” in which an African-American teenager enters a convenience store to purchase a few items. There is also an Asian clerk and a middle-aged Caucasian woman. There are no words, only music. The film was meant to draw out people’s biases, and it certainly did that as well as garner an explosive reaction from certain parts of the room.

By the end of the night there were some wounded feelings. But from my and our head of school’s perspective, it opened the door to a very important conversation — one that I felt inclined to hold with my seven-year-old son and four-year-old daughter the following day. I told them about the meeting and gauged their views on race.  

According to this article, which was circulated at the meeting, children are always taking in racism and racial stereotypes, which is why it is important for us to talk to them.

Children may witness acts of exclusion or rejection based on race, or will themselves be targets of discrimination. It is precisely for these instances that parents must provide their children with a framework for understanding difference.

Think for a moment about how you might best react if your child saw or even experienced bullying. I doubt many parents would cope with the problem by not talking about it. Rather, a likely response might be to shower our child with love, remind them that we are always going to be in their corner, encourage them to avoid that bully, and make sure that they don’t go hit somebody else. A lot of these strategies apply to racism—but they can’t be pursued if we don’t broach the topic directly, albeit in a developmentally appropriate way.

It is important to understand a couple of reasons why avoiding conversations about race simply doesn’t work with kids. The first reason is that while many parents don’t talk about race, peers certainly do. So it’s critical that we give our kids the tools they need to navigate these early conversations successfully.

But the second, and more important, reason is that the words we say (or don’t say) are only one way children learn about their world. When children see their parents or other adults tense up around members of other groups, or notice that adults’ social networks are not very diverse, or pick up on racial segregation in their environment, there is a clear message being communicated: Skin color does matter—just in a secret way that nobody is going let you in on.

As a result, not talking about race can make the subject even more confusing. And when children are young, the only way for them to resolve this confusion may be by concluding that people of other races are “bad,“ thus setting the stage for exactly what many parents seek to avoid: prejudice.

Racist acts are not always obvious, and it takes courage to confront children who engage in them. Take for instance, this Caucasian mom at BlogHer who confronted a group of children, including her son, for ringing the doorbell of an Arab neighbor and then taking off. The “doorbell ditching” prank is not new. But, in this case, it was harassment as the children took off and said things like, “He’s Arab. Don’t make him mad, or he’ll bomb us.”

The mother confronted the boys and made her son apologize to the man. The man was rightfully hurt and angry. It was awkward, and her son cried. This was not easy for anyone involved.

But I commend this mother for teaching her son a valuable lesson. It’s too bad the parents of the other boys have not held a similar conversation. What do you think? Have you engaged your children on the topic of race and racism?


Review: Nurture Shock

Have you read any good parenting books lately? I have one to recommend: Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It is now out in paperback for $9 on Amazon.

What I like about it is that it is actually an entertaining read like Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers or Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics. The book is chock-full of fascinating studies such as children in diverse schools are actually less likely to have a cross-racial friendship, or the most “brutal person” in a child’s life is…a sibling.

There were other interesting factoids in Nurture Shock such as constantly praising children for their innate intelligence can actually backfire. It is better to praise your children for effort and offer constructive criticism. Check out this study comparing the reactions of American mothers to Chinese mothers after their children failed a test that was intentionally hard:

The American mothers carefully avoided making negative comments. They remained fairly upbeat and positive with their child. The majority of the minutes were spent talking about something other than the testing at hand, such as what they might have for dinner. But the Chinese children were likely to hear, “You didn’t concentrate when doing it,” and “Let’s look over your test.” The majority of the break was spent discussing the test and its importance.

After the break, the Chinese kids’ test scores on the second test jumped 33 percent, more than twice the gain of the Americans.

The trade-off here would seem to be that the Chinese mothers acted harsh or cruel — but that stereotype may not reflect modern parenting in Hong Kong. Nor was it quite what Ng saw on the videotapes. While their words were firm, the Chinese mothers actually smiled and hugged their children every bit as much as the American mothers (and were no more likely to frown or raise their voices).

The studies on school and race — there are more than one — were fascinating. On the one hand, the authors pointed to studies suggesting that bombarding minority children with “frequent predictions of future discrimination” was as destructive as the racism itself. “If you overfocus on those types of events, you give the children the message that the world is going to be hostile — you’re just not valued and that’s just the way the world is.”

On the other hand, the fact that so many white families do not speak to their children about race is problematic. According to a study out of Austin, Texas, even the children who came from progressive white families harbored racist thoughts that were never addressed, and some of the parents even dropped out of the study due to their discomfort with the topic. I actually wrote about that study here.

This is what Bronson and Merryman had to say about it: “Having been in the cross-race study groups led to significantly more cross-race play. But it made no difference on the third-grade children. It’s possible that by third grade, when parents usually recognize it’s safe to start talking a little about race, the developmental window has already closed.”

The chapter on sibling rivalry was also interesting and struck a nerve with me as my two children fight:

Observational studies have determined that siblings between the ages of three and seven clash 3.5 times per hour, on average. Some of those are brief clashes, others longer, but it adds up to ten minutes of every hour spent arguing. According to Dr. Hildy Ross, at the University of Waterloo, only about one out of every eight conflicts ends in compromise or reconciliation — the other seven times, the siblings merely withdraw, usually after the older child has bullied or intimidated the younger.

Dr. Ganie DeHart, at State University of New York College at Genesco, compared how four-year-old children treat their younger siblings versus their best friends. In her sample, the kids made seven times as many negative and controlling statements to their siblings as they did to friends.

I believe it. My children are now 7 and 4, and if there is one challenging aspect of parenthood it is the fighting. Just last week, I broke up a fight in the car, in which Eli was claiming that a picture Ari had was hers. She was screaming and crying at the top of her lungs while Ari shouted back at her, “It’s mine!” I threatened Eli with a timeout.

This was not my best moment as I had a cold and my ears were ringing. I asked — begged — Ari to be more “considerate” of those who have to listen to Eli’s screaming. He, of course, felt like the victim because it really was his picture. Why should he be held accountable for Eli’s crying?

Ayayay! Any advice on how to handle sibling rivalry would be great. Drop them here!  

This was the first book I have read that even addressed it. And of course, there were many other studies like it — like society’s obsession with small children’s IQ, or how sleep deprivation is at the root of many social issues, and the science of children lying as well as teen rebellion. They were all fascinating.

Have you read this book? What did you think?


‘Race to Nowhere’, Our Educational System and Race

Last Thursday, our school hosted a viewing of the documentary Race To Nowhere, which deals with the insane pressure we are placing on all our students — and the schools — for everyone to go to college.

I am happy to report that we had more than 100 people — mostly from the community at large and not the school! — in a venue that could only seat 150. It was packed.

At the end of the night, our head of school engaged the audience in a conversation about the film. I loved the diversity of the audience and feedback we received: public school teachers, parents, students themselves and even counselors from every race and hue. A former Berkeley High School student shared her personal story about burning out of school. A concerned Asian parent asked that same student what she could do to help her own children and then received applause for asking how to better support teachers. “Where I come from, the teacher is always to be respected,” she said. “That’s what I teach my own daughters.”

A counselor from a non-profit group said it was important to ask children not only how they are doing in school, but how they feel.

One Oakland public school teacher said she felt that the film only addressed the concerns of “upper middle class families.” In hindsight, I could see how it was heavy on anecdotes from affluent suburbs.

But our English teacher, who is African American, got up and said that the pressures on the inner city are far worse. I could see that. With all the pressures to raise test scores related to “No Child Left Behind” — and lose funding for failing! — plus hold down a job to help support your family, oh and by the way, complete that college application to go to the “best” college and get out of the ghetto — that is a lot to ask of a child.  

I choked back tears when I saw this film for the second time. I was the first person in my family to go away to a four-year college, and I too, saw the whole college admissions process as this sisyphean task. I remember ignoring my family and putting in some insane hours over Thanksgiving break to get my college application and essays into the mail. And when I learned that I had not even broken a 1,000 on the SAT? I thought my life was over.

Of course, that wasn’t the case, and I know when my children reach this crossroad in their lives they will be supported no matter their decision — including postponing college or reaching other career goals.

That said, it is hard to ignore that there is a race to nowhere, especially in the competitive enclave where I live. Most recently, I got sucked into this thread in the Berkeley Parents Network, in which a caucasian mother wondered if her daughter would feel “isolated” in school for being the only white child in her class.

She received mixed reaction.

I was a minority in 8th grade, living in Hawaii.  It was difficult, and I was already shy. In the long run I probably benefited from it since I now know what its like to be a minority (I’m white). But at the time I was pretty lonely and generally on-edge, and that feeling lasted for years afterward. But, I didn’t have as much at-home support as it sounds like you would provide. I don’t know what it would be like as a younger child, since it sounds like your daughter would start sooner. Perhaps that would be better.

Personally, though–and take this with a grain of salt as I haven’t researched it much–I would probably be more concerned about basic safety issues in Oakland public (high) schools.


Yes, I think your daughter will feel isolated. We are in a richly diverse school in Berkeley, but it is a much more even split of African-American, Asian, Hispanic, white, as well as many mixed-race kids, and kids of European & Middle Eastern descent, etc. After several years at the school, it’s obvious to see that kids of the same race and cultures (parents’ occupations, religions, education, backgrounds, etc.) tend to stick together. They are friends with many other kids, but their CLOSE friends, the ones with whom they choose to have playdates, sleepovers, etc., tend to be of the same race. If you’re looking for a more mixed ratio of white to non-white students, consider the Montclair elementary schools, or Canyon School. But in middle and high school, you’ll be facing the same issues, if you stay in Oakland.
Berkeley mama

Send her to the school w the kids who have the best attitude toward education and who are most likely to go to college and grad school.

From the other side:

Trust me your kid will not feel isolated. Kids adjust to the place and surroundings very easily, its us adults who find it difficult and odd.

If you child notices difference in the way others look or their eating habits etc he might have questions which you could explain but i don’t think he will be odd child out.

You said he was 1yr old, by the time your child is ready for school he will be already familiar with the neighbors and people around, so it will be normal for him.

Your kid will be OK. It will probably take you, the parents, a little longer to adjust, but you will. Everybody is there for the same reason: they care about their kids. Middle school might be a little harder because the kids tend to clique up by race.

My family is white and both my children attend public schools in Oakland, both of which are predominantly black. Neither has had any problems associated with race; in fact I would say that being around people different from them has only enriched them – each has something to offer the other.

It is unclear from your question what exactly you are worried about and what sort of ”rough time socially” you have in mind. Oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., and is predominantly black; I’m not sure why you would live in such a city but not not send your child to a school that reflects the makeup of the city. It seems that in looking for diversity you are actually looking for a school that looks like your family because otherwise, your child’s attendance could only add to the diversity.

I’ve been on both sides of this issue — both the majority in a black and brown school (Miami) and the minority in a white high school in New Hampshire. FWIW, I do think it is harder to be in this position in middle school or high school. But a young child? Seriously, this mom is over-thinking things and putting her own baggage on her kid.  

It’s unfortunate, but I have noticed that middle to upper middle class caucasian families tend to leave the Oakland public school system when their kids reach middle school. I don’t know the solution to this except to give the children left behind options to go with them. What do you all think?


Discussing Race With a Young Child

Berkeley, California is a complicated place in terms of its history and diverse populations. The neighborhood I live in south Berkeley is traditionally African-American, but has gotten more white over the years along with skyrocketing real estate prices.

Still, we do have a lot of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Caucasians, rich folks and homeless people, disabled and able-bodied, gay and straight, and high school dropouts and highly educated people here — and of course some intersection of all these demographics. Yet, in spite of all the difference around us, we still find it difficult to discuss race with our children as evident in the Berkeley Parents Network.

I wish I had kept the original letter, but most recently someone brought up the topic (again). Here is a typical response to that inquiry:

My husband and I discuss this issue often.  I grew up in a very white area where the African American and Asian kids (probably 5% of the school) were all very successful. They were on student council, cheerleaders, captains of teams. I cannot speak to their personal feelings, but I felt they were friends and high achievers. My husband grew up in the Bay Area where 50% of his school was white, 50% minority. Kids grouped themselves racially most of the time. I think that the emphasis on history at too young an age really divides kids. These issues (especially in-depth details of slavery and segregation) should be taught in middle and high school. I think focusing on great achievers of all races is more in line with grade school. In our rush to make kids ”tolerant” we end up dividing them.
My 2 cents

Ah, the false notion of raising a colorblind child. I take issue with this approach to parenting.

First of all, people of color and Caucasian parents who adopt children of color have to discuss race with their children. It’s an inevitable part of our not-so-colorblind society. Our school actually plans to bring a speaker at the end of the year to discuss just that — and educate parents on how to discuss racial differences to children.

It’s true that Berkeley High School is very segregated and has been even during the ’60s and ’70s. But I don’t think this is due to teaching children the sad reality of our history. My hunch is that parents’ uneasiness to discuss difference at home and not make an effort to befriend people of different races is probably not helpful. What do you think?

Also, do you discuss racial differences and history with your children at home? Tips?


Skin color and character

The other day DS1 asked me, quite seriously, if people with brown skin really are nicer than people with white skin.  The incident that provoked the question was seeing some “big kids” harassing his friend.  When the friend’s mom intervened the kids with the white skin were rude and disrespectful and walked away, but the one boy “with brown skin like mine” apologized and did not follow his friends.  The brown skinned kid appeared to be a better person.

It turns out that DS1 has noticed this pattern a lot.  I don’t doubt that his observations are accurate; my son’s ability to sniff out the nuances of social interactions is one of his superpowers.  People with darker skin are more aware of being judged based on their appearance, and thus more conscious of maintaining a positive appearance and demeanor.  

I’m rather oblivious and even I was struck by the contrast when I first started pushing my brown skinned infant around in the stroller.  White and asian strangers tended to pass without eye contact, as usual; latinos would smile warmly and nod, and blacks (the smallest minority where we lived) would beam and greet us effusively.  It’s no surprise that my friendly baby showed a clear and strong bias toward dark skin, the darker the better.  

I figured it was good for him to start out with a positive bias since stereotypes would inevitably catch up.  But we’re a low media household, which probably provides reduced exposure to negative stereotypes; he mostly sees kid-oriented programming that I’m sure tries to compensate for the broader social biases.  So what he’s noticed is that bad characters in movies and TV nearly always have white skin.  I didn’t realize he was internalizing this.  His perception of civil rights history is that of white people being horrible to brown people, with a small minority of white civil rights leaders acting like decent human beings.  He memorably asked me at age 5 why white people like to shoot brown people.  He’s looking to me to explain the inexplicable.  And there’s no denying that the pattern he noticed as a baby continues to hold – dark skinned strangers seem nicer.  I see it too, though only when I’m with my children.  

Anyway, I blew it.  My immediate response was to deny that there is any linkage between race and character.  That’s the right answer at one level, but it was the wrong answer – that is not what he is looking for.  He’s struggling to make sense of what he sees and he wants to talk it through.  But as a clueless white chick I can’t see everything he sees.

*Note:  My race obsessed son mentions and discusses race frequently, comfortably, and eagerly, yet I have never once heard him directly label a person by race or ethnic background.  Not once.  His preferred construction is “a person with X skin”.  If he wants to convey more information he either specifies whether they are darker or lighter than himself or compares their appearance to a white, black, or asian friend.  But the noun is always “people”, with racial identifiers strictly relegated to adjective status, and this was true long before he encountered the concept of grammar.


Saturday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

My apologies in advance for geeking out this week. I found a lot of interesting technology stories on the web and many items were pointed out to me by family and friends. My friend and former Wired co-worker Kristen Philipkoski recently debuted in this Wired video on “geeky footwear.” I was especially intrigued by the almost weightless and very thin running shoe. Apparently, there is this school of thought that we humans are meant to run barefoot and that sneakers with a lot of support are bad for you. While I don’t have the shoe mentioned in the Wired piece, I have the Nike Pegasus that has a lot of support and this practical gray thin shoe — also Nike — that is so light it is only meant for a race. But I find myself using it for my regular 9-mile runs in the morning. What running shoe do you use? Do you like your shoe thin or with a lot of support?

In other geeking out news: Gizmodo featured an anti-bullying video game. The tech publication and its readers seemed to poo-poo it because they did not think kids would like it. But I am of the opposite opinion. I really do think kids like anything that is cartoonish or in video game format. Case in point: the way my kids eat up Super Why! and its related video games, even though it is SO obviously educational. Plus, I hate to say this, but it is the video game crowd that is often being picked on in school. Why not teach them anti-bullying tactics in their format of choice?

The Federal Trade Commission just released an online game to help children differentiate ads from other information on TV.

The Board of Supervisors in California’s Santa Clara County voted to ban promotional toys used by McDonald’s to sell its Happy Meals to children, according to MSN Money.

This summer, college students can expect some changes to their student loan terms as they borrow from the government directly as opposed to a private lender, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal of Texas. The (much-needed) changes come following a student loan reform bill that passed Congress this year.

Former First Lady Laura Bush addressed the fatal car crash she was involved in when she was 17, as well as her husband’s handling of Katrina and his political opponents in a memoir titled Spoken from the Heart, according to the New York Times. Will you be reading?

Attention fans of John Hughes’s ’80s flicks like Pretty in Pink and Breakfast Club: Molly Ringwald now has a memoir that the Associated Press called “pretty darned good.”

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


When Your Brown Child Wants to Be White

Having been part of one of three Puerto Rican families in a practically all-white suburb, I understand that race and identity formation is a complicated issue that manifests itself in different ways. For example, I do know of Hispanic/Latino individuals who chose to reject their culture and identify only as their skin color plus American, most likely, white American.

Then you have people like me who desperately held onto my culture even as everyone outside my home thought we were weird foreigners. I swore up and down I would never live anywhere where there weren’t Latinos, or people who looked like me and spoke Spanish. Even though my children are lighter than me and have blond hair, we live in California where there are many native Spanish speakers, my kids are fluent in Spanish and even attend the occasional Spanish mass like I did as a child. I won’t let them forget that they are Latino just like their mother and their father who, for some time, also had to endure being the minority in a largely caucasian suburb.

You could say I was perturbed by baseball slugger Sammy Sosa’s use of a cream that has freakishly lightened his skin. Perhaps it isn’t fair, but my first reaction to the picture is does this always have to happen when you become so rich you have no idea what to do with your money? You go Michael Jackson crazy and bleach your skin?

But then I read this Open Salon essay by a mother in Puerto Rico whose brown son wants to be white. Her husband challenged her on the Sammy Sosa story and her own biases when it comes to race.

My husband, who sometimes likes to argue for the sake of it, asks me  who are we to criticize someone for changing their skin color.

–I wouldn’t do it, of course– he says — but it is his skin. How is that different from coloring your hair?

….I dye my hair like this, you see, but I do not pretend, nor can people assume, that this is my real hair color. It is evident what my real color is, I am not trying to pass for something I am not, like him. Someone who bleaches his skin is trying to pass as white, when they are not.

I say.

You see, I hate passing, it bothers me. I don’t like people who try to pretend they are not what they are, whatever that is. Then again, I could, if I wanted to, up to a certain point, pass. My appearance is Mediterranean, which is non specific enough to allow me a wide range of possible identities if I wanted to indulge in passing. My husband, on the other hand, could not pass for anything else but what he is: a Honduran with strong Native American ancestry. He sticks out like a sore thumb in Puerto Rico; he is 6’2″, lean, copper skin and with a very mesoamerican profile, big nose included.  Here, in a land of mulattos and 101 shades between black and white, no one knows what the fuck to do with him, racially speaking. Not a day goes by without someone pointing out he is a foreigner. Something, as he reminds me almost daily too, which never happened to him in Michigan, where we met.

While we were having this argument my son declared, very firmly, his whiteness.

–¡Yo soy blanco!

….My son is the spitting image of my husband, except for the hair. His is like mine at his age, brown, wavy, abundant yet fine in texture. And that is it, the rest is exactly like his father. He is four years old, and he has already identified that his life in Puerto Rico is that of a white person. He goes to a private school, a Montessori. Among his other brown classmates, who also think themselves white, he feels equal….

So, my son says he is white, and it breaks my heart.

That would be a tough one for me — especially if my children looked like me. They do look white and at least one of their last names is Greek so it doesn’t seem unreasonable beyond the realm of possibility that they choose to identify as only American. As far as I know, Ari does tell people he is Latino. (Can you tell he is my son?) But if he were a brown kid who called himself white that, too, would break my heart. I am not sure why, but I understand how this mom feels. What do you think? Also, what do you think of Sammy Sosa’s new look?


University of Illinois Rocked by Scandal

In one of the biggest non-news stories in that this has been going on for so long it is embarrassing the press is just catching on, the Chicago Tribune ran an expose of the corrupt University of Illinois system that accepts less qualified students just because of who they know — like Tony Rezko. I mean, who knew?

From the Associated Press:

But the truth is, many universities — public and private alike — give special treatment to some degree to the sons and daughters of big donors, politicians, trustees and others with control over the school’s purse strings or other clout, admissions experts say.

“The admissions offices are essentially being held over a barrel,” said David Hawkins of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “How can they really say no when the directives come from the very top of the institution?”

Whether formalized or not, “virtually every selective college, public or private, has some kind of list” like the one maintained by the University of Illinois, said Daniel Golden, whose 2006 book “The Price of Admission” exposed admissions practices that favored well-connected applicants.

Golden’s reporting focused mostly on elite private universities like Duke, Stanford, Brown and Harvard. But the Illinois story shows how far “the problem goes of colleges essentially trading admissions slots for favors,” he said. “Here you have a flagship state institution essentially making a lot of slots available to candidates who aren’t as strong as some they reject.”

What bugs me is back in the late ’90s, much hoopla was made over less qualified minorities and low-income students thanks to a series of high-profile lawsuits by more affluent and caucasian families. The University of Michigan law school and both California and Texas university systems had to reverse their affirmative action policies. But nothing was made of legacy systems or that pesky question asked in most college applications over the “optional” race category, “Who do you know has gone to this institution?” Or, letters of recommendation written by high-profile people.

Finally, it isn’t the poor students who are being picked on by the media.


Introducing my child to racism

Here I am again, needing advice–

My son received a stack of books from our neighbor who used to be a rep for Scholastic. He selected several of the new books for his bedtime reading, including one about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I skimmed the book and it seemed like a great way to introduce him to this great historical figure, but I decided to make him pick a different book, saying we’d save that book for when he’s a little older. Why? My son, age five and not yet in kindergarten, has no idea what black or white is. He has no idea what race is. No idea what racism is. He is a perfect clean slate.

I love that he is perfect. We live in a diverse neighborhood (white, Africa-American, Latino, new African immigrants). So far as he knows, everyone is either a grownup or a kid, a boy or a girl, and that’s the end of it. How, and when, and do  I at all, introduce him to the concept of racism?

I don’t want to wait until he gets the “wrong” information from one of his peers. But he is still so young and innocent, I’m not sure he could make sense of racism right now. What should I do? How do you handle this difficult subject?