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Oct 1 2014

Why “Black-ish” Bombed For This Black & Jewish Family

By at 12:28 pm
black-ish

via Youtube

 

When my middle child was in kindergarten, he asked me, “Ish means not really. So why do we say we are Jew-ish, when we’re really Jews?”

I thought about my son’s question while watching ABC’s new sitcom, “Black-ish,” which premiered last Wednesday, September 24, 2014. (Yes, that would have been Erev Rosh Hashanah. The same night “The Goldbergs”  premiered. Great scheduling, network guys!)

“Black-ish” tells the story of Andre, a financially successful African-American advertising executive, played by Anthony Anderson, married to Rainbow, an equally successful anesthesiologist, played by Tracee Ellis Ross (daughter of Diana, and, for what it’s worth, born Tracee Ellis Silberstein). Living a prosperous lifestyle in Los Angeles, Andre is worried that his four children are no longer Black, but rather Black…ish. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 28 2013

Will My Son Be the Only Black Jew in High School?

By at 10:59 am

alina adams will my son be the only black jew in high schoolEvery year, just like clockwork, The New York Times writes their annual article expressing shock that the most competitive public high schools in New York City are primarily Asian, with a much lower proportion of black and Hispanic students then there are in the overall system.

They charge that the test is racist and should not be used as the sole criteria determining admittance into a New York City Specialized High School. (I am not going to get into the politics of that charge, except to note that the argument to use other, less standardized factors such as letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities was initially introduced in America specifically to keep Jews out of elite universities, for fear that there would otherwise be too many of them. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 20 2012

Do You Talk to Your Kids About Race?

By at 3:31 pm

black doll and white dollI didn’t realize that I was black until I was told so.

It was during a grade school outing that I realized the complexities of race and race tension in the world. I was at a high school football game holding the hand of my 7th grade boyfriend when a group of mostly black older boys surrounded us. They told me that a black girl had no business holding a white boy’s hand and before I knew it the mass of boys engulfed my pre-pubescent boyfriend. Thankfully, the fight was broken up by another classmate and my boyfriend was found hiding in some bushes, bruised. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 16 2012

How Martin Luther King Helped Name My Daughter

By at 9:01 am

martin luther kingIt took my husband and I under a minute to pick a name for our oldest son.

I said, “Adam?”

He said, “Adam!”

That was easy. My husband noted, “People will think we wanted a Jewish name, opened the Bible to the first page and said: There, good enough.”

It took us until I was actually filling out the birth certificate at the hospital to pick a name for our second son.

Gregory. (Hebrew name: Barak.)

Ultimately, he turned out to be so different in temperament from his brother that we wonder why we even bothered giving him his own moniker. Within minutes of meeting him, people are wont to burst out, “He’s certainly Not Adam!”

We should have just called him that.

With my daughter, the naming process was complicated by the fact that, for the first twenty weeks, I was sure I was having another boy. And for the second, by my conviction that she’d be born early.

My oldest was born four weeks ahead of schedule. His brother two weeks. I felt certain their baby sister would not be born on her due date: Martin Luther King Day. In fact, I had a sneaking suspicion I’d be delivering on Christmas, all alone in a staff-free hospital with tumbleweeds blowing by to add to the ghost-town effect. (As we were finally walking to the hospital on that very cold day in January, I told my husband, “This is the most pregnant I’ve ever been in my life!”)

We went through a whole list of girls’ names–and by we, I mean, me; my husband did not offer forth suggestions, he merely systematically vetoed mine.

For a while there, we seemed to have settled on Scarlett. But, I’ll admit, I pulled the plug on that one. At the last minute, I just didn’t have the balls to saddle a little African-American girl with the name Scarlett. (Though, subsequently, I did learn that, these days, it’s much more likely to invoke Johansson, than O’Hara.)

So there we were, at the hospital with our newborn, nameless baby daughter. On Martin Luther King Day.

It was my brother (also named Martin, and a mythology buff) who made a comment about the name Martin coming from Mars, the Roman god of war. And that Mars’ Greek equivalent was Ares.

Cue the epiphany!

“Ares?” I looked at my husband.

“Ares!”

But, then we took it a step further. We’d agreed from the start that the baby’s middle name would be Camille, after my husband’s late grandmother.

So: Ares Camille.

Put it together and you get: Arielle, her Hebrew name. (I know, it’s a long, winding way to get there. Believe me, I know.)

Which is how, five years ago, my family ended up with a little girl named after the god of war… and a man of peace.

I figured if he could overcome the contradiction, so could she.

Jan 6 2012

My Daughter’s Black/Jewish Hair

By at 10:47 am
little girl getting haircut

Who's excited for a haircut?

From the instant the sonogram technician said, “It’s a girl,” (and, for the record, after two sons, I didn’t believe it; I waited till the doctor came in to confirm), my mantra had been, “Hope she likes boys’ clothes, and short hairstyles, ‘cause that’s all I’ve got.”

Well, she’s almost 5 years old now. And guess what? She likes neither.

My daughter will give in to wearing her brothers’ hand-me-downs once in a while, jeans and sweaters with rocket-ships on them—because rocket-ships are cool. But, most of the time, it’s pink, pink, and more pink. Pink dresses, pink coats, pink underwear, and pink tights. (Luckily, she has a cousin with similar tastes, who’s six months older–and two sizes larger.)

Then there’s the hair.

My daughter has one Jewish parent and one Black parent. Ergo, my daughter has Black/Jewish hair.

Yay.

For the first year of their respective lives, all three of my children had unbelievably straight, ebony hair. (In fact, when we sent out a photo of my newborn middle son, a friend responded, “What an adorable Asian baby you’ve got there.”)

And then, right as the first candle got blown out on the birthday cake, a single curl sprung up over one ear. Then over the other ear. The two tufts stuck straight out, devil-horn style, until they got too long and wavy and proceeded to droop downward. At that point, all three of my kids had themselves a nice set of payes. Read the rest of this entry →

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