Nov 25 2014
Photo via Flickr/Jamelle Bouie
I’ve been following the Mike Brown case from the beginning. I’m sad for his grieving parents and for the citizens of Ferguson who want justice. I support the sentiments around the currently trending meme “#BlackLivesMatter” but I can’t bring myself to tag it on Facebook for fear someone will call me out as a “clueless white person” trying to attach myself to a movement I don’t belong to. I’m empathic, but I’m searching for a way to articulate that respectfully.
My best friend Rachel has always been involved in social justice and is my go-to person on days like today. When I asked her what kind of reaction I should have to all I am witnessing from my comfortable upper middle class life here in Los Angeles, she reminded me that I’m a parent, and I have a responsibility to respond to this in the way I raise my kids.
Rachel explained, “I think the best thing that you can do right now is raise your children to be race conscious–not color blind, but race conscious. Talk to them about the different experiences people of color have. Buy books and dolls and movies with lead characters that aren’t white. Talk about how people aren’t always treated equally and how that is not OK. Teach history and how it impacts our lives today. Be conscious and teach them to be as well.” Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 2 2014
My husband and I have a rule for ourselves: We don’t argue with old people.
This rule applies primarily to our parents and their friends, but also old people in general.
We also have a rule for our three kids, ages 14, 10, and 7: You will respect your elders. Whether you agree with them or not. Especially when you are a guest in someone else’s home. That’s just Etiquette 101 in our book. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 20 2014
The Ides of March in New York City bring high school placement results for thousands of 8th graders. This year, Stuyvesant, the city’s most selective public high school, accepted only seven African-American students out of a class of 952. Last year, that number was nine.
Had they counted my son, they could have gone into the double digits, but they didn’t that year because he was coming from a private school, and they won’t be counting him as attending this year because he checked both the Black and White boxes on his forms, and the public school system just can’t deal with that kind of ambiguity and so chooses not to slot him at all. (I only mention this because it’s very possible similar scenarios exist in the 2014 incoming class. It also doesn’t mean that all seven will choose to attend. I know of three African-American kids who turned down Stuyvesant for scholarships at private schools.)
In any case, however, the number is ridiculously low for a school system that’s majority Black and Hispanic. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 12 2014
“What are you?”
When asked this question, I always say that I am an American Jew. As the fourth generation to be born in New York, I don’t align myself with other countries. Many European nations expelled their Jewish populations. If they didn’t want my family, why would I claim them now? But my answer masked a simpler truth: For most of my life, I didn’t know where I came from.
Relationships with my father’s family were strained. I didn’t want to hurt him by dredging up a past best left buried. Details trickled out over the years, and I had to be satisfied with those. I had lots of contact with my mother’s side, but my mother never asked about our immigration story. This completely baffled me, but she lived her life surrounded by a large family. She never wondered about those that were gone. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 5 2012
Two of Alina's kids (on the outside) with a friend in the middle.
I really enjoyed (and appreciated) Erika K. Davis’ piece: Do You Talk to Your Kids About Race.
I was all set to answer her question with delightful and pithy anecdotes about how we do things in our interracial, interfaith and intercultural household (dad: African-American, mom: Soviet-born Jew, three kids: all of the above), when my eyes fell on some of the comments both on the original article, and the Kveller Facebook page:
I am not sure that it’s necessary to have a specific talk about race unless your child brings it up or encounters or observes some type of racist behavior….
Yes, but not unless it brings itself up naturally. There’s no reason to address it otherwise…
It should be a non-conversation….
Kids don’t notice it until you tell them about it…
First of all, the latter comment is blatantly untrue. Read the rest of this entry →