Open Thread

How’s everyone doing?

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Gratuitous Cute Kid Pic

Here’s LIE reader Ashley’s darling three, Kori (12), Bennett (10), and Rian (4). What cuties!

Got cute kids? Send a picture to us so we can show them off for you!

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Add White Kids And Stir Is Not Good Education Policy

Written by LIE Guest Contributor Tressie McMillan; Originally posted at tressiemc

I commend the Times for at least acknowledging the anniversary of Brown v. Board this week, but I take some issue with the conclusions opinion writer David L. Kirp makes. A quick conversation with the essay:

AMID the ceaseless and cacophonous debates about how to close the achievement gap, we’ve turned away from one tool that has been shown to work: school desegregation. That strategy, ushered in by the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, has been unceremoniously ushered out, an artifact in the museum of failed social experiments. The Supreme Court’s ruling that racially segregated schools were “inherently unequal” shook up the nation like no other decision of the 20th century. Civil rights advocates, who for years had been patiently laying the constitutional groundwork, cheered to the rafters, while segregationists mourned “Black Monday” and vowed “massive resistance.” But as the anniversary was observed this past week on May 17, it was hard not to notice that desegregation is effectively dead. In fact, we have been giving up on desegregation for a long time. In 1974, the Supreme Court rejected a metropolitan integration plan, leaving the increasingly black cities to fend for themselves.

A generation later, public schools that had been ordered to integrate in the 1960s and 1970s became segregated once again, this time with the blessing of a new generation of justices. And five years ago, a splintered court delivered the coup de grâce when it decreed that a school district couldn’t voluntarily opt for the most modest kind of integration — giving parents a choice of which school their children would attend and treating race as a tiebreaker in deciding which children would go to the most popular schools. In the perverse logic of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., this amounted to “discriminating among individual students based on race.” That’s bad history, which, as Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in an impassioned dissent, “threaten[s] the promise of Brown.”

I take few issues with the summary of history. I did want to point out that we never really had an effective, longitudinal integration policy. Look at the years. A 1954 decision was effectively overturned by 1974. That’s 20 years. And it’s only part of the story. There were many state cases lost along the way that effectively gutted integration policies as the cases made their way to the Supreme Court. That means all this hullabaloo about Brown v Board is only ever talking about a good 10-15 years of actual policy. For context, we’ve spent more time debating what should replace the Twin Towers at Ground Zero after September 11th than we ever spent on true school integration in this country.

To the current reformers, integration is at best an irrelevance and at worst an excuse to shift attention away from shoddy teaching. But a spate of research says otherwise. The experience of an integrated education made all the difference in the lives of black children — and in the lives of their children as well. These economists’ studies consistently conclude that African-American students who attended integrated schools fared better academically than those left behind in segregated schools. They were more likely to graduate from high school and attend and graduate from college; and, the longer they spent attending integrated schools, the better they did. What’s more, the fear that white children would suffer, voiced by opponents of integration, proved groundless. Between 1970 and 1990, the black-white gap in educational attainment shrank — not because white youngsters did worse but because black youngsters did better.

Not only were they more successful in school, they were more successful in life as well. A 2011 study by the Berkeley public policy professor Rucker C. Johnson concludes that black youths who spent five years in desegregated schools have earned 25 percent more than those who never had that opportunity. Now in their 30s and 40s, they’re also healthier — the equivalent of being seven years younger.

Why? For these youngsters, the advent of integration transformed the experience of going to school. By itself, racial mixing didn’t do the trick, but it did mean that the fate of black and white students became intertwined. School systems that had spent a pittance on all-black schools were now obliged to invest considerably more on African-American students’ education after the schools became integrated. Their classes were smaller and better equipped. They included children from better-off families, a factor that the landmark 1966 Equality of Educational Opportunity study had shown to make a significant difference in academic success. What’s more, their teachers and parents held them to higher expectations. That’s what shifted the arc of their lives.

I understand Kirp’s rhetorical position here: he’s talking to “today’s reformers” and maybe not me so much. I get that.

However, it is dangerous for any of us to package integration as a solution to education disparities if only because the reading comprehension of most readers is, well, reflective of our education disparities.

To be clear: adding white kids to schools and stirring to blend is NOT A SOLUTION.

The effects of integration on black/brown student outcomes is primarily a result of white people caring about a school once THEIR kids attend. The result is better funding, better teaching, better curriculum, better services that black/brown kids tangentially benefit from. Basically the effects of poverty on schooling is mediated by better investment once white kids show up.

It’s not integration that we need so much as we need anti-poverty solutions. And anti-poverty solutions are too often tied up in racial politics to be uniformly applied to schools so we also end up needing anti-racism solutions. All of that is absolutely possible to achieve without adding white kids. It’s that we’ve not found another way for white lawmakers and parents to CARE about poor black and brown kids except to have them sit next to their white kids that is the problem, not the solution.

I have said that fixing schools really isn’t all that hard. We know what works, for the most part: more resources, more time, more investment, equity, and access.

What’s hard is fixing the people that make decisions about schools.

And integration ain’t gonna solve that.

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Long Links: When When A Second-Grader Portrays MLK in Blackface, Let’s Ditch the Outrage

From My Brown Baby

Offering continued evidence that this nation is badly in need of some serious discussions about race, history and stereotyping, a white second-grader and his parents in Colorado finds themselves in the midst of a roiling controversy because of his decision to portray Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—the historical figure that was assigned to him by the teacher— on his class’s “wax museum day.” Most of the outrage has stemmed from the family’s decision to cover the boy’s face in black paint to complete the portrayal. Now the family of the little boy, Sean King, is asking school officials to apologize to him for being “mean” to him when they told him he had to wash his face.

So many of the issues that we address on these MyBrownBaby pages in the end are about poor judgment and degrees. When it comes to parenting, it seems that most everything we do comes down to judgment and degrees: When your kid screws up, it might be okay to send him to his room, maybe in some households to swat his behind or make him stand in the corner—but punching him the face with a balled-up fist, making him sleep outside or denying him a day’s worth of meals would all be considered punishment that is many degrees too far. A parent who used those methods would rightly be accused of exercising poor judgment. The parenting decisions fly at us at a rapid pace. Some of them we get right; some we get wrong. Sometimes, our judgment feels like the only tool we have at our disposal.

Read more.

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LIE Links

Older adoptees [Holt Adoption Baby]

For the first waves of adoptees, we were scattered across America, predominantly to small towns.

These were insular communities, unaccustomed to and fearful of foreigners and devoid of people of color.

Our peers looked much like the students in this class photo. Note not one ethnic face. This was typical outside of cities. It was all WE saw, and they saw us as something totally different.

Back then, there was little or no vetting of adoptive parents. The only requirement was that they had an income, they professed to be Christians, and could get personal references. As a result, many of us were sent to religious extremists. Some were even sent to cults. Jim Jones adopted from Korea. Adoptees sent to cults have told me of parishioners being encouraged to adopt as many Korean orphans as they could. They were exposed to cruel physical and emotional abuse. Other adoptees have told me of being used as farm labor and experiencing physical abuse. Our isolation allowed these things to happen without intervention.

Jay Smooth: Don’t Freak Out About Trends in Births [Sociological Images]

Last week, the Census Bureau announced that as of July 1, 2011, for the first time the majority (50.4%) of babies under age 1 in the U.S. were not non-Hispanic Whites. Animal New York posted a video by Jay Smooth discussing the reactions to and implications of this news.

O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, in Prezi [American Indians in Children's Literature]

As regular readers of AICL know, I’m working on a Master’s in Library Science at San Jose State University. This semester, I learned how to use Prezi. It is all-the-rage in presentation-land, but my final assessment is that I doubt that I’ll use it for presentations. While it may be more engaging, it also fails to meet accessibility standards for special needs populations. In order to make mine as accessible as possible, I didn’t use all the toys in Prezi. My presentation is as straightforward as I could make it.
[Editor's note: The presentation is called "An Island of Well-Intentioned Ignorance?" and is definitely worth a read, especially for those of you with elementary school-aged children]

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Open Thread

What’s on your mind this week?

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Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Gratuitous Cute Kid Pic

It’s Thursday, time for another gratuitous cute kid pic. Here’s LIE reader Rachel’s darling Gracie, hanging out with her dad after a birthday party.

Got cute kids? We know you do! Send pics to us so we can show them off for you.

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From the Vault: Black Motherhood: The Womb of the World

Reposted in honor of Mother’s Day. Originally published here in June 2009.
[Editor's note: I asked one of my favorite bloggers, Renee, who writes about race, gender and more on Womanist Musings, what she thought of the recent article on Racewire that said:

America is experiencing a single-mom boom. Federal health authorities report that about 40 percent of births in 2007 were to unmarried women, up from 34 percent in 2002.

Keeping with previous patterns, the highest rates and largest increases were seen in Black and Latino women. But the statistics diverge from some stereotypes, too. Compared to 1970, the portion of single-parent births by teenagers has declined steeply—a sign that more older women are deciding to have children without a husband. Researchers suggest several factors behind the trend, reports the Washington Post:

Following is Renee's response:]

One of the least valuable people on the planet is a black mother. Her gender and her race make her invisible unless an opportunity exists to exploit or marginalize her for gain. She is perceived as little more than a brood mare and often constructed as reproducing for the sake of either profiting from the system or trapping a man into subservience to her. Each generation she passes this legacy from her womb to her offspring and no matter her love or investment in her children, she is forever understood as lacking the wherewithal to raise responsible and successful citizens.

The capacity of Black women to love and nurture is only accorded respect when their energies are spent raising, and suckling white babies. Mammy speaks in soothing tones and is not threatening whereas; the Black mother has already proven to be a sexual being in her reproduction threatens to end the majority status of the White population. As 2050 quickly approaches and the balance of racial dynamics changes, whiteness fears that a loss of privilege will result from the blackness of the African American womb.

The patriarchal Black family has been under decline as eligible Black men have increasingly become incarcerated due to the racist prison industrial complex. Black women have been placed in the position of raising their children themselves and have been demonized for their efforts to hold their families together despite their attempts to create a positive environment for their children. In a society that understands family as consisting of the coupling of a man and a woman the single Black mother has been constructed as a social piranha. She has been held responsible for the men that abdicate their parental duties to be involved both financially and emotionally in the lives of their children.

Single motherhood is something that has been traditionally frowned upon because such a model subverts the patriarchal family. As part of the compromise for the exploitation men experience in the public sphere, the ability to wield a tyrant like authoritarian power has traditionally been granted within the household. The family, though constructed as the nurturing nest is quite often the very first place we experience oppression. Women and children are sacrificed to maintain male hegemony and capitalism continues to benefit from the long suffering flannel suit wearing masculinity that performs robotically because he has been given the responsibility of provider. Though the single wage earner family has rarely to never been the model of black families it is still presented as justification for the continued subservience of the Black woman.

In recent years with a rise in single motherhood, social shaming has become even more race divided. When Bristol Palin became pregnant she was not slut shamed in the way that she would have been had she been a young woman of color. She has gone on to be a spokesperson for abstinence proving that an identity that was once considered spoiled may be reformed if the person in question is white and exists with class privilege.

Angelina has been reborn as the worlds “earth mother,” reframing her public persona of vampy wild child, even though she is not married to her partner Brad Pitt. The two are the parents of several children and have not yet decided if their family is complete. A few scant years ago, Jolie would have not been able to use her maternity to change the ways in which her body is understood; however in a time when whiteness is undergoing a panic regarding fertility rates, a woman that is willing to devote herself to reproduction is celebrated.

When we place Jolie next to Erykah Badu; the black white binary reveals whose motherhood is valued. Badu as a successful artist is more than capable of caring financially for her children and yet her unmarried status is understood as problematic. She has been slut shamed in the court of public opinion with some going as far as to suggest that she needs to close her legs and take care of the children that she already has. How does her continued reproduction suggest that she is an unfit mother? The issue is never maternity, the issue is the race of the mother.

Some Black women are forced into single motherhood because of death, abandonment, or even the imprisonment of their partners and others wilfully choose this as a viable option in a world that teaches them that their bodies are worthless. As long as we continue to be a society that is determined to see difference as an indicator of value the maternity of Black women will continue to be understood as problematic

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Open Thread

What would you like to discuss this week?

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Gratuitous Cute Kid Pic

Half a day late on the post but with enough cuteness to make up for it: LIE reader Christy introduces us to her beautiful, joyous son Elias. What a cutie!

Got cute kids? Send their photos to us so that we can show them off!

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LIE Long Link: Stereotypes and white supremacy in Kraft’s Milk Bites campaign

From Balancing Jane

I truly can’t believe that I have to write what I’m about to write. Via a Sociological Images post by Bradley Koch, I found out about a KRAFT campaign for their new MilkBites, a snack that is “part milk, part granola.”

The campaign uses an anthropomorphized version of the MilkBite, a little male MilkBite named Mel. The series of commercials, which appear to be both TV spots and online-only “diary” entries to better introduce Mel, set him up as a confused character who “has issues.” Here’s his introduction.

His very first line, as he looks in the mirror is, “Who are you? What am I?” It’s followed by an introspective, “Maybe you’re nothing,” as he sits alone on a park bench. He tries to convince himself that’s not true: “I’m valuable.” But that positive assertion is immediately undercut when he is ignored by a waitress as he tries to get a refill. “Mel has issues” pops up on the screen, and then he’s back in front of the mirror. “Are you milk? Are you granola? What are you?” he asks himself. There’s a shot of him sitting on a couch and looking at a bowl of granola and a glass of milk (his parents, we’ll find out in a future commercial), then he’s back at the mirror. “I don’t know.”

The campaign is clearly setting Mel up as a biracial character, and its using that biracialism as a source of anxiety and confusion. As Koch writes:

The problem with a marketing campaign like this is that it trivializes the experience of people with multiple racial/ethnic identities who are still often met with derision and confusion. The first ad above perpetuates the self-fulfilling prophecy about “confused” identities. As a child, I remember family members telling me that they didn’t have a problem with interracial couples but worried about how others might react to their children.

I completely agree that those are problematic aspects that are blatantly present in this campaign, but I’m also going to go one further. Not only does KRAFT use the construction of a biracial identity (of which there aren’t really a lot of pop culture displays to begin with) in a way that perpetuates stereotypes about “confused” identities and the tragic mulatto myth, but–upon a closer examination of the commercials–I also think they’re using that trope to perpetuate a narrative of white supremacy.

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LIE Links: Petition

Petition: Mass School Electrocutes Blind Girl [Change.org]

In 2002, a special needs student named Andre McCollins was allegedly strapped down and electrocuted for hours, leaving him with permanent brain damage, all because he refused to take off his jacket. The people torturing Andre were officials at his school. You can watch what happened on video.

The video was shot at a Massachusetts school for special needs kids called the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC). Gregory Miller used to be a teacher there, and he says electrocuting kids as punishment is extremely common — even for minor offenses like raising your hand to go to the bathroom.

“A non-verbal, nearly blind girl with cerebral palsy was shocked for attempts to hold a staff member’s hand — her attempts to communicate and to be loved,” Gregory says.

Gregory desperately wants to help the kids at the JRC –that’s why he started a petition on Change.org demanding that the JRC stop using electroshock to punish kids. Click here to add your name.

Gregory says the JRC’s founder created electroshock devices which are even stronger than police stun guns to punish students for bad behavior. An official at the United Nations said that using these devices on children is considered torture.

According to the Boston Globe, the JRC’s founder resigned after being charged with misleading a grand jury by destroying video footage of other students being shocked.

Gregory believes that if thousands of people sign his petition, his former bosses will capitulate in the intense pressure generated by a national spotlight.

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LIE Links

African Orphan Now Ballerina [ABC News]

[This is an amazing young woman, and I wanted to post here not only because of her achievements, but because of what she has to say about racism and colorism, as well as the implication that vitiligo has played some part in her path. A warning, though: I find the journalist patronizing, and some of her characterizations offensive--Julia]

The designer baby factory: Eggs from beautiful Eastern Europeans, sperm from wealthy Westerners and embryos implanted in desperate women [Mail Online]

Nominally, this forlorn place is a care home for surrogate mothers — at least that is how it is described by the company that runs it, Wyzax Surrogacy Consultancy, which is cashing in on India’s booming new babies-for-sale business.

It boasts of being the country’s first ‘one-stop shop for outsourced pregnancy’. In truth, though, it is nothing less than a baby factory; the end of a grim production line on which children are being designed to order for wealthy couples, mainly from Western countries including Britain, as if they were custom-built cars.

Indeed, as I have discovered during an eye-opening three-week investigation into India’s burgeoning, billion-dollar surrogacy industry, the motor-manufacturing analogy is all too apt.

Adopted or Abducted? [Dan Rather Reports/HDNet]

An investigation into claims by women that they were forced to put their babies up for adoption, many with the knowledge and support of Catholic Charities. It has been a little discussed practice for decades but this special hour-long program will remove the veil of secrecy that has led to emotional trauma for unwed mothers around the world.

In reporting this story, we reached out to the largest maternity home providers in America of the “baby-scoop” era for comment. These organizations had oversight on the policies and practices that led to so-called forced adoptions.

Inside Ethiopia’s Adoption Boom [Wall Street Journal]

The experience recounted by Mel’s biological father, Mathewos Delebo, shows many of the complexities. Mr. Delebo, a 38-year-old farmer, acknowledges freely giving up his youngest child for adoption. Earlier this year, in the mud-hut village of Le-barfeta in southeastern Ethiopia where he lives, he described why he did it.

Four years ago, he claimed, a stranger—a middleman in the adoption trade—came to his village and persuaded him to give up a child with the promise that she would grow up and send money to support him. “White people are taking children of the poor and helping them get a better life,” Mr. Delebo said he was told. “It will be good for you.”

Mr. Delebo claimed he didn’t understand that he was giving up Mel for good, and thought that she would send money home. Mr. Delebo doesn’t recall the middleman’s name and hasn’t seen him for years.

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Democracy Now on Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.

h/t Racialicious

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Open Thread

What’s on your mind today?

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Gratuitous Cute Kid Pic

LIE reader Patti says, “You’ve seen this guy before but the cuteness doesn’t stop. Mesfin, age 5, my Buddhist robot-nerd.” I love the whole get-up! (Patti, I give you extra points for innovative use of suspenders!)

Got cute kids? Send their photos to us so we can show them off for you!

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Open Thread

The floor is yours…

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Gratuitous Cute Kid Pic

It’s Thursday, time for another gratuitous cute kid pic!

Here’s LIE reader Heather’s 5-year-old son Aiden. What a cutie! And you gotta love the crown!

Got cute kids? Send us their photos so we can show them off!

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LIE Links

Don’t White People Kill Each Other Too? [The Root]

In fact, all races share similar ratios. Yet there’s no outrage or racialized debate about “white on white” violence. Instead, the myth and associated fear of “black on black” crime is sold as a legitimate, mainstream descriptive and becomes American status quo.

The truth? As the largest racial group, whites commit the majority of crimes in America. In particular, whites are responsible for the vast majority of violent crimes. With respect to aggravated assault, whites led blacks 2-1 in arrests; in forcible-rape cases, whites led all racial and ethnic groups by more than 2-1. And in larceny theft, whites led blacks, again, more than 2-1.

Given this mathematical truth, would anyone encourage African Americans to begin shooting suspicious white males in their neighborhoods for fear that they’ll be raped, assaulted or murdered? Perhaps George Zimmerman’s defenders should answer that question. If African Americans were to act as irrationally as Zimmerman did, would any rationale suffice to avoid arrest?

And why is no consideration given to the fact that Trayvon Martin, and millions of black boys and girls like him, harbor a reasonably founded fear of whites but are hardly ever provided the deference and dignity that victimhood affords?

Trayvon Martin: The Problem with the ‘Some of My Best Friends Are Black’ Defense [Time]

Perhaps even more surprisingly, a 2011 study specifically looking at the impact of interracial friendship on white concern about local crime found that when white people have close relationships with black people, their concerns about crime actually increase. More broadly, when scholars have studied the racial beliefs, feelings and policy views of whites who have contact with blacks as friends, acquaintances or neighbors, they consistently find that the negative racial perceptions of those whites are substantially similar to the perceptions of whites who have no black friends. Friendship with black people — and even being a black person — does nothing to change racial bias. Indeed, almost one-third of black people hold similarly negative views.

This isn’t just an academic subject to me; it’s deeply personal. Growing up, my son was pretty much the only close black friend that any of his white friends had. He had other black friends, but he was the only black male in AP and honors classes at his prep school, and for most of his soccer career, the only black player on his travel team.

His high school soccer career ended when one of his teammates screamed “Stop that n—–!” from the sidelines, referring to the opposing team’s star player. When my son took offense, the coach, who had known him since he was 10, told him he was overreacting. My son’s “friend” who did the hollering said, “But I wasn’t talking about you. I don’t think of you that way.” But how that teammate would characterize my son did not extend to the unknown black player on the field.

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Open Thread

Tell us what’s on your mind this week.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments