one woman's journey toward the city of light ... and all the random stops along the way

jeudi, novembre 23, 2006

on racism and denial

By now, I'm sure many have seen or heard about this sad excuse of an apology from Michael Richards.

I wasn't the least bit surprised when I heard about his "racist tirade." We all (should) know racism still exists. It's just not as overt as it was years past...although I would argue that the pendulum is swinging back the other way of late. The fact that Richards tries to write off his comments as "anger" and not racism is typical of the politically-correct society we live in today. We Americans know it's not PC to say we're racist. So when someone like Richards does something like this, he can say "I'm not racist. I was just angry." But the comments have to originate from somewhere. Racism is learned and is deeply deeply engrained in the American psyche. Denial will get us nowhere.

dimanche, octobre 22, 2006

Rest in Peace

for my cousins who were taken away to soon
we know you're in a better place

we will miss you

mercredi, octobre 18, 2006

adoption making headlines

...but for the wrong reason...

The latest frenzy over Madonna's adoption of the Malawian child caused me to ponder the reasons why people are so worked up about this. Is it because ...?

a) a white family is adopting an orphaned black baby,
b) an American expat is adopting an African child,
c) that an exorbitant amount of money was spent to execute the adoption,
d) that an African child is being removed from his native land,
e) that a celebrity as had the rules bent in her favor, or
f) all of the above (and some more)

Knowing full well, it's a combination of the above, I'll ignore the various permutations and will consider points A and E below. This isn't to say the others don't deserve attention, but these are the two most prominent views expressed in the British media at the moment, and the economist in me would like to simplify the model if she may.

A) a white family is adopting an orphaned black baby

In reality, there are two factors to be considered here -- race of the family and the child AND the age of the child to be adopted -- but my attention will only be to the former.

Frankly, I have no problem with any family of any race/ethnicity/color providing a loving home to a child in need. My own grandmother was orphaned at the age of 5, and with no relatives willing or able to take her in, she was raised by a well-to-do white woman in the southern-most town in Alabama in the 1920s. (Not a decade known for biracial adoptions, but this woman happened to find my granny abandoned in the property she owned.)

The wealth and race of that woman had both tremendous advantages and disadvantages for my grandmother. She was moved, overnight, out of a life of poverty and into a life of stability and relative comfort -- access to education, clean and neat clothing, regular meals, a room of her own. She'd previously been living in a one-room shack sharing a bed with her 11-yr-old uncle -- the two of them alone with no adult supervision or care.

But of course, in the 1920s, there weren't too many whites or blacks pleased with the idea of a white (and rich) woman taking in a poor black child -- especially one who she treated as her own daughter rather than a servant. So my grandmother was the target of a great deal of violence, bullying, and abuse. No one dared harm her so long as her new guardian was around, but the minute my grandmother was on her own, all hell broke loose. That said, were it not for her adoption, who knows what her fate would have been? I'm just grateful she was adopted by someone who gave her unconditional love. Could really care less what the woman looked like or what race she was.

I'm not saying there aren't valid reasons for us to worry about the cultural ties lost when a child of color is adopted by a white family, but are those reasons enough to deny a child the right to a family at all? I think not. (There is the obvious exception for cases when families intentionally try to reprogram minority children because they think the child's cultural ties are somehow inferior...I'm thinking of the case of Native children adopted by Mormon families in Utah years past.)

Enough on that point, let's move to the second big issue...

E) a celebrity has had the rules bent in her favor

Really? Wow, that's the first time this has happened!

Okay, I'm not really trying to be flippant about this one, but let's just have some perspective here. What government have you known NOT to give in to a special interest when the incentives and benefits are attractive enough? Are we really surprised by this one?

On the one hand, we should be concerned if policies and procedures weren't followed, regardless of who the adoptive parents are. On the other hand, it brings to light how complex and difficult and political adoptions can be. In the US, becoming a foster parent is a relative breeze, but adopting is damn near impossible in some cases. We have to strike the right balance between ensuring the child will go into a safe home (and not be trafficked, for example) versus making the process so difficult that otherwise good, willing families are turned off from trying to go through with it. Might this explain why quite a large number of families spend loads of money to adopt foreign babies? Surely there are other reasons as well, not the least of them socio-political and racial, but this too may well be one of them.

I fully intend to adopt when I am able to provide a good home to a child. My motivations are a bit selfish -- my granny was adopted, and she all but legally adopted me and my sister when our mother wasn't able to provide for us. Personally, I'd much rather adopt an older child and probably more than one. The children's birthplace won't matter much to me, but regardless, I'll do my best to raise them to realize their fullest potential.

dimanche, avril 02, 2006

food for thought from the wall of Bene Bene

I saw this quote on the wall at my fave organic foods restaurant:

"We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavours and furniture polish is made from real lemons." --Arthur E. Newman

true, true.

samedi, février 18, 2006

I may very well need to settle permanently in London...

if I want to be able to afford to send my future daughter to my alma mater in California.

My high school was featured in a LA Times article because it is increasing tuition by 6% to over $25,000 a year. When I was a student there, tuition was a staggering $15,000. Fortunately for me, I was on full financial aid. Unfortunately for my children, they probably won't be.

The fact that the tuition at private secondary schools is rising so dramatically troubles me for more than just what it may mean for my offspring. As a former public school teacher and a child of the inner city, I can't help but fear this signals a growing divide between the haves and the have-nots (in Los Angeles, at least).

Don't get me wrong. I'm very proud of my alma mater and eternally grateful for the education I received. Really, I was quite lucky to have been able to attend. If I were trying to enroll today, however, I'm not sure I would receive the same level of financial assistance. With fees topping $25K, surely the financial aid "pot" would need to be distributed among a larger group of applicants. Even middle class families would look for greater assistance. Would low-income families even consider having their children apply for such schools or would the large price tag scare them away? (My family was dissuaded originally and only had me apply after two years of debating how we would finance the educational investment.)

The other issue is what this says about public investment in education. If it costs $25K to get a private school education today, how much less is invested in public school education? Better still, would public schools use the money effectively if they had more to spend? I know what all of the research says (more money doesn't necessarily mean better schools), but let's look at how a school like my alma mater spends its money: higher teacher salaries, state-of-the-art technology/equipment/facilities, small class sizes... all the things we public school teachers want for our students but have to fight tooth and nail to get. Could you imagine if we made that available to every child regardless of the circumstances into which he or she was born?

Yes, I know skeptics will say that the private schools' pupil selection criteria means they have fewer difficult kids to teach. Honestly, even the most "difficult" children could thrive if they had the kind of attention one receives at these elite schools. Maybe if they'd been given that kind of attention in preschool or kindergarten, they might have never been given the "difficult" label. Just a thought.

samedi, février 11, 2006

old age

I suffer from memory loss. I think it's genetic. ...either that or I'm not really the twentysomething I think I am. In any case, I couldn't, for the life of me, remember my damned password for this blog. And when I asked for a new one to be sent to my email, it never arrived. Which makes me think I've forgotten which email account I used to create my blogger account. Sigh...

Anyway, there's loads that I want to write about, but I have only a few moments left on this internet cafe pc. (Still no broadband at home. My flatmate controls the utilities. Double sigh...)

Okay, so now with my ranting done, I "promise" to do a proper blog entry soon--perhaps tomorrow--as I have quite a lot on my mind given the state of the world today...the cartoon protests, the Alabama church fires, the fact that Ruth Kelly (UK's education secretary) was hit in the face with a raw egg...

till then...

mercredi, décembre 28, 2005


We had a recent "snowfall" in the UK, with eastern Britain getting the worst of the storm. A whole 2 centimeters of snow fell in London. Brilliant. And while the weather forecasters were all warning of the dangerous road conditions, I couldn't help thinking, This is soooo much better than Boston!

Point being, it's all about things appear from different people's point-of-view...I'm finding that my perspective on many things has changed in just the few short weeks that I've been here in England. For one, I'm actually imagining myself making this place my home. Of course, I'm still always dreaming of Paris. ; Secondly, I'm discovering that I haven't quite mastered the English language as I thought I had. The Queen's English is all together different. But I'm adapting... Thirdly, Britons are far friendly than they give themselves credit for being. Obviously, they haven't met Bostonians. Hmmm...what else?...oh, before moving here, I thought I'd never meet another attractive and intelligent guy over 5'10". Happily, there are quite a few "fit" gentlemen strolling through London, all of them well-dressed and tall. Granted, I only watch from a far, but at least there's plenty of eye candy to enjoy.

Yep, I definitely fancy life in London.