Archive for November, 2010

Best Present

Posted by jcmaziquemd on November 30, 2010


The best present I ever got was from my daughter. She made me a calendar with my favorite pictures of her and her brother over the years.

Thank you for sending in a tip, this is a wonderful gift. I love making personalized items to give for Christmas. They really touch people. If you want to do the same, the best (and cheapest) places to go for it are Walmart andPersonalization Mall (my favorite). You can also take some favorite photos to your local Kinkos and photocopy them to make unique wrapping paper.


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Black Migration

Posted by jcmaziquemd on November 30, 2010

A 3-Pronged Tale of Black Migration
via THEROOT.COM on 11/26/10

By: Martin Kilson

Isabel Wilkerson has added another important book to the long tradition of serious writings on the interplay between American society’s white-supremacist practices and the migration of black American citizens out of the viciously racist South to the North and West. Wilkerson subtitles her book, The Warmth of Other Suns (Random House, 2010), "The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration" — immediately signaling to readers that the book is monumental-scale popular history. (Wilkerson is a journalism professor at Boston University and former Chicago bureau chief for the New York Times.)
The Warmth of Other Suns is not, however, a "regular social history" presentation of the movement of millions of black Americans out of the South from the start of the 20th century’s second decade into the World War II years and beyond. One unusual feature of the book is that it doesn’t present a discussion in the main text of the historical works that preceded it — a discussion of the scholars’ shoulders that Wilkerson’s book stands on, so to speak. Such an addition would help readers to historiographically locate The Warmth of Other Suns.
I think of core works like Carter G. Woodson’s pioneering A Century of Negro Migration, published in 1918 by the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Woodson, who was the founding father of African-American historical scholarship, produced the first major study that identified key historical migratory antecedents of the Great Migration epoch from 1910 onward.
I think also of a raft of other books that probed what might be called the receiving side of black migration, by which I mean the dynamics of fashioning new and stable social patterns in cities where black migrants settled. Among these works are Robert Warner’s Negroes in New Haven (1940); St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton’s Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City (1945); Joe W. Trotter’s Black Milwaukee (1982); Kenneth L. Kusmer’s A Ghetto Takes Shape: Black Cleveland (1976); and Dennis C. Dickerson’s Out of the Crucible: Black Steelworkers in Western Pennsylvania 1875-1980 (1986). Of course, the pioneering study of the receiving side of black migration is W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Philadelphia Negro: A Study, published in 1899 by the University of Pennsylvania Press.
Thus, in overall historiography terms, Wilkerson’s book contains what might be dubbed a low-structural characterization of the period. Viewed from this conceptual vantage point, Wilkerson relates the Great Migration through the prism of the experience of three people. As a result, The Warmth of Other Suns’ narrative text has a "nooks-and-crannies social history aura," let’s call it. This also means that Wilkerson’s narrative text emits a kind of historical intimacy, and thereby a uniquely engaging feature.
Be that as it may, a lacking "structural characterization" in Wilkerson’s book is the absence of an overall presentation of basic population data on the geographic patterning of black Americans from 1910 into the 1940s, though there are scattered references to population data, such as Wilkerson’s observation that "some 555,000 colored people left the South during the decade of the First World War." There is also a related Wilkerson observation that "the Migration had siphoned off half a million black workers by 1920 alone."
In order to provide readers here with a baseline view of black migration out of the South between 1910 and the 1930s, I present overall U.S. Census Bureau data for the regional residence of the black American population outside the South — in the North and West — from 1910 to the 1930s. The total black American population by 1910 was 9.8 million; by 1920 it was 10.4 million; and by 1930 it was nearly 12 million — 11.8 million to be exact. The total white population in 1930 was nearly 109 million. (See U.S. Census Bureau, Negroes in the United States, 1920-1930 [Washington, D.C., 1935], page 25.)
Wilkerson’s Three-Pronged Tale
In The Warmth of Other Suns, the black Great Migration tale — commencing in the 20th century’s second decade and extending into the 1960s — is related through the prism of three black personalities: a woman named Ida Mae Gladney and two men, George Swanson Starling and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster. Gladney and Starling had agrarian, working-class backgrounds. Gladney’s people were field hands — cotton pickers; and Starling’s people were also field hands — orange-grove pickers.
Through the Gladney-Starling migration prism, Wilkerson’s "three-pronged migration tale," as I dub it, relates what might be called the black agrarian, working-class dimensions of the Great Migration story. Foster, on the other hand, was from a solid, middle-class background. Both of his parents were educated at a small Negro school called Leland College, in New Orleans, and their profession was teaching, with Foster’s father attaining the rank of school principal.
However, I don’t think the Foster migration prism provides Wilkerson an opportunity to intertwine Foster’s "middle-class migration tale" with the core structural dynamics that defined most African Americans’ experience in the Great Migration epoch. Unlike many blacks of bourgeois background, who fashioned for themselves what I call an "outreach-to-black-masses outlook" (that is, a black-masses-friendly orientation), Robert Joseph Pershing Foster harbored what I describe as a black elitist identity.
Foster didn’t use the advantages of upper-class mobility available to him to formally assist the social and political advancement of the great mass of working-class and poor black Americans. So he stood off from aggregate black American concerns, as it were, obsessed solely with his own.
As Carter Woodson revealed in the first major study of the black American professional class, The Negro Professional Man and the Community (1934), by the 1930s, when there were about 135,000 black Americans in professional ranks — thanks to Negro colleges — a sizable number of black professional persons participated in a broad range of black civil-society agencies that extended a "helping-hand outreach" to working-class African Americans. In this way, the black professional class assisted black working-class advancement in the many ways that viable black civil-society agencies made available.
That outreach to working-class blacks was made possible through participation in black civic associations, civil rights organizations, mutual-aid associations, women’s organizations like the National Council of Negro Women, professional associations like the National Medical Association and the National Bar Association, and as members of black churches with a civil rights activist outlook.
A first-rate study of such black professional outreach to the broader working-class black community in Philadelphia from the 1920s into the 1960s can be found in the University of California (Riverside) historian Vincent Franklin’s important book, The Education of Black Philadelphia: The Social and Educational History of a Minority Community 1900-1950. Professor Franklin, by the way, is editor of The Journal of African American History.
As I read Wilkerson’s presentation of Robert Joseph Pershing Foster’s migration tale, my attention was drawn to Foster’s "black elitist" proclivities. Those proclivities commenced during his undergraduate years at one of the top-ranked Negro colleges, Morehouse College in Atlanta. The black-elitist proclivities of the Foster migration tale provide Wilkerson with a range of black Great Migration material that enables her to highlight a major aspect of her historical narrative.
Namely, Wilkerson’s narrative tilts in favor of what might be called a "black-agency historiography" in regard to explaining why a mass quantum of black citizens entered the Great Migration, as contrasted with a "structural-dynamics historiography." Accordingly, the Foster migration tale is laden with materials illustrative of Foster’s single-minded quest to be a financially successful medical doctor and surgeon — a success that would simultaneously provide Dr. Foster a high social status.
Foster’s quest commenced with courting an undergraduate at Spelman College named Alice Clement, whose parents were at the pinnacle of black Atlanta’s professional class; Alice’s father, Dr. Rufus Clement, was president of Atlanta University. That university was at the apex of about 100 Negro colleges that, by the 1930s, were training some 90 percent of what W.E.B. Du Bois liked to call the Talented Tenth in his 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk, the great text of African-American progressivism. Before enrolling in one of the black medical schools in 1940 (Meharry Medical College in Nashville), Foster married Alice at a flamboyant wedding ceremony — vividly described by Wilkerson — that was covered in major Negro newspapers in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Chicago.
It was during two years as a U.S. Army doctor during the Korean War that then-Captain Robert Foster had a traumatic encounter with American racism — the rejection of his application for the post of chief surgeon — when it was discovered that the applicant was black. Thus, when his U.S. Army tour ended, Foster and Alice and their two daughters migrated to California, settling in Los Angeles. Through a network of African-American physicians already in California, Foster — aided especially by Dr. William Beck, a former professor at Meharry — eventually fashioned both a successful medical practice and established high social connections in Los Angeles.
From what I could glean from the rather peculiar 18-part presentation of the Foster migration tale, Robert Joseph Pershing Foster’s successful Great Migration tale did not involve significant social and political "outreach to black masses" dimensions. Visiting Dr. Foster during the last year of his life, Wilkerson queried him regarding how he raised his two daughters. "He became obsessed with appearances," Wilkerson says, "and spent a fortune on their clothes and breeding so that there would be no reason for them to be rejected [by white America] as he had been."
This, I think, was a kind of "black nonrealism identity" that Wilkerson is describing for Dr. Foster, though Wilkerson doesn’t explicitly say this. As I view it, Dr. Foster truly believed that a black American professional person with an abundance of material possessions could shield himself and his children from racist assaults on one’s "black honor."
Here’s how Wilkerson puts this: "Unlike other parents raised in the South, he had never drilled into his children the hardships he had endured or dwelled on the limits of what they could or could not do based on the color of their skin. It was a strategy that worked beautifully in producing young women of grace and refinement but left them knowing little about [black folks'] rituals and folk wisdom and history of the South."
Martin Kilson, a professor emeritus at Harvard University, was the first African American to teach at Harvard College. He retired from teaching in 1999.
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Coherent and Compelling Tales of Black Migration

By: Martin Kilson
Posted: November 23, 2010 at 3:56 PM

Part 2 of an essay by Harvard Professor Emeritus Martin Kilson on Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, about the Great Migration of African Americans.

Intertwining Social Substance and Personal Migration Tales

Author Isabel Wilkerson’s sectional presentation of the three personal migration tales in The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration results in a somewhat back-and-forth storytelling trajectory for her history of black Americans’ Great Migration saga. But Wilkerson’s intellectually shrewd and technically astute capabilities enable her to craft an overall narrative text that’s coherent and compelling. The nearly 600-page text is organized into five parts, and in the subsections within the five parts, Wilkerson fashions what might be called "fragment tales" relating to each of her three personal migration tales. There are about 18 subsections that Wilkerson uses to relate the Foster migration tale, the Gladney migration tale and the Starling migration tale.

Part 4, entitled "The Kinder Mistress," is the largest section of The Warmth of Other Suns. Part 2, "Beginnings," runs 202 pages, and Part 4 is 206 pages, together making up some two-thirds of The Warmth of Other Suns.

Wilkerson has an overarching theme for each of her five parts, and this theme is identified with a quotation from writings by iconic African-American intellectuals. At the start of Part 4, "The Kinder Mistress," she quotes from Langston Hughes’ elliptical and poignant poem, "The South":

The lazy, laughing South
With blood on its mouth …
Passionate, cruel,
Honey-dipped, syphilitic —
That is the South.
And I, who am black, would love her
But she spits in my face …
So now I seek the North —
The cold-faced North,
For she, they say,
is a kinder mistress.

It’s through the jagged-edged, white racist themes of Hughes’ exquisite poem that Wilkerson portrays the trajectories of the three migration tales, from the white South’s Negro-hating realm to the North and West’s hoped-for Promised Land. It’s especially in Part 4 where Wilkerson’s narrative of her three migration tales relates substantive evidence of the multilayered, systemic infrastructure of white racism in the South, an infrastructure that commenced in early 1880s, following the U.S. government’s cynical political scuttling of the post-Civil War Reconstruction democracy.

In the early section of the book (Part 2, "Beginnings"), Wilkerson prepares her readers for the institutionally vicious and cruel aspects of white racism under Jim Crow:

Fifteen thousand men, women, and children gathered to watch eighteen-year-old Jesse Washington as he was burned alive in Waco, Texas, in May 1916. The crowd chanted, "Burn, burn, burn!" as Washington was lowered into the flames. One father holding his son on his shoulders wanted to make sure his toddler saw it.

"My son can’t learn too young," the father said.

Across the South someone was hanged or burned alive every four days from 1889 to 1929, according to the 1933 book The Tragedy of Lynching, for such alleged crimes as "stealing hogs, horse-stealing … jumping labor contracts, suspected of killing cattle, boastful remarks … or trying to act like a white person." One was killed for stealing seventy-five cents.

In closing out this discussion, Wilkerson quotes from one of the major modern-day books on vicious and cruel Negro-phobic aspects of Southern racism during the first half of the 20th century. That book is Herbert Shapiro’s White Violence and Black Response: From Reconstruction to Montgomery (1988), from which Wilkerson refers to a chilling observation by Shapiro: "Perhaps most of the southern black population had witnessed a lynching in their own communities or knew people who had. All blacks lived with the reality that no black individual was completely safe from lynching."

It is in Wilkerson’s subsections on the Starling migration tale where I think she achieves her journalistic best and crafts an engrossing narrative. Starting at Page 106, through the following nearly 70 pages, Wilkerson’s gripping narrative gift, which won her a Pulitzer Prize in 1994, soars as she relates the multilayered and horrid tales of George Swanson Starling’s grandparents’ and parents’ plights as sharecroppers in Alabama and as fruit pickers in the Citrus Belt of central Florida. "These [were] some of Lil George’s [Starling's nickname] earliest memories," Wilkerson tells her readers:

Each year, he saw his grandfather return from the planter’s house after another dispiriting settlement and recount to the family what had transpired. At the end of every harvest, the planter would call John Starling [Starling's grandfather] up to the big house. John would knock on the back door, the only door colored people were permitted to enter, according to southern protocol. He and the planter met in the planter’s kitchen.

"Come on in, John," the planter said. "Come here, boy. Come here. Have a seat. Sit down here."

The planter pulled out his books. "Well, John," the planter began. "Boy, we had a good year, John."

"Yes, sir, Mr. Reshard [the planter's name]. I’m sure glad to hear that."

"We broke even [said Reshard]. You don’t owe me nothing. And I don’t owe you nothing."

The grandfather had nothing to show for a year’s hard toiling in the field.

"This is all he ends up, ‘We broke even,’" George would say years later. "He has no money, no nothing for his family. And now he’s ready to start a new year in the master’s debt. He’ll start all over again. Next year, they went through the same thing — ‘We broke even.’ " (Pages 52 and 53)

In The Warmth of Other Suns, the tale of George Swanson Starling’s grandparents’ lives as sharecroppers — enduring cruel and amoral oppression — functions as a systemic template for overall American racist oppression. So does the tale in Part 4, of Starling’s parents and of Starling himself as fruit pickers in the Citrus Belt. Wilkerson’s deft telling of the combined three migration tales leaves a chilling picture in readers’ minds of the South’s viciously dehumanizing white-supremacist interface with black American citizens, from the 1880s through the next 60-plus years of the 20th century.

Wilkerson unmasks and decodes the multilayered contours of overall 20th-century American racist oppression — oppression so raw and dehumanizing that it sparked millions of black folks’ desire to exit the South. Or, in Langston Hughes’ poetic voice, that sparked black folks’ desire to escape "the laughing South with blood on its mouth."

Wilkerson’s engaging historical narrative places her book in the top ranks of similar books on white ethnic groups’ migrations into mainstream American life — groups like Irish Americans, Jewish Americans and Italian Americans. For this comparison, I suggest reading Gay Talese’s account of the Italian-American immigrant saga, Unto the Sons (1992), alongside The Warmth of Other Suns.

Of course, while migration brought both black folks and white ethnics to the doorstep of mainstream America, the ethnocentric bigotry that WASP groups mobilized against white ethnic groups (anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism, among others) did not amount to a broad-gauged and tenacious barrier to mainstream status. On the other hand, the "Negro-phobic bigotry" that all white groups (WASPs and white ethnic groups combined) amassed against African-American migrants out of the South from 1910 onward has been a broad-gauged and tenacious barrier to equality for African Americans.

It is, I think, unfortunate that Wilkerson’s narrative design for The Warmth of Other Suns doesn’t adequately relate how "Negro-phobic bigotry" imposed a fierce ceiling on equality of status for most of those 6 million black folks who fled the South to the North and West during the Great Black Migration. As a result, now in the first decade of the 21st century, another Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Eugene Robinson, observes in his book Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America (2010) that African-American society contains "a large abandoned minority with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction’s crushing end." Perhaps some 30 percent of today’s African Americans reside among the "abandoned minority."

Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, with a somewhat different narrative design, could have advanced our understanding of how the Great Black American Migration experience — ravaged along its path by multilayered "Negro-phobic bigotry" — arrived at what Robinson calls the "abandoned minority [trapped] in poverty and dysfunction."

Be that as it may, The Warmth of Other Suns has been in print for several months and has spent several weeks on the New York Timesbest-seller list. No doubt a much deserved recognition.

Martin Kilson, a professor emeritus at Harvard University, was the first African American to teach at Harvard College. He retired from teaching in 1999.

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Teach Your Children Well– FROM WSJ

Posted by jcmaziquemd on November 27, 2010

This week, it’s the readers’ turn to speak out. They’ve got plenty to say.

Last month, for instance, I wrote about how we’re trying to make sure our 7-year-old daughter doesn’t become as addicted to videogames as our 14-year-old son is. I noted that I blame myself for his addiction, since, in my job as work-at-home writer, I too easily allowed videogames to serve as a baby sitter.

But I also wrote that cracking down on our daughter raises the issue of fairness: She complains we are treating her far more harshly than we treated her brother.

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Lars Leetaru

That column generated lots of reader commentary, including several emails from high-school students in a world-history class in Colorado Springs. These were kids who clearly knew what they were talking about. Been there, done that.

One of the students, 15-year-old Bryce Bishop, warned: "Do not let your daughter start the road you regret letting your son go down. At the same time, to show fairness, get strict with your son. It will hurt to do so initially, but trust me, he will thank you."

Bryce said that he, too, was addicted to videogames, and that his parents "warned a punishment would come my way, and it did." Everything was taken away for two days, and Bryce said he gained respect for his parents because they stuck to their threat. That last part was key, he said, because he was looking for any opening he could find.

"All I can say is make the punishment severe and don’t waver," he advised.

Most parents made the same point — and were disappointed with my apparent inability to stand firm when punishing my son. Meaghen Hoang, in Northfield, Minn., called my parenting skills "horrible," adding: "You lose all credibility when you write a column like this."

Ms. Hoang noted that she, too, is a work-at-home parent and sees no reason to use videogames as a baby sitter. She said she spends at least two hours with her kids after they get home from school and before she begins the evening chores.

"Work after dinner if you must," she wrote. "Work all night. Eat lunch at your desk. But don’t plop them down with your electronic baby sitter. I do everything in my power to clear my schedule for those two hours [and] just monitor their homework, communicate and be with them."

Bob Bergstrom, in Fullerton, Calif., agreed. He said parents like me "should effectively train your youngsters to stop playing videogames when requested."

Mr. Bergstrom’s plan:

1. Set a timer to go off when they have played for the designated amount of time;

2. From the moment the timer goes off, they have one minute to stop playing the game;

3. If they comply, they can play again the next day. If they don’t, they lose the game for a day.

"This requires only a minute or two of your time," Mr. Bergstrom says. "If applied properly, the children will learn quickly. With compliance there will be less strife and arguing. Let the timer and the rules be the bad guy rather than you, the parent."

* * *

A number of weeks ago I wrote about an incident in which I noticed a small expense on my credit-card statement. It was one I had never authorized, but I knew who had: my son.

I had plugged my credit-card data into his videogame system to pay for something at one point, but never double-checked to see if he had removed the data, as I had instructed. The next time he wanted to buy something, the credit-card data was in there, and he clicked "buy it now."

Kate Perkins, in Warrenville, Ill., took me to task for trying to whitewash the episode.

"Face up to it," she wrote. "Your kid stole from you. He used your credit card without your permission. You’re the one pretending this is something else. You can make excuses all you want, and say that ‘point and click’ isn’t the same thing as money to your kid, or that he has a ‘one-track mind’ and was just too distracted to ask permission. You’re not doing him or the rest of your family any favors by rationalizing his behavior like this.

"Your kid has lots of friends and only two parents. Sometimes parents have to be the unfriendly sheriff and lay down the law. I can tell from this and other columns that you have trouble being an authority figure to your kids, but that’s the job being the parent."

* * *

And finally, there’s Nancy Muench in Avon, Conn., who wrote to say that a recent column on kids and fairness is "probably one of the worst lessons you could teach."

The column was about our daughter being upset when we took her brother to see a movie that was too graphic for her. She called her mom on the cellphone as we were driving to the theater to say, "You and Dad are not being fair."

The question I asked in that column is how parents can balance their kids’ need for fairness, even when ages and interests are separated by many years.

Ms. Muench said that "one of the best lessons my dad taught me was ‘Life isn’t fair, the sooner you get used to that, the better off you’ll be.’ That phrase has always served me well and it helped me get through those circumstances when life wasn’t fair.

"We can’t always run interference for our children. The unfair lessons are valuable ones. And you just have to pick up the pieces and move on and not allow it to get you down."

—Jeff D. Opdyke writes about investing and finance from Baton Rouge, La. Email: lovemoney

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Teaching Your Children (and Adults) To be Thankful This Thanksgiving

Posted by jcmaziquemd on November 25, 2010

Thank You. No, Thank You

Grateful People Are Happier, Healthier Long After the Leftovers Are Gobbled Up


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It turns out, giving thanks is good for your health.

A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.

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Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.

Now, researchers are finding that gratitude brings similar benefits in children and adolescents. Kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches and feel more satisfied with their friends, families and schools than those who don’t, studies show.

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"A lot of these findings are things we learned in kindergarten or our grandmothers told us, but we now have scientific evidence to prove them," says Jeffrey J. Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., who has conducted much of the research with children.

"The key is not to leave it on the Thanksgiving table," says Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis and a pioneer in gratitude research. And, he notes, "with the realization that one has benefited comes the awareness of the need to reciprocate."

Philosophers as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans cited gratitude as an indispensable human virtue, but social scientists are just beginning to study how it develops and the effects it can have.

The research is part of the "positive psychology" movement, which focuses on developing strengths rather than alleviating disorders. Cultivating gratitude is also a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which holds that changing peoples’ thought patterns can dramatically affect their moods.

It’s possible, of course, to over-do expressions of gratitude, particularly if you try to show it with a gift. "Thanking someone in such a way that is disproportionate to the relationship—say, a student giving her teacher an iPod—will create resentment, guilt, anger and a sense of obligation," says Dr. Froh.

Gratitude can also be misused to exert control over the receiver and enforce loyalty. Dr. Froh says you can avoid this by being empathic toward the person you are thanking—and by honestly assessing your motivations.

In an upcoming paper in the Journal of Happiness Studies, Dr. Froh and colleagues surveyed 1,035 high-school students and found that the most grateful had more friends and higher GPAs, while the most materialistic had lower grades, higher levels of envy and less satisfaction with life. "One of the best cures for materialism is to make somebody grateful for what they have," says Dr. Froh.

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Michael Rubenstein for the Wall Street Journal

Gratitude researcher Jeffery Froh reads to his 4-year-old son, James, at bedtime, when James talks about his favorite things from the day.


The Juggle

Much of the research on gratitude has looked at associations, not cause-and-effect relationships; it’s possible that people who are happy, healthy and successful simply have more to be grateful for. But in a landmark study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2003, Dr. Emmons and University of Miami psychologist Michael McCullough showed that counting blessings can actually make people feel better.

The researchers randomly divided more than 100 undergraduates into three groups. One group was asked to list five things they were grateful for during the past week for 10 consecutive weeks. The second group listed five things that annoyed them each week and the third group simply listed five events that had occurred. They also completed detailed questionnaires about their physical and mental health before, during and after.

Those who listed blessings each week had fewer health complaints, exercised more regularly and felt better about their lives in general than the other two groups.

Drs. Froh and Emmons conducted a similar study with 221 sixth- and seventh-graders from Candlewood Middle School in Dix Hills, N.Y., an affluent area on Long Island. Although the effects weren’t as dramatic as with the adults, the students in the gratitude group did report a higher level of satisfaction with school and more optimism than the students who listed irritations, according to the study in the Journal of School Psychology in 2008.

As simple as it sounds, gratitude is actually a demanding, complex emotion that requires "self-reflection, the ability to admit that one is dependent upon the help of others, and the humility to realize one’s own limitations," Dr. Emmons says.

Being grateful also forces people to overcome what psychologists call the "negativity bias"—the innate tendency to dwell on problems, annoyances and injustices rather than upbeat events. Focusing on blessings can help ward off depression and build resilience in times of stress, grief or disasters, according to studies of people impacted by the Sept. 11 terror attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

Some Techniques To Help Kids Be Grateful

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Illustrations by Robert Neubecker

Can people learn to look on the bright side, want what they have and be grateful for it? Experts believe that about 50% of such temperament is genetic, but the rest comes from experience, so there’s ample opportunity for change. "Kids and adults both can choose how they feel and how they look at the world," says Andrew Greene, principal of Candlewood Middle School, who says that realization was one of the lasting legacies of Dr. Froh’s research there.

Some experts believe that children don’t develop true gratitude until they can experience empathy, which usually occurs around age 7. But researchers at Yale University’s Infant Cognition Center have shown that infants as young as 6-months old prefer characters who help to those who hinder others. To help lay the groundwork for gratefulness, Dr. Froh says he asks his 4-year-old son, James, each night what was his favorite thing about the day and what he is looking forward to tomorrow.

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To still be working at 80. To still have the woman I married 56 years ago. To get up each morning and see flowers, not roots. I’m not rich, but I’m grateful and happy.

—Harold Melnick

For older children and adults, one simple way to cultivate gratitude is to literally count your blessings. Keep a journal and regularly record whatever you are grateful for that day. Be specific. Listing "my friends, my school, my dog" day after day means that "gratitude fatigue" has set in, Dr. Froh says. Writing "my dog licked my face when I was sad" keeps it fresher. Some people do this on their Facebook or MySpace pages, or in one of dozens of online gratitude groups. There’s an iPod app for gratitude journaling, too. The real benefit comes in changing how you experience the world. Look for things to be grateful for, and you’ll start seeing them everywhere.

A Buddhist exercise, called Naikan self-reflection, asks people to ponder daily: "What have I received from…? What have I given to…? and What trouble have I caused…?" Acknowledging those who touched your life—from the barista who made your coffee to the engineer who drove your train—and reflecting on how you reciprocated reinforces humbleness and interdependence.

Delivering your thanks in person can be particularly powerful. One study found that fourth-graders who took a "gratitude visit" felt better about themselves even two months later—particularly those whose moods were previously low.

Adopting a more upbeat mind-set helps facilitate gratitude, too. Instead of bonding with friends over gripes and annoyances, try sharing what you’re grateful for. To avoid sounding boastful, focus on giving credit to other people, as in, "My mom took a whole day off from work to get to my game."

Studies show that using negative, derogatory words—even as you talk to yourself—can darken your mood as well. Fill your head with positive thoughts, express thanks and encouragement aloud and look for something to be grateful for, not criticize, in those around you, especially loved ones. New York psychiatrist Drew Ramsey says that’s an essential tool for surviving the holidays. "Giving thanks for them helps you deal with the craziness that is part of every family," he says.

Last, if you find you take too much for granted, try the "It’s a Wonderful Life" approach: image what life would be like without a major blessing, like a spouse, a child or a job. In a 2008 study in the Journal of Personal Social Psychology, researchers found that when college students wrote essays in which they were asked to "mentally subtract" a positive event from their lives, they were subsequently more grateful for it than students whose essays simply focused on the event. The "George Bailey effect" was modest, the authors noted, but even small boosts in positive emotions can make life more satisfying.

Write to Melinda Beck at HealthJournal

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Rising Admissions Standards Have Kept Top Colleges Out of Many Minority Students’ Reach

Posted by jcmaziquemd on November 18, 2010

Rising Admissions Standards Have Kept Top Colleges Out of Many Minority Students’ Reach

By Peter Schmidt

The most selective colleges have raised the bar for admission over decades in which more black and Hispanic students have gotten into the game, leaving such institutions as out of reach for many minority applicants as they had been decades ago, a new study found.

As a result, long-term improvement in the academic preparation of black and Hispanic students and growth in the share entering postsecondary education has not translated into their increased representation at highly selective colleges. Instead, it has left the nation with a higher-education system in which rising numbers of such students are channeled into less-competitive colleges while the most-selective institutions become increasingly associated with students who are relatively wealthy and, for the more part, white or Asian American, the study revealed.

Although the nation "is clearly on track" to eliminate race-linked disparities in access to postsecondary education as a whole, "we must attend to the possibility that stratification—both in postsecondary access and in the labor-market outcomes that derive from this access—is simply being shifted to other sources within the system," says a paper on the study’s findings that is scheduled to be presented Thursday at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education.

The academic preparation of black and Hispanic students has increased over time, but "just as they improve their own qualifications, what is being asked of them by our colleges is increasing," Michael Bastedo, one of the paper’s co-authors, said Tuesday in an interview.

"These students cannot keep up with rising demands and what is being accomplished by other students who are competing to get into the same colleges," Mr. Bastedo said. "It is just that every step of the way, students from other backgrounds are one step ahead."

Mr. Bastedo, an associate professor of education at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, conducted the study with Rob Bielby, Ozan Jaquette, and Julie Posselt, all graduate students at that institution. They based their analysis on data from several federal studies, examining the long-term data on students who were high school seniors in 1972, 1982, 1992, or 2004, and who ended up graduating that year or fairly soon after.

Much of the previous research on college-going has looked at whether students went to college at all, or has broken down the types of colleges in which students enrolled into simple categories such as "two-year institutions" or "four-year institutions." The four Michigan researchers took a more refined approach. They borrowed the institutional classifications used in Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges in examining where students went to college, lumping together the colleges Barron’s classifies as "highly competitive" or "most competitive" because they did not believe the "most competitive" category included enough students to be examined on its own.

Steps Forward, Steps Back

In analyzing the federal data, the researchers identified several trends that appeared to hold promise when it comes to increasing black and Hispanic access to the most-selective category of institutions.

Among them, highly selective colleges appear to be giving more weight to applicants’ involvement in extracurricular activities as part of "holistic" admissions processes intended to increase diversity and differentiate among the academically qualified.

Although having held extracurricular leadership positions did not appear to significantly bolster the selective-college enrollment prospects of students who were high-school seniors in 1992, for the seniors of 2004, having held such positions was strongly, positively correlated with selective-college enrollment.

In every racial category, the proportion of students enrolled at highly selective colleges who reported having held extracurricular leadership positions in high school more than doubled from the 1992 to 2004 cohorts. It rose from 35 percent to 74 percent for black students, from 30 percent to 69 percent for white students, from 22 percent to 65 percent for Asian-American students, and from 19 percent to 54 percent for students who were Hispanic.

Moreover, black and Hispanic students with stellar academic credentials appear to have better odds of being admitted to highly selective colleges than ever. When the researchers looked at the admissions prospects of all students who are highly academically qualified, black students were no longer at a disadvantage, as had been the case in the past, and those who came from economically advantaged backgrounds and had high SAT scores had the highest odds of enrollment at selective colleges of any population studied. Hispanic students with high academic qualifications also were at an advantage over white and Asian American students with comparable academic profiles.

But both black and Hispanic students, as a whole, are actually less likely to enroll in highly selective colleges than they previously had been. Although their academic preparation has improved, on average, the academic preparation of white and Asian American students also has improved, enough to keep race-linked gaps in preparation in place.

Students with high qualifications are more likely to seek admission to the most-selective institutions that will accept them than they had been in the past, increasing competition for seats at such colleges. And, for the most part, highly selective colleges appear to be giving more weight to high SAT scores and high grades than they had previously, putting their institutions out of the reach of some students who might have gotten in a decade or two ago.

Those black and Hispanic students who do get into such institutions tend to be wealthier than those who enrolled in them in past decades. As of 1972, 9 percent of both black and Hispanic students going on to highly selective colleges came from the most socioeconomically advantaged fourth of society; as of 2004, 35 percent of Hispanic and 49 percent of black students at such institutions came from such a socioeconomic background.

Although rising wealth in minority communities probably accounts for much of that shift, it is likely that rising admissions standards also played a role, Mr. Bastedo said. (The proportion of white students at such institutions who hail from the wealthiest fourth of society has remained unchanged at about 70 percent throughout the period the researchers studied.)

"It seems likely that schools are using enrollment-management techniques that allow them to diversify their classes racially and ethnically and still bring in students who can pay tuition," Mr. Bastedo said. "This allows institutions to have their cake and eat it, too—they can have a racially and ethnically diverse class and still meet their financial targets."

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Jack Johnson, Prince George’s county executive, and his wife, Leslie, arrested

Posted by jcmaziquemd on November 15, 2010

This is from the cover article of the NY times magazine in 1992. On the cover was Jack Johnson and his family

The New Black Suburbs of 1992
The New Black Suburbs.
David J. Dent;
New York Times Magazine; 6/14/1992, p18, 0p

A generation ago, peaceful civil rights demonstrators faced violent resistance in the fight for a racially integrated society. Years later, Barron and Edith Harvey, who are black, would embody the hopes of that struggle. In 1978, the couple moved into a white, upper-middle-income neighborhood in Fairfax County, Va., a suburb of Washington. During their seven years there, no crosses were burned in their yard and no racial epithets were muttered at them within earshot. There were a few incredulous stares, a few stops by the police, who had mistaken Barron for a criminal, and a run-in with an elementary-school principal over the absence of blacks in the curriculum at the Harveys’ daughter’s school.

"You expect those kinds of things in a white neighborhood, and, all things being equal, we would have stayed," says Barron Harvey, chairman of the accounting department at Howard University and an international business consultant.

But the Harveys left in 1985 — not because Fairfax was inhospitable, but because they wanted to become part of another Washington suburb, Prince George’s County in Maryland. Prince George’s — a county that George Wallace won in the 1972 Presidential primary — was fast becoming the closest thing to utopia that black middle-class families could find in America.

What some consider the essence of the American dream — suburbia — became a reality for a record number of blacks in the 1980’s. In 1990, 32 percent of all black Americans in metropolitan areas lived in suburban neighborhoods, a record 6 percent increase from 1980, according to William H. Frey, a demographer at the University of Michigan Population Studies Center specializing in population and racial redistribution patterns. As an increasing number of black Americans head for the suburban dream, some are bypassing another dream — the dream of an integrated society. These black Americans are moving to black upper- and middle-class neighborhoods, usually pockets in counties that have a white majority.

The growing popularity of these neighborhoods over the past decade has coincided with the increasing enrollment at black colleges and booming interest in African and African-American history, art, music and literature. These trends seem to represent a retreat from the days of the early post-civil-rights era, when status in the black community was often tied to one’s entree into the once-forbidden worlds of white America.

Black suburbs have sprung up across the country. In the Miami area, there is Rolling Oaks in Dade Country. Around St. Louis, black suburbs exist in sections of Black Jack, Jennings, Normandy and University City in St. Louis County. In the Atlanta suburbs, black majority communities include Brook Glen, Panola Mill and Wyndham Park in DeKalb County. And in the Washington area, Prince George’s County itself has a black majority.

Racial steering, though illegal, may lead some blacks in the Washington area to the predominantly black neighborhoods of Prince George’s. But for most, it is a deliberate, affirmative choice.

"I don’t want to come home and always have my guard up," says David S. Ball, a senior contract administrator who works on railroad projects in the Washington area. Ball and his wife, Phillis, moved from Washington to a predominantly black subdivision in Fort Washington, Md. "After I work eight hours or more a day," he says, "I don’t want to come home and work another eight."

Ball says his family didn’t have to live in an all -black neighborhood. Currently, Ball says, his block comprises seven black families and three white families.

Barron Harvey adds: "We always wanted to make sure our child had many African-American children to play with, not just one or two. We always wanted to be in a community with a large number of black professionals, and to feel part of that community. We never really felt like we were part of Fairfax."

For some Prince Georgians, like Radamase Cabrera, 39, one reason for the move was a profound sense of disillusionment.

"I think the integration of black folks in the 60’s was one of the biggest cons in the world," says Cabrera, an urban planner for the city of Washington. Cabrera was one of a small number of blacks attending the University of Connecticut at Storrs in 1970. "I was called a nigger the first week there and held by the police until this white girl told them I hadn’t attacked her. You want to call me a separatist, so be it. I think of myself as a pragmatist. Why should I beg some cracker to integrate me into his society when he doesn’t want to? Why keep beating my head up against a wall, especially when I’ve been there."

While the racial balance of Prince George’s population of 729,268 may indicate an integrated county — 50.7 percent black, 43.1 percent white, 6.2 percent other — census data suggest a segregated county. More than half of all the census tracts in Prince George’s are at least 70 percent white or 70 percent black. Some experts predict the county will be two-thirds black by the end of the century.

Some white residents prefer to see the county serve as a model for true integration.

"Here we have a place that is nearly 50-50," says Margery A. Turner, a white resident and senior research associate, specializing in housing, for the Urban Institute. "We should be using this opportunity to show the country there are places where integration can work. I’m not suggesting we limit blacks. But I do think we should avoid resegregating. Separateness sustains prejudice, which sustains inequality."

Cabrera, however, disagrees. "What I reject is this notion that we are aiming toward an integrated county," he says. "African-Americans should be aiming toward an ability to control our own destiny."

THE CHANGING RACIAL COMPOSITION OF Prince George’s is not immediately evident when entering the county on Route 495, known throughout the Washington area as the Beltway. Many of the exits off the Beltway lead to neighborhoods with names like Enterprise Estates and Paradise Acres — subdivisions stocked exclusively with single-family houses for middle- and upper-income families. The county’s transformation becomes clear when you enter those neighborhoods and see that most of the girls jumping rope on the sidewalk and most of the boys dribbling basketballs in driveways are black.

Ben Jones, a real-estate agent who lives in Prince George’s County, is riding by the manicured lawns and well-kept colonial and ranch-style houses of Paradise Acres. He identifies house sales he has made by the profession of the buyer: a vice president of the World Bank, an assistant superintendent of schools, lawyers, professors and doctors.

Jones went on his own search for a black neighborhood in 1980. While riding through a then-undeveloped Mitchellville section, he saw four elaborate full-brick, four-bedroom ranch houses, a trailer and a black man walking out of the trailer. He decided to stop and introduce himself to the man, who turned out to be a realtor. "I assumed it would become a black neighborhood because there was a black real-estate agent," Jones says. Today all but a handful of the 83 families in that subdivision, Paradise Acres, are black.

Jones, a nuclear-weapons specialist at the Department of Energy at the time, had been living in an all-white working-class neighborhood in Upper Marlboro, the county seat, for a decade. When he moved to Mitchellville, he saw a business opportunity in the large number of blacks moving into the county and eventually quit his Government job to become a full-time real-estate agent. He has sold 355 homes throughout Prince George’s County — all to blacks, with the exception of about four sales to whites. "I don’t exclude whites," says Jones. "But most of my sales come from contacts and referrals. There are few whites who will come to a black agent."

The black presence in Prince George’s County can be traced to the late 17th century, when blacks were forced into the county as slaves. "Many eventually owned land, and many of their children are still here," says Alvin Thornton, a professor of political science at Howard University who has lived in the county for 20 years.

Descendants of those original black families have lived through segregation, the county’s resistance to open housing laws in the late 1960’s, court-ordered busing and fears of violence. David Ball remembers that Prince George’s was viewed as a rural county full of "rednecks" in which the few pockets of blacks were subjected to police brutality and a citizenry that lived by a brand of justice loaded with "good old boy" rules. Ball never thought he would cherish living in the county he once regarded as racist. Even three years ago, when he and his wife began looking seriously at suburbia, Prince George’s County wasn’t on the list. They first looked at houses in Montgomery County, but they couldn’t find a neighborhood that combined good value for their money and a neighborhood with a significant black presence.

"I really wasn’t interested in moving into an all-white neighborhood and being the only black pioneer down there," Ball says.

Harold and Patricia Alexander have grown with Prince George’s County. Patricia Alexander’s mother, Claudia Sims, bought a town-house condominium in Prince George’s County in the early 1970’s. Harold Alexander was a premed student at Howard University at the time; Patricia was supporting them both with her salary as a secretary at the university. The couple moved into the county, and the second bedroom of Claudia Sims’s town house became the Alexanders’ home.

Their migration was part of a population boom, stimulated by the rapid construction of garden apartments and condominiums in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Like the Alexanders, many of the new black residents didn’t go deep into the county. Instead, many moved to communities closer to the predominantly black Southeast Washington border.

"When we first moved into the county, it was very uncomfortable," says Patricia Alexander. "We heard stories about the police and racism. So, you know, you go to work, you come home and lock the door."

The new black residents of the 1970’s laid the base that eventually drew large numbers of blacks in the 1980’s. "You have to look at it in two stages," says Thornton, who has studied the county’s migration patterns. "The great surge in the 70’s came because many blacks were doing what other people were doing. They wanted better schools, more space, a backyard and less density. But that first period was met with massive white resistance, police brutality and court-ordered busing."

The second stage was inadvertently propelled by the county’s Economic Development Corporation. It tried to entice developers to create industries and build houses that would woo white-collar professionals. The selling points of the county were these: the cheaper rural land of Prince George’s contrasted with the overdeveloped tracts in neighboring counties; Prince George’s road-improvement plan, and the presence of the Goddard Space Flight Center, the world’s largest space research facility, Andrews Air Force Base and the University of Maryland at College Park. The campaign reaped $10 billion in new investments in the county, which included the construction of homes for mid- to high-level executives.

Diana V. Jackson, director of development for the corporation, says the majority of those new homeowners were blacks — something that startled the county’s white leadership, according to many political activists and black realtors.

"The county officials underestimated the money within the black middle class in Washington," says Larry Lucas, a Washington lobbyist and former minority-population specialist for the Census Bureau. "It’s one of the largest concentrations of middle-class blacks in the country. A lot of the subdivisions were really built for whites, but before whites could come out and buy them, black folks were coming in and buying them and when blacks started buying them, whites wouldn’t look at them."

After four years of living in the county, the Alexanders, who by now had two children, were comfortable with the idea of moving farther from the Washington border. In 1977 they moved into a middle-income neighborhood of new four-bedroom split-level homes, and found virtually all the residents on their block were like them.

"The second stage was not met with that resistance because you had some white flight and a coming of age of black identity in the county," says Thornton. "There was a critical enough mass of black people by the 80’s so blacks could feel they were a part of the county. That’s when you get people who move here because they want to live in a black community."

Harold Alexander has benefited from the influx of blacks. His medical practice has increased, and four months ago, the Alexanders made another move inside the county — this time into a $1 million mansion.

The increasing number of blacks in the county and pressure from the N.A.A.C.P. have led to major changes in the police department, where 37 percent of the force is now black, compared with 8 percent in 1978. For many, fear of police brutality has nearly vanished.

Hodari Abdul-Ali, who owns a chain of bookstores in the area, says, "I know that what happened to Rodney King can happen anywhere, but there’s much less likelihood of it happening here."

Abdul-Ali’s main store had been located near Howard University in Washington. Two years ago, after Abdul-Ali noticed an increasing number of customers were coming from Prince George’s County, he opened a store there. It outsells his four other stores.

Barron Harvey visits the store at least twice a month, and the books he buys often become grist for conversations at the family’s summer pool parties, when the Harveys’ backyard is full of neighborhood friends. Edith Harvey, who lived in predominantly white towns all her life, says that in Prince George’s, neighbors have comprised the core of her social life for the first time. The Harveys seldom entertained when they lived in Fairfax, but today they have people over at least twice a month.

"When I’m socializing with people who are not African-American, I have to do a lot of explaining," says Edith Harvey, an education specialist for the Department of Education. "It’s stressful because you know it’s your responsibility to educate whites who have a sincere interest in understanding an issue. But it’s more like work when you should just be socializing. If it’s a black social setting, it’s more like sharing ideas than educating."

The social networks that provide a forum to share ideas in Prince George’s have grown over the past decade. Churches and traditional black middle-class social and professional organizations — like the Links, Jack and Jill and graduate chapters of black fraternities and sororities — have increased their membership in the county, some by as much as fourfold.

The Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church has revitalized itself by moving its congregation to Prince George’s. Membership at the 136-year-old church had dwindled to fewer than 100 members. Since the relocation from Washington in 1983, membership has grown to nearly 7,000, and donations have provided $10 million for the construction of a new church building.

Ebenezer holds forums every month, during which many Prince Georgians hear about the latest news and battles in the county’s school system. The school system is now 66 percent black, compared with 22 percent in 1971-72. There is widespread agreement among black and white parents to move away from busing as a means of achieving racial balance, which doesn’t occur naturally, because of residential separation in Prince George’s. Many parents want the school system to continue to build its nationally lauded magnet programs, which feature specialized classes meant to attract a diverse student population.

But there is dissension over the new multicultural curriculum: many white parents object to it, while some black parents are pushing for an Afrocentric approach.

"I believe it’s the next step in the battle," says the Rev. Dr. Granger Browning, pastor of Ebenezer and an advocate for an Afrocentric curriculum in the public schools. "It’s a fight for our children, and we will win."

RADAMASE Cabrera and his wife, Denise, a reporter for The Associated Press, moved to Prince George’s County in 1987, settling in a formerly all-white working-class neighborhood where blacks were becoming the majority. "It was about 50-50 then, and I knew it was only a matter of time before the white folks would leave and you’d have yourself a nice suburban African-American community."

For Cabrera, life in Prince George’s County has become part of a mission. Though he works in Washington, he has become an outspoken activist in his community — consumed with its demographic, political and economic statistics. "Prince George’s County will be, if it is not already, the most educated and affluent African-American community on the planet, and it has the opportunity to be a model of how black folks can control their political, economic and social institutions," Cabrera says. "This place is unique because usually black folks inherit things like a Newark or a Gary when it’s depressed and all the wealth is gone and it has no potential."

Prince George’s now has more than 8,000 black-owned businesses. Financing for the smaller businesses — beauty parlors and home-based companies — often comes from a black-owned bank and a black-controlled savings and loan in Washington. Some of the county’s larger black-owned companies — high-tech firms and a million-dollar-a-year trash-hauling business — have received financing for expansion by established banks in the county.

Although commercial development in the county has grown, many retailers have declined the county’s invitations to open stores there while entering counties with a lower median income but a larger white population. Nordstrom and Macy’s have opened stores in Baltimore County, which had a median household income of $38,837, compared with $43,127 in Prince George’s County in 1989. But Baltimore County is 85 percent white. Many Prince George’s shoppers, like Linda Williams-Brown, often ride two counties away to shop, pouring tax dollars into other communities. "For me to go to a nice mall with a Saks and a Macy’s, I have to go all the way to Virginia," Williams-Brown says. "When they put new stores in the shopping centers here, they put in a T. J. Mack, in a place like Mitchellville, across the street from $200,000 and $300,000 homes that black people own. Why?"

Daniel Russell, who spent 20 years as a private developer based in the Washington area and who now runs a development-training institute and consulting firm, has spent the past five years meeting with retailers, trying to bring them into the county. "In meetings, they say they don’t know how to merchandise to a market like this or how to do promotion for this market or other excuses, like the people won’t buy the merchandise, when what you have is people going to other counties to buy the merchandise."

An editorial in The Prince George’s County Journal last year implied retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s were snubbing the county. Spokesmen for both stores deny race is a factor. Some white county officials say the county’s image still carries the baggage of its blue-collar days. "We’ve just now become a white-collar community with a large expendable income," says Prince George’s county executive, Parris N. Glendening, who is expected to enter the 1994 Maryland race for governor. "The market hasn’t caught up to us. But it will."

However, Douglas Massey, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, would not be surprised if it did not. "I think that a group that raises residential segregation to be an ideal is going to cut itself off from many of the benefits of society," he says. "You make it easier for the larger white population to eventually decapitalize it, and it basically becomes an easy target for racist attitudes. It becomes isolated politically.

"It’s not a matter of liking whites. You don’t have to want to live near whites or like whites. If you talk to Mexicans, who are more integrated than blacks residentially, they may not like Anglos and may prefer to live in Mexican neighborhoods, but they realize services are better in integrated neighborhoods than in Mexican neighborhoods."

Economics aside, the rapid racial change has created a sense of political uncertainty for many white politicians. Alvin Thornton led a citizens’ group that lobbied to carve a new Congressional district. Two black candidates won the primaries in March, thereby guaranteeing that Prince George’s will have its first black Congressman this November. Thornton’s group also lobbied for the redrawing of the county council lines that will give five out of nine districts a black majority in the 1994 election. Currently only two of the nine council members are black.

Some black activists in the community have complained that the council makes zoning decisions to benefit developers who don’t live in the county. "We need to look at this zoning process and get the council members, who allocate the county’s financial resources, to distribute that wealth with the business people who live here and care about the county’s future," Thornton says. "Otherwise Prince George’s will become like cities where banking and commercial corridors are owned and controlled by people who don’t live there. All we’ll own are our nice houses."

However, some black Prince Georgians don’t live in nice houses, but in rundown apartments. These pockets of poverty, inside the Beltway, closer to the Washington border, seem far away from the well-kept lawns of Enterprise Estates. "This is now one of the wealthiest black Congressional districts in the country," says Thornton. "If the county wants to maintain that image, it’s going to have to redevelop many of the inner-Beltway communities. If it doesn’t, you are going to have the same separate cores of poverty and affluence that you find in many inner cities."

The distance between the two worlds of the county leaves many in the middle class with a false sense of comfort, according to State Representative Michael E. Arrington, 36, who grew up in Prince George’s.

"What’s missing is a sense of activism," Arrington says. "Part of the problem is that you have a lot of people here doing well, and they don’t see the problems in other communities firsthand."

Some black middle-class Prince Georgians say inner Beltway problems are thrust upon them, no matter how many miles separatethe two communities. One week after Jack B. Johnson, a Prince George’s County prosecutor, spent hours discussing the Rodney King verdict with his three children, his 13-year-old son came to him with another incident. One of his classmates, Joseph, a straight-A student from an inner Beltway neighborhood, was gunned down, caught in the crossfire between two drug dealers.

Johnson, an active member of the Coalition of 100 Black Men and the graduate chapter of his fraternity, often spends hours in mentoring programs for low-income males. "There are so many programs here to help teen-agers," he says. "There are a substantial number of black middle-class people who are out in the poorer community."

OTHER BLACK middle-class parents say they must first keep their children free of the racism and peer pressure that leads to social alienation, crime and teen-age pregnancy. Those parents are reaching back to the days of segregation to extract the elements of black culture that nurtured self-esteem and a commitment to family and community.

Both Frank and Kathryn Weaver grew up in segregated black communities. Frank Weaver, who holds a B.S. from Howard and an M.B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says his academic and professional successes are rooted in the intellectual grooming, pride and discipline instilled in him by his parents, his church, his segregated neighborhood and his high school in Raleigh, N.C., from which he graduated in 1968. "I was always taught I could compete with the best," says Weaver. "Out of the top 10 of my class, two became Harvard lawyers, one a Duke medical doctor. All of us went on to college and graduate school. I find today many of us are searching to rediscover what some of us took for granted while growing up in a segregated society."

Frank and Kathryn Weaver say they don’t want to re-create a segregated society for their daughter, but they do want their daughter to grow up with an appreciation of her heritage and culture as they did. They fear she will not be able to compete with others as equals if she is conditioned to see herself as a subordinate American. "Although we mix and mingle in the mainstream culture, we are proud of our African past," says Frank Weaver. "Our daughter does not have to shade everything black or wear a dashiki or kente cloth, but I want her to develop a sense of pride in her identity as a black person."

Could sheltering black middle-class children from racism and the inner city produce black adults with a vision of the world as narrow as that of many upper- and middle-income whites? The Alexanders have struggled with that question. They say they don’t worry about their children’s ability to interact with whites, since their daughters attend private, predominantly white schools. They did send their youngest daughter, Starsha, 11, to dance classes in the heart of Washington so that inner-city culture wouldn’t seem alien to her. While accompanying Starsha to class one day, her mother and older sister, Shelique, 14, passed a group of winos sitting on the street outside the school. Shelique turned her nose up at the winos. Her parents were stunned. "That’s when it hit me," Patricia Alexander says. "She said she had never seen anything like that."

Harold Alexander adds: "We both grew up in single-parent working-class situations. We are sensitive to problems in the inner city, and we want our children to have that same sensitivity."

Parents say their children do need protection from racism, poverty and the negative images of blacks that flood the media. "Two doors down from us is a black cardiologist," says Barron Harvey. "There’s a dentist on the block, a couple of lawyers, an airline pilot, a college professor, an entrepreneur. My daughter needs to be exposed to that."

Ball adds, "If my son grows up to be a knucklehead, it won’t be because I didn’t expose him to other possibilities."

In some ways, the need for black role models embodies the powerful impact of racism in defining achievement in America, according to Bart Landry, a sociologist and the author of "The New Black Middle Class." Landry says the sight of a white achiever doesn’t offer strong signs of encouragement to many black children. "In this country, where we are polarized along racial lines, seeing a white cardiologist doesn’t reaffirm their abilities. That’s those people achieving. That’s not us achieving. What their parents want them to see is us achieving."

The decision to live in a black community should not be equated with a desire to live in a one-race world. While many black Prince Georgians say integration shouldn’t be a priority, they also say they wouldn’t move away if more whites moved into the county.

"If they want to come and enjoy, help build the county and take advantage of the economic benefits of living here, that’s great," says Fred Sims, who owns a management and secretarial company that grosses $5 million a year. "But we are not begging them to come."

Most residents of the black neighborhoods in Prince George’s County work or function in other ways in the integrated American culture. "One of things black folks never really have to worry about in America is being outside the realm of integration," says Harvey. "We will always have to interface with the other culture."

The rise of affluent black neighborhoods could enhance the relationship between the races, Landry says. "I think to the extent that it strengthens feelings of self-worth, it’s good for integration, because you have to believe you are O.K. first before you can mingle with others."

Even Radamase Cabrera can see a slight ray of hope for the cause of integration in a strong black community. "Creating black wealth, black power and black stability will enable my children to go hand in hand in society with little white children. My children can integrate society from their own cultural base, their own historical base, and meet on a level playing field. Right now, there is no level playing field. How are you going to successfully integrate something that is historically disparate?"

For the Harveys, the move to Prince George’s may not be a step away from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, but a step toward the realization of that dream. "We are advancing," says Barron Harvey. "We were fighting for the right to go where we want to go, to make the choice to live where we want to live. We have the freedom of choice, which we have exercised."

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Beccastone–Website for Black Moms and Moms of Black Children–Is Launched and Live!

Posted by jcmaziquemd on November 12, 2010

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Why Do Colored Folks Cheer for the Redskins??

Posted by jcmaziquemd on November 11, 2010

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A Child’s Legacy Is More Than Money

Posted by jcmaziquemd on November 5, 2010

A Child’s Legacy Is More Than Money


MOST people hear the word inheritance and think about money. I don’t — or more precisely, it’s the least of my worries when it comes to my young daughter.

Deciding how to handle the money we will give to our child when we die was the easiest part of the legacy planning my wife and I did. We contacted a trust-and-estate lawyer and drew up a plan with all the proper trusts in place. We looped in our financial adviser and our insurance broker. We made sure our beneficiary designations forms were filled out properly. And most important, we picked a guardian for our daughter.

It cost us a bit of money and it took a lot of time to pull together the information and change existing documents — money and time that often cause people to shy away from such planning. Since we’re in our 30s, we hope to have another 50 years to go, and that means we’ll revisit it many times. But we have peace of mind.

Granted, I write about personal finance, so I probably know more about the technical aspects of estate planning than most new parents. But I still stand by my point that drawing up the documents was the easy part.

The hard part has little to do with whatever money will be parceled out when the time comes. It will take far longer, probably the next two or three decades, if not until the end of our lives, to accomplish our more important inheritance goals. That is because the most crucial thing we will leave our daughter — and any subsequent children — is what we teach her about making her own way in the world.

Since this is a we, not a me, essay, I asked my wife to think about what she wanted our daughter to inherit beyond whatever money I don’t blow on golf and boating and she on horses and trips to visit grandchildren in our long-off retirements. This led to a thoughtful talk, two different legacy wishes, and, perhaps, something other couples might want to try.

For me, the most important thing to give our daughter is an understanding that where she is growing up is a very nice place but it is not representative of America. We live in Fairfield County, Conn., one of the more affluent areas of the country. I joke that, for all the money here, there are still three classes of people: upper middle class, upper class and hedge-fund rich.

But this situation has serious consequences. Many children our daughter meets are likely to come from very affluent families. There are many advantages to this, not least of all a hefty tax base to finance great schools and all sorts of extracurricular programs.

Yet both my wife and I know that this is not how the world is. We know this from our own life experiences, from having spent time in places where the lawns are not quite as perfect as the ones around us, where children have real challenges.

I want to impart to our daughter that she is fortunate to have these opportunities but that she needs to have some perspective on them. That will be no small challenge, given how much youngsters judge themselves in relation to their peers: upper-middle-class offspring look poor compared with the billionaire’s children.

The second thing I want to leave her with is a desire to find a career she is passionate about. I may have good and bad days as a writer — and better and worse outcomes for my work — but I love it. I marvel that for 15 years I have somehow been able to write for a living. I want her to have a similar feeling about her career, whatever it may be.

My wife’s thoughts on inheritance were more nuanced than mine. She wants to leave our daughter with a healthy view of success. She doesn’t want her to be content only if she wins. My wife firmly believes that there is always a winner and a loser in life. That is the reality. But she sees the hypercompetitive world in which she has done well and worries that this is a limited definition of success.

Her goal is to give our daughter a sense that success is broadly, not narrowly, defined. The schools around us send scores of youngsters to Ivy League universities and top liberal arts colleges each year. Maybe our daughter will go to one of them — but that constitutes success only if it is what she wants.

So far, she seems as bright as the next toddler, but what makes her stand out to us is her finely calibrated palette: no plain toddler food for her — she eats what we eat and it had better be seasoned perfectly. We joke that she may become a chef or a food critic.

The point is it doesn’t matter to us. What matters is that her sense of success is defined by what she is passionate about.

This is ultimately why I believe it is absurd for all but the wealthiest people — as in, people with $50 million and above — to get wrapped up in the amount of money they will leave their children. Don’t get me wrong: money is a great thing to receive. But that hoped-for fortune could all disappear before the parents die. If you have any doubts, think of the people whose wealth was tied up in Lehman Brothers or before that, Enron or WorldCom. Wealth can disappear far more quickly than it can be made.

I have also seen this reliance on an expected fortune destroy sibling relationships — and leave hopeful heirs to live out their days as half-formed adults.

What is important to us is that our daughter inherits a sense of independence and a nuanced view of the world. That would be an inheritance that would never diminish.

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