One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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63 Responses

  1. Avatar Glyph says:

    I remember reading a post or comment of WillT’s (maybe over at HitCoffee?) where he talked about a situation at his work, where they had two teams; over time, through a series of what they saw as innocuous minor decisions w/r/t individual work assignments, and best team fit at that time, they were surprised to find that they had ended up loading up one of the teams with *all* the females, with none on the other team.

    I think at least some of the potential reasons he speculated on, were similar to the ones you’ve listed here. IIRC and Will knows what I am talking about, would love to hear his take.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Glyph says:

      That was the first thing I thought of! I posted it both on HC and NaPP. On HC, someone pointed to this great video, exploring this concept.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        That’s a great piece, Will, and I’m sorry I missed it the first time around. I’m tempted to go comment on a months old piece, as I think the convo with PC about titling is interesting and one I’ve heard explicitly discussed along racial lines. What the hell… I’m going for it!

        EDIT: CRAP! Comments closed… whatever, I’ll say it here. It’s my post, I can threadjack, no?

        Regarding PC’s anecdotal observation that female professors seem more likely to refer to themselves as “Dr.” on syllabus, I attended a conference where a black and a white women co-presented. They talked about the first time they practiced for their presentation and how they were at odds about how to start. The white women wanted to introduce herself by talking about her personal experiences, mentioning her kids and her hobbies and her passions. “Hi, I’m Susie. I’m a mother of three, I love to cook, and last summer I climbed Mt. Everest.” Something like that. The black woman wanted to introduce herself by talking about her professional experiences, mentioning her education and credentials. “Hi, I’m Jenny. I have a PhD from Columbia in “Being Smart” and have worked for 200 years at Awesome, Inc.” The white woman initially balked at this, insisting it was too stuffy and formal. The black woman responded to the tune of: “The problem is, as a black person, if I don’t say my credentials, people will assume I don’t have them. As a white person, you won’t have that problem.” It was a really fascinating take and one they actually used as part of their introduction (the conference itself was on white privilege) but I think very much gets at the heart of such disparities and it was amazing to see it articulated so explicitly.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

        That video is really helpful, last night I was trying to parse some papers/graphs releating to his work but my eyes were just blurring over (to be fair, I was totally exhausted). I need to investigate some Schelling I think. His wikipedia entry makes him sound really interesting and potentially really important to understand.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

          Schelling’s Strategy of Conflict is still a classic.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

            yeah, the wiki entry mentions that as ‘one of the 100 most influential books in the West since 1945’. I don’t read a ton of non-fiction books (most but not all of my non-fiction reading is web-based, though I’ve read books like Freakonomics and Oliver Sacks and books on cognition and the like) but I might need to make an exception there.

            Dangit LoOG, educating me, arguing with me, taking my time, and costing me money, all at once? You’re like my family!Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:


              If you pick it up, keep in mind that he’s writing at the height of the Cold War, and much of the book is stimulated by the US/Soviet conflict.

              Parts of it are a pretty fun read, which helps.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

      It is why the whole notion of color (or gender or whatever) blind is inherently flawed. I do believe that this was a necessary step for us as society to strive for, given that we were attempting to move away from “color consciousness” in a way that was used to harm, but I think the new paradigm ought to be color conscious in a way that is intended to prevent harm. It won’t always work, but I think there will be far more hits and fewer misses than there is with “color blind”.Report

  2. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    All students do better when they have classmates and teachers who look like them; students of color specifically do much better.

    I’d like to see some references for that. It doesn’t strike me as obviously wrong, but it doesn’t strike me as obviously correct, either. If this is true, doesn’t it imply that the allocation of students was actually pretty close to optimal?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:


      Everything I’ve come to know on the subject matter has been things I’ve either A) read in print or B) seen during presentations. If I can find my print resources and either scan them in as PDFs or find online versions, I’m happy to do so. I could probably google some things for you, but don’t necessarily have the time right now to ensure they match the thesis here in anyway beyond the headline.

      And, as I touch on in the post, it is entirely possible that the groupings were optimal, but that does not necessarily mean they were setup to succeed. If you are going to take this tact, you need to do it quite purposefully and deliberately. You don’t really luck into it, at least not if you want to maximize the benefits. And it doesn’t seem that the school was either thoughtful or deliberate, what with their head-in-the-sand response.

      Personally, knowing nothing about the students specifically, I’d venture to guess that optimal would be making sure there is a critical mass of students of color in each class and that all classes interacted with teachers of color (either the K teacher or other adults in the building).

      But, yea, I’ll work on resources for that. I thought about holding off until I had them but A) didn’t want to get buried with other stuff and never get the post up and B) anticipated most folks having at least the reaction you did here. Thanks for inquiring.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


        So the question is would a student of color do better with other students of color or with kids from higher income families?Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Well, first, let’s not assume those are mutually exclusive. There are students of color who are from higher incomes.

          Also, let’s not confuse correlation with causation. It is not the higher income itself that explains many of the gains we see children from those families making. It is the things that go into those folks making higher income. Things that folks with lower income could have (though tend to have with less frequency).

          You could also have a class that has students of color AND students from higher income families.

          But, to the question itself, I’ll be honest and say I don’t know. Assuming there is a true either/or, I don’t know that I’ve seen research that compares the two directly. It should be pointed out that there are externalities to many of the programs that seek to bring inner city (i.e., black and Hispanic) kids to better school systems (i.e., wealthier suburbs). That might well be the best option for kids of color who are enrolled in the program, but they are often selected into such programs because of the achievements thus far or potential. This “brain drain” has been noted to have negative effects on the school system left behind. So while those specific kids might benefit, there might be a negative overall impact on the school system. This isn’t to say that the programs should be eliminated, but should be part of the conversation. And in my personal experience (with Boston’s METCO program) and based on what I read, I would venture to guess that the educational gains made by those students are outweighed by the cons of the program, including: being made to feel like outsiders in their new school; having no connection with their social group in their own neighborhood; longer days (some kids bus 2-3 hours a day); etc.

          Anyway, I’m getting off tangent. The point is, your question is a really good one and one I haven’t seen specifically addressed. At the risk of being squishy, I would say that it depends largely on how those classes are constructed.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


            Let me try to answer this question another way and get at what I think you actually mean to get at.

            If I was a middle- or lower-class black parent to a black child who could not myself provide the benefits for my child that tend to be correlated with higher incomes, and I had the choice between sending them to a local school with a large black population in both the student body and faculty -OR- a different local school that was in a wealthier part of town, catered to wealthier, white families, and overall had better resources and facilities? I’d opt for the latter, if only because I could likely better compensate for what they miss by going to that school than the latter.

            I don’t really know if that was a better answer… but at least it was shorter, I guess.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      I’ve seen some research that supports this. Not in every situation though, what i remember is in standarized testing that has been found. I’ll try to google a bit to find the stuff i’ve seen. It would be real easy to take this to far though. Kids can clearly do well when they are the minority in a classroom.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

        Of course. The crux of my argument is not that students SHOULD be segregated; it is that we shouldn’t necessarily assume the consideration of race is class construction is negative. It does appear, in this case, to be negative.Report

  3. Avatar cfpete says:

    “It is highly unlikely that the classroom setups are ideal for meeting the needs of this particular set of students. It is less likely that, even if they were, the school would be prepared to actually maximize those benefits, given the amount of ass hattery they’ve demonstrated thus far. When faced with a legitimate complaint that students were being underserved, the Mamaroneck school district did what so many supposed educational leaders and institutions have done in the past: cover their ass and fish over their students.”

    What if the white children of Mamaroneck are genuine and verified racists? Future leaders of the KKK – Aryan nation kind of racist.
    What is your solution?

    (I am not trying to make any point – just throwing out a topic for discussion.)Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to cfpete says:

      Well, I think that would qualify as “highly unlikely”. But, assuming it happens, then, yes, a completely segregated class might be the best option unless or until the safety (physical, emotional, and mental) of the students of color can be assured.

      Given that we’re talking about Kindergarteners, I doubt any 5-year-old is so set in his ways with regards to how he views race that he couldn’t be changed and, in fact, having him interact with black kids is likely the most powerful force to bring about that change.

      As a PreK teacher myself, I will say that it is entirely possible for young children to harbor “racist” views, but this is not the same form of racism that adults often exhibit. It is more the result of a combination of development and having inaccurate or incomplete information.Report

  4. Avatar Liberty60 says:

    I consider it to be axiomatic that whenever segregation has been allowed to occur, it never works out well for that minority group that is out of power.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Liberty60 says:

      Funny how that works, eh?

      Touching on my response to JB below, I wonder if it has anything to do with marginalized groups getting responses like what they saw in the video when they do raise concerns.Report

      • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Kazzy says:

        Humans have a magnificent ability to sort ourselves out into classes and groups and cliques, some of which are more equal than others.

        Think of all the ways in which we signal and code our class status- clothing, accent, speech, appearance, etc.

        Anti-discrimination laws can only make a clumsy and ineffectual dent, unless they are embraced by consensus.

        Whenever a priviledged group wants to retain their status and lock out outsiders, there are plenty of methods at their disposal.
        But segregating the outsiders is always the first step, since it makes it so much more convenient to assign different opportunities to them.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    When it comes to #2 and #3 together, I’d like to know whether it’s likely that one of the parents of the children in the primarily “of color” class made a similar request to the parents mentioned in #2 because of assumptions of #3.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Possible? Of course.

      Likely? I’d say no. The primary reason I say this is that black parents, by and large, do not make such requests with nearly the frequency that white parents do. Of course, I’m basing this on anecdotal observations, but the reasons I’ve come up for it make it seem plausible that it is a real phenomenon: black folks tend to be less trusting of authority, less confident that their voices will be heard, less likely to have the type of relationships with administrators to allow for such “off the record” meetings, etc. Marginalized groups tend not to feel empowered to seek remedies, especially through extra-procedural means. In independent schools, you see this not only with racial minorities, but also folks of lesser means, particularly those on financial aid/tuition assistance; the latter group is often made to explicitly feel that they are lucky to be there and ought to shut up and take what they get (this obviously doesn’t directly parallel with public schools, but I’d venture to guess the underlying psychology is the same).

      But as I said in the initial piece, I wouldn’t call this a uniquely white phenomenon, but one that is overwhelmingly white. So even if you had black parents doing it, it was likely far less than white parents. And regardless of whom was doing it, it is the type of thing that can allow race to become a factor in a “facially race-neutral” procedure.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        Marginalized groups tend not to feel empowered to seek remedies, especially through extra-procedural means.

        That totally makes sense.

        On top of that, if they were paying for the schooling, I can easily see them saying something like #3 as justification for not being ripped off. I mean, one of the things we’re paying for is a role model that looks like he does. One of the things we’re paying for is better socialization. One of the things we’re paying for is…

        And then you wake up one day and say “THEY PUT ALL OF THE BLACK KIDS IN ONE CLASS!”Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

          I think the problem with a lot of these conversations is that if/when you end up with all the black kids in one class (or in Will’s circumstances, all the women on one team), the assumption is that it can only happen if there is a mustache twirling racist villain quietly pulling the strings behind the scenes so that, ultimately, the black kids are housed in the cafeteria where, WHOOPS, one day they get baked into the meatloaf.

          More (perhaps far more) often than not, it is a series of small decisions, which may be racialized but not necessarily racist, and then you get where you get.

          Going in another direction, I have seen black parents explicitly ask that their kids not be in classes with other black kids… not black kids in general, but a particular set of black kids. This is interesting because A) they are often far more direct and explicit and B) you never see white parents doing it with such obvious racial connotations. White parents might very well ask that their kid be separated from another white kid, but it is likely because there is a real or at least perceived issue independent of race. But I have had at least one pair of parents come to me and say, in not so many words, “We don’t pay to send our kid to school with kids from the ghetto. We can get that for free. We want him in a different class.” When I spoke to my supervisor, a black woman about this, she had a, “Here we go again,” expression.

          Shit’s fucked up… fo rel.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

            so that, ultimately, the black kids are housed in the cafeteria where, WHOOPS, one day they get baked into the meatloaf.

            That’s horrible! They serve meatloaf?Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

              Based on the previous meatloaf post, I’m fairly confident we can set a record for comments if we combine meatloaf, public school, and racism into one column…


  6. Avatar Glyph says:

    I seem to recall reading that computer simulations had indicated that people are quite good at eventually unconsciously segregating themselves, even if they had only a mild preference to be with people ‘like them’.

    Maybe this?:


    • Avatar Mo in reply to Glyph says:

      If everyone wants to be in a population where they are the slight majority (say 55-45 or 60-40) and doesn’t want to be on the minority side of that, populations will end up being far more skewed than that.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mo says:

        I’m curious about what experiences the folks here have as racial minorities…Report

        • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Kazzy says:

          What do you want to know?Report

          • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Mr. Blue says:

            If you mean “minority” like “are outnumbered significantly by those of another race” and not minority as in “not white”? I’m not doggin’ you if it’s the latter. I just assumed on my original reading that I applied and then thought maybe I don’t.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mr. Blue says:

              Ahhh… good question… I mean the former. And I’m curious about it because it is something (as indicated below) I’m fairly familiar with and I’d venture to guess most white people are not. Which doesn’t make me “better” than them, by any means. Just something to think about when framing these conversations.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kazzy says:

                I have not had a minority experience in the sense of race, no. I’ve definitely had a minority experience, but being a nerd doesn’t count as anything except a minor analogy.

                Jack, on the other hand, is experiencing minority life. At grade 2, the kids don’t appear to be generalizing to race, yet. Bullies are bullies, friends are friends, other kids are, “megh, play with them some times.”

                Ask me again in five year.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mr. Blue says:

            Curious how often those of us have found ourselves in that situation, how that came to be, how we responded, etc.

            Speaking for myself, I went to a school that was “minority majority”. They said my graduating class was 30% white, though perusing my yearbook makes me think it was closer to 20%; black kids were definitely a plurality. College was overwhelmingly white, which struck me as very odd. A classmate and I once walked into the cafeteria and almost simultaneously exclaimed, “There’s so many/few black people here!” with him saying “many” and me saying “few”.

            I spent a year living in a predominantly black/hispanic neighborhood just outside NYC; I frequented a number of local establishments, including the gym and a bar, where I was often one of very few white people in the joint.

            I regularly attend the NAIS People of Color Conference (PoCC), which is a conference explicitly for people of color but which white allies are invited to come, presuming they come with the understanding that the conference isn’t really for or about them (many don’t). I attended with a group of white colleagues this past year (long story) and the discomfort they felt was palpable and something I could not understand.Report

            • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Kazzy says:

              I have been in the racial minority more times than I can possibly count usually in another country. Lately I’m the only white guy in a sea of Asians. I get along, but have noticed there are some who don’t like that I can speak Mandarin and switch to Cantonese when I’m around.

              Back in my high school days I went to a Jesuit college prep school that had at most 3 or four black kids. They weren’t excluded, they just couldn’t afford the tuition. I worked my way through school at an upscale steak house that bordered the “wrong” side of town. After work I used to walk the few blocks to the pit bbq place. I liked it because the food was excellent and even though I was too young, they would serve me alcohol.

              One night the owner sidled up to me and said, “Boy, why do you always come to this place?” I said, “I like it, it’s fun to hang out here”. He said, “Look around and tell me what you see”. I looked around a bit and said, “There’s Marvin, Tommy, Monique and Sharisa..” he interrupted and said, “I see pimps, drug dealers and ho’s”. I looked at him in a bit of shock because he hadn’t said it quietly at all. But everyone he was talking about were laughing, so I smiled along with the joke. He said, “You know what else I see? I see a white boy who doesn’t belong”. I was a little put out and said, “What do you mean? I’ve been coming here for months”. He said, “I don’t want you comin’ back because I don’t want you ending up like them” – waving at his clientele. I still remember being able to sit there and talk with anyone about anything and no one ever gave me any grief except the owner that one time. My white coworkers were scared to set foot in the place. Years later it was closed down as a public nuisance by a judge.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to wardsmith says:

                I’ve been on all-black [‘cept me] cricket teams and reggae bands. They loved me!Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to wardsmith says:

                Was the owner black or white?Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Kazzy says:

                The owner was black. Everyone was except me. I didn’t think about it much. I noticed one thing about their “society”. No one used names. It was always, “You, man, bro, my n—er etc.” I’d always say, “Tell me a name, any name”. One guy gave me an evil smile and said “Call me snake”. I said “Is that just snake or Mr. Snake?” After that his new nickname around there was always Mr. Snake. I guess even criminals just want to be respected. 🙂Report

            • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

              I’ve tended to hang out with other cultures even when there’s been a mix, so it’s kinda hard to say. I’ve certainly taught at places where being white was weird (my boss was black, her boss was hispanic).

              Been to dances where I was one of two white folks (invited by the one atheist there to a quasi-sorta-religious thing)…Report

        • Avatar Mo in reply to Kazzy says:

          I grew up in a pretty diverse (still a minority as there weren’t a lot of Arabs around) middle class neighborhood until 6th grade when my folks moved on up to a really white upper middle class neighborhood. For the most part, I liked the former a lot more than the latter. College was pretty diverse, though the diversity was of the 30% Asian, 40% white 30% other form. Grad school was 80% white in a pretty white town (or at least it seemed that way because it was pretty segregated). The latter weirded me out because I wasn’t used to not seeing minorities as customers in bars and restaurants.

          What I always thought was interesting is that since I was in high school, at least, my white friends have always perceived me as “white” unless I or circumstances or a comment by me or an outsider made it clear I wasn’t. My non-white friends never did though.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mo says:

            Ah. you’re arabic?
            Some of my relatives have Yemeni ancestry… nobody ever mistakes them for white

            • Avatar Mo in reply to Kimmi says:

              I’m Egyptian. I wouldn’t say people mistake me for it. It’s just that I pass. Of course, I’ve been asked if I was Italian/Greek/Jewish and when I walk into a bodega I will be addressed in Spanish. People who are familiar with Egyptians (read: Egyptians and the women who love them) can spot my ethnicity right off the bat. To others, I’m generically “ethnic”.

              It’s not so much that I was mistaken for white, just that I “pass”. I’m not dark as far as Arabs go (or for that matter fair skinned, like some of my cousins), I don’t have facial hair or an accent, I’m agnostic, I have typical American values and a southern California accent. It’s hard to explain in a short blog comment.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mo says:

                Yeah, that whole “Mediterreanean” ethnicity… 😉
                People think I’m Irish, or Danish (which phenotype I fit disturbingly well). Can’t trace my background back past eastern europe (poland to hungary to latvia).
                And then there are the folks convinced I’m mixed… (with African ancestry)Report

        • Avatar Mo in reply to Kazzy says:

          I’m also far more comfortable as a minority than in a big group of “my own”.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mo says:

            I concur. I work in a nearly all-white environment (at least in terms of my colleagues) and it makes my skin crawl. This has to do with other cultural divides between me and many of my coworkers, which aren’t entirely racial. I can’t listen to hip-hop in my room during off-hours without everyone coming in making some bad joke about “Club Kazzy” or doing that weird up-and-down thing with their hands that white people do when they hear rap music.Report

        • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to Kazzy says:

          I work in a plural environment (90% male, tho) with a shortage of African-Americans but a lot of everything else (Houston is a diverse place). I could write a lot about that, but I’ll spare you the details. I travel a lot and the places I travel are usually very white. Between the two, I’ll take the home office most of the time because the places I travel tend to be small towns where I can’t possibly become a part of their local culture in the five weeks I’m there.

          I went to two high schools, the first of which was 3/4 African-American. It was not a pleasant experience. There was more parity at the second school. It was a less bad environment, though might have been even better if not for the first school. The result is that I don’t have a Derbyshire fear of black people, but I get tense in a way that doesn’t happen with other groups or doesn’t happen as much.

          Being white in a school of mostly black kids is bad in the social hierachy – at least in the South – though that’s lessened by the sense that your perceived cultural priorities are more in line with the institutional hierarchy than a black kid in a mostly white environment – at least I think so. Teachers would look at me and think I was a kid that would behave. I’m not sure how true that is the other way around.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

          A little bit here and there.

          – I lived in an apartment complex with almost no other whites and probably a pretty strong Hispanic majority. It was mostly immigrant Hispanics and immigrant Asians. I tended to get along better with the former than the latter, though there were significant language barriers. My “best friends” there were our black neighbor and the Hispanic crew living down stairs (friendly, but language barrier). That was about two years.

          – I lived in a majority black neighborhood though with an increasing number of gentrifying whites. It was hit-and-miss with my neighbors. Pretty isolating on the whole. A drug den around the corner. Retired people across the street that I talked to occasionally. The person I talked to most was the homeless guy who’d do various chores around the place. That was also about two years.

          – I worked in a department that was majority-Hispanic. They were rather fully assimilated. Race/ethnicity wasn’t an issue. Two years.

          – I worked on a team that was dominated by Indian immigrants. Language was an issue and there was a lack of common ground, but they were nice and pleasant to work with even if we never became friendly. One year, though it was only in the last six months that it was so Indian.

          – My K-12 was overwhelmingly white, or seemed so. Looking at the yearbook, it was actually more brown than I remember. A couple of my best friends with Cuban-American. I definitely wasn’t a minority.

          – My college was very diverse, though a university that large tends to parse itself out. The first year in the dorms my roommate and I were two of the only white guys, but we rarely spent any time around the dorm and didn’t get to know anybody. We moved out of the athletic dorm and into the honors dorm, which was mostly white with some Asian and Hispanic. The Honors College was heavily white from what I remember. The College of Industrial Technology was diverse but there was surprisingly little self-segregation.

          – I now live in a place that is very, very white. As odd as it may sound, I get a little excited when I see someone who isn’t. At the school district I sub for, classes range from 80% to 100% white, depending on the school.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy says:

          Aside from living in Africa and Japan and Central America, which don’t really qualify in the presumed context of being a racial minority in the USA….

          Many of the teams I’ve supervised have been Indian. There are differences within Indian cultures, especially between northern and southern Indians. As others have noted, there’s often a language barrier, not everyone speaks English as well as everyone else. The Indian work ethic is a little different, so are team dynamics. They’re used to a highly compartmentalised and regimented command structure, which just won’t work out the way I manage things in Agile.

          So I’ve had to adapt. First thing I do is convene a meeting and lay out the issue plainly: though I’ve worked with plenty of Indians and speak pretty good bastard Hindi at this point, I’m not Indian and there will be cultural issues. I need an ombudsman, someone to allay internal tension and misunderstandings: nobody criticises anyone else without the ombudsman present. Furthermore, the women on the team will not be relegated to the back seat: no sexism will be tolerated. And I will sack anyone who complains about anyone on the team to anyone outside the team.

          It’s hard being an Indian here in the States, especially if you’re fresh off the plane. I expect the old-timers to work with the FNGs to get things set up domestically, even if it means taking a few hours off during the workday. And there’s always one of them caring for his or her parents: this is always good news, I make arrangements and pay to have chai and food brought in at 14:30 so the team can observe tea time.

          My teams bind tightly: where Americans can’t wait to get away from work, rush home to get away from their fellow workers, Indians will hang out after work together, especially the single men. If someone isn’t pulling his weight at work, it all comes out after work. Let the team create pressure on the slacker. Means I don’t have to.

          People do unconsciously segregate, even when they don’t mean to do it. But there are other forces at work: forces which can be harnessed to useful ends, the power of belonging to a team can overcome almost any prejudice and reinforces team identity. Some forces can be opposed, but only by empowering those who face them: teaching Indian women to be more assertive in the workplace has paid off handsomely for me. Reorienting people to achieving goals rather than seeking status (a very common problem with Indians) rewards individuals in context.

          Identity comes in several parts. Who do I say I am? Then there’s — who do you say I am? Then there’s — who do They say We are? If people continue to sort themselves out by race and policies attempt to integrate the races using some stupid pseudo-random distribution, they’re working to the same pernicious ends, reinforcing race-based identity. There must be a better way.

          The one aspect of this Mamaroneck situation remains unclear to me. Who decided which children went in which classroom? Clearly the minority kids ended up with the minority teacher. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when that black teacher has her say about what went down in putting those kids in her classroom.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to BlaiseP says:


            Thanks for your response. To your last question, I’d recommend reading the OCR’s letter. It is actually one of the most readable government documents I’ve ever come across (though that might be particular to me because I am intimately familiar with the process). But it does seem to lay it out pretty well. It doesn’t get at what exactly happened in the end, since that is the primary unknown that will likely remain unknown, but it sheds some light.

            And based PURELY on speculation, it would not shock me if the black teacher’s response was, “Better me than them.”Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy says:

              I did read the letter and that’s what’s confusing me. So you’re a K or pre-K teacher if memory serves: are you in a situation like this, where there’s a sorting out of kids into classrooms? How does it work in your situation? If I understand what the letter says, the teachers do the sorting out and race doesn’t seem to be a discriminant in that sorting. If the principal assigns the teacher at random, seems all fair and square to me.

              Bilingual/SpecEd I know, I married into that proposition. There’s a continuing problem of dumping BD kids into B/SE classrooms. There’s lots of superficially good reasons for why this happens but everyone knows what’s going on. The B/SE teacher has all IEP kids and if they can get a BD kid into the IEP process, that reduces the number of kids in the BD classroom. It’s never as obvious as it seems.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to BlaiseP says:

                My current school has only one class per grade, so their is no sorting. At previous schools (all independent) we had a file on each student and a variety of school personnel (teachers, administrators, special ed coordinators) sat down and grouped the kids. We explicitly discussed race. One administrator always described it as “half science, half art”. I might say, “These two kids did not work well together and should be separated,” or “This child needs a teacher with firm limits and structure and should be paired with Mr. X,” or “We’ve only got one black kid in that class and six in that one, we need to rethink that.” Etc.

                As you describe it, that is the protocol the school was SUPPOSED to follow. They were supposed to sort randomly with a few mechanisms in place to ensure even gender and birthday distribution. The OCR found that they did not follow procedure. Exactly what they did do is a bit of an unknown, though there seems to be enough evidence that race did indeed factor in, either consciously or subconsciously. But, yea, that part remains unknown.Report

        • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name in reply to Kazzy says:

          I have often been the only white guy in a group of African-Americans. I’ve rarely felt uncomfortable, but there is a feeling of being out-of-place. I wouldn’t dream of extrapolating my experience to what my wife or her family goes through (for one thing, I can always walk away and be back in the majority again), but it is an interesting feeling.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jeff No-Last-Name says:

            The “being out-of-place” feeling is an interesting one.

            Sometimes I feel it because I genuinely feel as if I’ve ventured into a culture that I am not familiar with… I don’t know the lingo or the in-jokes or all the stuff that everyone else seems to know. This can happen regardless of the race of the people, but seems most palpable if there is a racial component. It is a vulnerable feeling, but one that I think is ultimately beneficial. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, we do our best growth during moments of disequilibrium. And as you said, this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that we know the feeling is temporary.

            I’d be curious to hear about your wife’s experiences. Am I right to assume that most of your experiences are with her family?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mo says:

        Yeah, slightly over/under 50% seems to be the ‘tipping point’ after which things quickly segregate. There is a lot out there on the Schelling model (and I am sure much criticism too) but I am too tired to read statistical analysis right now, my eyes are blurring on the graphs.Report

  7. Avatar wardsmith says:

    Did Dr. Shaps’ glasses come with a fake nose and mustache?Report