Reader’s response: ‘We’re constantly having to remind the… public about our humanity’

There has been a strong reaction from some to Tuesday’s post originally titled “So did he apply to Stanford?” Some people liked it. Others thought I was making light of the achievements of two teens of color who were accepted into the Ivy League. I wasn’t. My intention was to draw attention to the obsessive focus by parents on the media on the elite colleges and to the way the schools publicize their high rejection rate. If the reason I wrote the post was unclear, I am sorry. The original post is now titled: “Can we stop obsessing on the Ivy League?”

Here’s part of an e-mail  I received from a reader, Sabrina Joy Stevens, an education activist and executive director of the nonprofit, Integrity in Education, who makes an excellent point:

I think it’s important to recognize & hold up people of all walks in life, and show students that they don’t have to go to Ivies or other selective schools in order to be worthwhile. But that’s not a point to be made in the context of this story, when the coverage of kids of color (especially boys) typically upholds negative stereotypes. We hold up Kwasi [Enin] because we’re constantly having to remind the rest of the public about our humanity and possibility; it’s really not OK to step on that.

And here’s part of another:

I’m writing because while I have been a huge fan of your blog on the WP, I can’t even begin to put my disappointment with your recent piece into words. And considering you have shown in the past an awareness of all the hurdles kids of color have to jump through in order to succeed in this country, I can’t understand how you came to a place where you thought this piece was appropriate. Look, I get not wanting to brag in general about where your kids got in, especially when so many kids are not getting in. I have spent hours on the phone with my younger sister after she was waitlisted at her top choice. But we simply cannot at this point in time silence black achievement. Sure, college admissions these days are a s— show, but even with that two young black boys who are viewed by society as threats despite their proved intelligence managed to get accepted in ways they shouldn’t have. And that needs to be celebrated, period. Because when most kids that look like them don’t see hope for themselves and are more likely to be the victims of police or vigilante violence than succeed in school, this is crucial. It allows for some kids to shake off society’s expectations for them and defy those expectations in brilliant ways.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · April 2