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Carolyn Hax: How to respond when people imply your son got burned by affirmative action?

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: It was a really competitive year, and my son got into only a couple of the “top” colleges he applied to. He got rejected from the rest, including his dream school. It was hard on him, but he made peace with it and is excited for the school he chose (and that chose him). Yay for him!

How do I shut down comments implying that my son — a White male from a privileged Zip code — was rejected because of affirmative action? It really [ticks] me off and I think they’re outright wrong. But I don’t have a good response locked and loaded — in part because the comments vary and aren’t always direct.

This also just depressed the hell out of me, that so many White people still feel our kids are entitled to those spots and they’re being “taken” from us.

— [Ticked]

[Ticked]: I appreciate your attitude, thank you. And your anger.

Those veiled White-people comments say this: “I trust you to speak our code.” So blow that up. Hard, every time. “I don't understand what you mean, please explain.” They own it or zip it.

To those who say it, reply: “White males have enjoyed cen-tu-ries of egregious affirmative action. If my son proves that’s ending, amen.”

Hi, Carolyn: I am eager to get the vaccine. My husband will likely opt not to. This upsets me on a number of levels, but ultimately I can’t force him, and no amount of logical persuasion will work as he buys into conspiracy theories.

We’ve avoided discussing it much because I know I’m not going to change his mind, and thankfully he hasn’t tried to change mine. But this is eventually going to lead to problems — what if family and friends want to restrict gatherings to vaccinated people? What if we want to travel somewhere with a vaccine requirement?

I don’t love the idea of restricting my activities because of his choices, so I’m wondering if it’s fair to tell him, “Hey, do what you want, but there will be consequences, and I’ll just see X person or Y country without you.”

— House Divided

House Divided: When I had toddlers, I tried to let natural consequences do their correcting for me — because it made physics or the weather or too much candy the bad guy, not me.

That’s just a long and mean-ish way of saying, yes. It is utterly fair to let your husband live with the consequences of his magical thinking.

One tweak, if I may: Don't announce your intentions upfront, before you have any specific invitations or travels to consider, except maybe to foreshadow them. “I don't love the idea of restricting my activities because of your choices,” for example.

Instead, wait until some vaxxed-only opportunity arises — then say, “Vaccines are required. I don’t plan to miss it, so if you want to come, too, let’s book your shot in time.”

This way you avoid pre-fighting a battle that may never come.

And, you don’t want to hand him justification to spend the upcoming weeks — as you wait for these imagined gatherings or opportunities to become real — digging in and refining his arguments against you. An actual, planned, foreseeable event will tug at his interest a lot harder than a hypothetical one. Don’t squander your most persuasive chance.