A Few Things

Hello, Friends. How are you? Our school year is almost done! Oscar and Betty have their last day today, and Flora June’s last day will be Tuesday. We’re almost there! Olive’s Au Pair position ends next Friday, and she’ll join us for the summer after that.

We’re started to turn our attention to summer plans. We’re hoping to fit in three road trips — one West to the coast of Brittany; one North to Lille and the surrounding area; one South to Marseilles and the Calanques National Park. And yes, we’re paying attention to the news, and if anything changes in France covid-wise, we will adjust/cancel our plans. Thankfully, right now things are still looking good here.

How about some links? Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

-What We Know About the Killing of Elijah McClain.

-A really helpful visual investigation by the NYT about the June 1st protest in Philadelphia.

-“Brexit is set to have cost the UK more than £200 billion in lost economic growth by the end of this year”. The UK only paid £215 billion into the EU budget since 1973.

-We just hit a record-high for new covid-19 cases, and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said today that for every case that’s reported, there are likely 10 other (unreported) infections.

-Two new studies find racial anxiety is the biggest driver of support for Trump.

Five women veterans who deserve recognition on U.S. military bases (currently there are no installations on U.S. military bases honoring women vs. ten honoring Confederate traitors).

-The My Little Pony fandom has a Nazi problem.

-Earl Sampson was stopped by Miami Gardens police 258 times in 4 years. He was searched more than 100 times, arrested and jailed 56 times. He was even arrested for trespassing at his own job.

-How much does it cost to hire a babysitter these days?

-Officials credit Taiwan’s success to its early decision to stockpile & distribute face masks. Within 4 months, companies increased production from 2M to 20M units per day, enabling the island to ration and distribute masks to residents on a regular basis.

-So many people have parents, spouses, friends, etc., who have been swallowed by the deep state Qanon garbage. It’s not fringe and it’s not benign. Here’s a podcast series about it.

-We gave Ben Blair a red Superdry hoodie for Father’s Day to replace one he bought last time we lived here. They are such good quality and last so long!

Here are some tweets I saved for you:

-An important thread about childcare and the pandemic.

I do this too.

China didn’t steal your job.

-Not sure what qualified immunity is? A quick summary.

I had a lot to learn.

-A thread of quotes said by real judges in court during rape trials.


Do you agree?

I hope you have a good weekend. I’ll meet you back here next week. I miss you already.


23 thoughts on “A Few Things”

  1. All great links, as always. Related: I’ve been thinking a lot about the Living With Kids from this week—especially that $23,000 property tax. (I didn’t want to comment on the post because I know it’s a such vulnerable thing to share your home and story like that, but this is worth talking about, I think.) I see that crazy high property tax figure as systemic racism and partly the reason why a diverse place like metro NY has very, very segregated towns. Towns in the NY metro area are set up to have small, town-based school districts rather than larger, more diverse regional schools. (Regional school in other parts of the country are less expensive and less white and require less tax money to run.) High property taxes creates towns with “good” (often very white) public school districts, which drives up property values and property taxes which then act as a gatekeeper to keep out minority families. This is a big problem and one that won’t be solved easily (as property values are tied to the whiteness of the school and so desegregating the towns will mean homes will lose value, which is gross and highly charged emotionally for even well-intentioned white people.) Towns in the metro NY area that regionalize their high schools often do so along racial lines further creating larger unequal school districts while keeping taxes (and property values) high in white areas. The cost saving of regionalizing never transpired because white schools pour those resources back into their white schools to horde opportunities for their white children, keeping taxes and values high. It’s such a dispicable system and the idea that high property taxes are cheaper than private school tuition (something that comes up in the post to justify the cost) has a deeper, darker meaning. High property taxes create an elite school that is virtually inaccessible to outsiders. How does something like this get fixed? I believe it starts with white people acknowledging how wrong it is.

    1. This is a very important comment and an issue I have been thinking a lot about. I see influencers who are now posting black squares on instagram and highlighting Black-owned businesses on instagram while they live in very white areas, appear to have no Black friends*, send their kids to a private school…and then discuss “systemic” racism as “system” problem as if THEY are not the system themselves. I see bloggers like Gabby as the exception to this (she has talked about sending her kids to racially diverse OUSD schools and discussed racism in the US for many years).

      *Of course, having Black friends doesn’t mean you are not a racist. But it has always seemed weird to me when white influencers (many of whom I’ve followed for years) have essentially only white friends…

      1. O my. Thank you Hannah! I feel the same way. I spoke to a coworker, who is a minority, about it. She was like stop trying so hard. I can see right through it.

    2. I had the same thoughts, less coherently organized! It took me a LOT of personal growth and reflection to realize that schools with high test scores aren’t the be-all and end-all, and that there is a cost to society when those of us who can choose to cocoon ourselves and our kids in elite dens of privilege. Gabby’s school blog posts over the years were really influential to me. Gabby made big, diverse, urban public schools seem non-threatening and maybe even desirable, and certainly not ruinous to her kids’ futures.

    3. We moved in 2017 from one of the greatest school districts in Westchester county NY (and the country) to a very mediocre school district in southern NH. I was exhausted by the NY pace and the economic stress. I also never saw my babies. Our town was a little diverse but not much. When we moved, people said “won’t you miss the diversity” because, you know, we were near populations of color. This can feel like enough though we all know it’s not.

      We are still in a very white part of the world. It requires our family to take a very proactive approach to anti-racism. That said, economically our area is incredibly diverse. It definitely impacts the quality of education and occasionally I will freak out but I remember that there is such value in seeing the real picture. There are things that scare me like higher rates of teenage pregnancy but then there is the fact that my kids are close with kids who sometimes don’t have water. They can see that systemic poverty is nearly impossible to climb out of. It’s not some abstract situation because someone isn’t working hard enough. I really feel your comment as far as discussing these clusters even more.

      Gabby includes a tweet from Andrew Yang here. I highly recommend his book “The War on Normal People.” It has some great insight into these bubbles. I don’t blame people for wanting the best for their kids but these systems just continually punish the poor.

    4. Dear K, I respectfully disagree with you regarding property taxes and schools. I live in a diverse (economic Witt a mix of renters and home owners, race, sexual orientation, many refugees and immigrants) liberal city in The Midwest. My property taxes are around $8000 for a home valued around $200k. A private high school in my area is still nearly $20K (not the most exclusive ones). Our schools are average in many respects but excel at special education. A few cities away from where I live, where the property tax rate is lower but the home values higher, is considered to have superior public schools—in fact they are among the best performing in our state. So…. paying $35000 for taxes on a million dollar property in a district of very wealthy homeowners sounds like a bargain. It isn’t the tax rate, it is the high price of real estate and discriminatory zoning laws that allow admission into an essentially gated community.

      Yes, you are correct that such neighborhoods create exclusivity with schools that are public in name only. However, the truly wealthy in the US tend to pay a lower rate in general. In addition, property tax valuation may be “protested” and if you have the right connections, your property will lowered in value for the purposes of tax collection but the resale value remains the same. Legalized corruption is rife in the US. To make a more equitable society, funding allocation for schools needs to change. Not only do property tax codes need to be revised, the entire labyrinthine US tax code needs a major overhaul. Not likely to happen. And I haven’t even gotten started on sales tax revenue….

      1. Hi Gigi,
        I’m not sure that disagree is the right word since you didn’t engage with the idea behind my comment: that the NY metro area is very, very diverse and yet very, very segregated because property values are inflated in towns with “good” (code for white) school districts and that high property taxes feed the system of making those white schools better while simulatiously making those towns white enclaves and de facto gated communities (and unattainable to all but the highest achieving POC families). This is racist and this is wrong. I have been listening and learning from Black voices and so I also want to add that your comment is trying to recenter a conversation about race and systemic racism to be about your own experience (and money/class). This is a technique that many white people use to avoid taking about race and to deny its uniqueness and the trama that it causes.
        As for the propert taxes themselves, many white families justify paying high property taxes (and, yes, $23,000 is high regardless of how you do the math—it requires a very high income to pay) because those high taxes cost less than paying private school tution for multiple children. This reasoning is correct, private school would be more expensive, but it allows white families to avoid thinking about what their property taxes truly represent, which is systemic racism, separate and unequal schooling and a barrier to intergration.

        1. Thanks, K.
          No, I didn’t explicitly engage with the specificity of the NY region as this appears to be a pervasive issue among many wealthy enclaves in the US—the intersection of privilege, systemic racism, etc. My comment was not made with the intent of recentering a conversation-a personal example was given as an illustration drawn from the only life over which I can say I have an authority of experience. It was made with the intent of bringing attention to another facet of the vastly complicated conversation about systemic racism-what it is and eradication. From the beginning of civilization, economics and subjugation of other humans have been intertwined.

          It’s great that DesignMom brings together so many different voices, inspiring thought and action. It’s also important to realize that in the heightened atmosphere and abbreviated nature of online commenting, it is easy for all of us to “fill in the blanks” or read something into a comment. By using the phrase “a technique many white people use,” essentially becoming a call out/cancel moment, your assumptions may actually be ending rather than furthering a conversation.

          1. Just a quick follow up: what you are doing when you call out a phrase that you find particularly uncomfortable rather than engaging with the idea is called tone policing. You are saying that there is a more polite way achieve racial justice and that any way that doesn’t not protect a white person’s feelings is wrong and can be ignored/refuted based on the language/tone. This is problematic. All white people benefit from white privledge and it is not essentalizing to call out groups in a system (racism) that is based on groups. Also, while yes, money and race have been intertwined for ever, coupling them during conversations about race (unless it is about the systemic racism of American capitalism) is an attempt (conscious or not) to dilute and dismiss racism. Economic privledge is real and Racial privledge is real and they overlap for sure, but they are in no way the same. Talking about money/class in place (or along side) of taking about race is the same as pretending to be colorblind. Economic privledge is not colorblind and neither is economic disadvantage. These ideas are all things that I have wrestled with too. These are things that have made me uncomfortable too. But I am letting myself be uncomfortable. Of all the things Ive been learning, the quote that has resonated with me the most is Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I will never stop learning how to be a better person, a better anti-racist and I invite you to do the same. Be well.

    5. We looked at Westchester about 15 years ago. The tax thing is related to the expense of locally run schools PLUS police PLUS fire departments. And really, it’s about their pensions. When we were looking, I took a real look at financials of some villages. I’m a CFO. It was clear even then that soon, those municipalities would be paying near full salary pensions to more people who were retired than working. For many areas, this happened about 8 years ago. It won’t be long before there are twice as many people receiving pensions as salaries out of those tax dollars.

      It’s not sustainable and some small changes were made. For example, many school districts stopped hiring pension-eligible cleaning staff and contracted the work out. It’s a start, although of course they’ll be paying out those pensions to retired cleaning staff for decades.

      The real solution would be to combine school districts, as you suggest, but — even more importantly – fire departments and police departments which are just as expensive.

      Although I’m not sure how much diversity that would bring. We were looking at Dobbs Ferry and Sleepy Hollow. Dobbs current school populations is 64% white school, 19% hispanic, 7% asian, 5% black, 5% multi. Sleepy Hollow is 59% hispanic, 33% white, 6% black. Combing with other Westchester schools won’t diversify either much further

      Unfortunately, I suspect the REAL solution is to move more employees out of pension-eligible positions and use contract workers.

      Anyway, we bought in Brooklyn. We pay about 8k a year on a house valued north of 1.5mm. Our kids go to diverse schools (8% white) that are fine. The house we nearly bought instead in Westchester hasn’t increased in value to the same extent and their taxes are oner 30k.

  2. Susan Magnolia

    I love that you do this work because honestly I sob and rage keeping up on current news. I respect your hard work. Part of my motivation to know is the responsibility to be a good teacher to my child and to better understand the nonsense in the world passing as news. My father is in his eighties and forwards far right racist e-mails to family and friends recklessly. For eight decades he was a devout Catholic and now it feels like an upside down reality to read the crap he spreads. On top of everything else this is just too much for me.

    1. My mom is only in her 60s and I also cringe and wonder at how beholden she is now to the Trump worldview. He’s not even a real Republican! He’s not a Christian! Why does he even deserve your trust and loyalty if you supposedly value those traits foremost in a President? I feel like 30-40% of Americans are in the thrall of a cult.

      1. Susan and L: Yes to this!! What the heck is going on? I can’t even get to the point where a logical discussion can take place because my BLM statement was met with “Yeah well black people are responsible for 10,000 abortions”. And regarding same sex marriage, my fil responded “Well now anyone can married to a turtle.” It’s so crazy.

    2. Julie Schoelzel

      Gabby I’ve been so busy with my kids and with protesting so I tend to read your posts in bulk and don’t have a lot of time to comment (I’m trying to better about my phone and really being with the girls). I just want to thank you, though, because your writing has been so helpful. Have you thought about writing a book? “Designing a well informed life” or something like that. I think you help a lot of women clarify ideas and passions that they haven’t been able to articulate. It’s a very real gift you have.

      Finally, I am sorry about your husband’s friend passing. You wrote so beautifully about that as well.

  3. Our school district released draft plans for the upcoming school year, and then retracted them due to (possible) budget changes* on the horizon in our state (CA). The draft plan outlined two days/week on campus for grades TK to 3rd, and one day/week (on campus) for 4-8th grades. We’ve been hearing on the news about reduced school schedules, but to see details for my school district – WOW, just wow.

    How is the economy supposed to recover when my kids are at home? If my kids are at home, then I’m at home with them – I’m not at work. (Due to the nature of my business, we cannot WFH.)

    And while I’m the owner of our business (on salary), when I heard this schedule I immediately thought of the parents who make hourly wages and cannot WFH. And even more worrisome, what about the single-parents who make hourly wages and cannot WFH?!

    I told my husband that we can / will figure out if our kids are home three days/week (they better be on-campus the same two days; we have a 2nd and 3rd grader). I also connected with other neighborhood moms, to see about possibly sharing a nanny. I figure if we keep our circle tight, maybe something like that will work. And yes, we are lucky enough to have the resources for something like that; not everyone does.

    It’s just all so scary, and there is no end in sight.

    *Also, I am furious if any of these hybrid teaching model plans are possibly impacted by budget. After everything our country has been through – as adults, as working people, as parents, as people with extended families – after all the money our government has shoved out to help various sectors, if the education system is left high and dry, thus impacting children AND parents on many levels, I will just……totally lose hope. All hope.

  4. Ah, Lille! Our family was supposed to take a Europe vacation this summer before Covid and Lille was one of our planned stops. We were going to stay at Mama Shelter, eat at Brasserie Coke, and visit La Piscine Museum in Roubaix. Have a wonderful time and please share your adventures so I can live vicariously though you!! xx

  5. Gabby, please more conversation about school choices on here. As a parent of young kids (one 4yo and one 4 month old) we’re about a year away from sending our eldest to kindergarten and wondering how to do it. I’d love to hear from you because you have put six kids through school in a variety of places and formats. And your blog draws intelligent conversation in the comments. I live in a large city in the pacific northwest that is mostly white and in which the school district has been “in crisis” since I went through it starting 30 years ago. I’m defensive because those are my roots, aware things have obviously changed because change is a constant, and trying to preempt the knee jerk reaction that this large neighborhood public school with its aging building and large classrooms isn’t “good enough” for my kid. Conceptually I know I should invest my time/energy/resources into bettering my local public school and school district. But I want to hear from parents who ended up seeking out other choices (charters, homeschooling, private schooling) instead and why.

  6. My family tie dyed this weekend, and now we’ve caught the crafty bug. Would love some of your craft ideas for families. I just saw your potato stamp t shirt printing project which will be our next craft. Thank you!

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