Things Nino hates about me: I yell. I’m ungrateful. I threw things when we were married.

Things I hate about Nino: That he left.

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Every day, one million families watch every move on the College Board website because it controls so much of the college application process. Today it looked like the site was hacked.

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Right after George Floyd was killed, there were fireworks in my neighborhood. All night long. I live in Roxbury, on a sliver of Boston between two gang territories. So I assumed the noise was gunshots. But a few days later, fireworks actually lit up the sky. At 1am. 2am. 3am. Read more

We’re in the middle of weeks of protests to end the entrenched racism in America and I can’t stop thinking about Sula. I march and I scream that Black Lives Matter and I never add anything about how the black laundress I grew up with was not someone I could hug — because she was black. Read more

I understand that part of Black Lives Matter means White Privilege Matters. Which is to say that justice requires white people to face our fears about giving up institutionalized advantages. If you are white and you’re not scared then you have no idea how much has to change the U.S. to function like black lives really matter. Maybe you’ve read one of those lists of things white people can do to be an ally of black people. But alliances won’t matter unless we make fundamental changes. Here are three things that need to change:

Defund police and channel money to community groups.

Philip V. McHarris and Thenjiwe McHarris wrote an op-ed titled No More Money for the Police. Mr. McHarris is a doctoral candidate focusing on race, housing, and policing. Ms. McHarris is a strategist with the Movement for Black Lives. I am their fangirl. This recent op-ed says that instead of trying to abolish the police we can redirect city police budgets to underfunded city programs like housing, healthcare, and job training.

The police are likely to kill a black person no matter what sort of emergency response they are making. We have tried re-education, body cameras, community outreach, nothing changes the fact that police kill black people.

In the proposed scenario, police respond to calls that are already violent. I envision the police sitting at the desks all day long, waiting for an emergency call no one in the community is willing to attend to without a gun. Meanwhile, cities will redirect police funding to social workers and community groups who don’t carry guns. And instead of arguing for gun control, it’s an argument for controlling the amount we rely on people who carry guns.

Improve healthcare services by studying black culture, behavior, and personal beliefs.

The medical field has already implemented similar tactics. In the 1990s, Dr. William Cunningham pioneered community-based models to treat disparities in medical care between white people and people of color. For example, his research found that after hundreds of years of white doctors purposefully harming black patients, many black people trust their pastor more than their doctor. Black women die from pregnancy-related issues three times more often than white women. Cunningham found that black women want medical information rooted in values. And he convinced Congress to redirect medical spending to black community groups.

By the time Cunningham died in 2019, he had established that what works for white people should not be the default. The medical community has a long way to go to close racial disparities, but Cunningham showed us that to address disparities in health outcomes we need explore culture, traditions and personal beliefs that contribute to black people’s experience with health care.

Turn schools into social services centers and turn white privilege on its head.

Like healthcare services, public schools are built on research that excludes black children. And like the field of medicine, you can account for education and income, and still, white kids come out on top. Recently the Brookings Institute showed that disparities among test scores between black and white kids are from culture rather than income or intelligence. So teaching black kids to take white tests is never going to work.

Schools are obsessed with teaching kids self-control because of the Stanford marshmallow experiment in 1960: If the kid refrains from eating a marshmallow in order to get something better later then the kid will do better in school and career than the kid who eats the marshmallow. The test is has been reproduced many times with white kids and has found to be true regardless of income, intelligence, etc.

However recently Columbia University psychology professor Tyler Watts replicated the marshmallow test with a diverse group of children and he found benefits for some kids to eat the marshmallow. That is a revolutionary finding that should be completely shaking up this country. It means that schools focus on teaching kids self-control when it is actually only proven to be great for the children of Stanford professors in 1960.

Additionally, when black kids don’t do what teachers want, black kids receive more harsh discipline than white kids. We know it’s impossible to train police or doctors to stop acting on racism — even if it’s inadvertent. And the same is true in education. Teachers discriminate against black kids even when the teachers don’t mean to.

So it occurred to me that the elegant proposal for defunding police would also work for schools. Like policing with guns, educating with schools is mostly unnecessary. Kids teach themselves to read when they are ready. Kids learn fundamental math on their own. Kids don’t need school to learn to write. Kids don’t need teachers they need parents. Homeschoolers have a higher acceptance rate to the Ivy League. School is unnecessary for black kids and for all kids.

But when it comes to what is good for black kids, the one thing we do know is that the type of learning that makes the biggest difference is learning you cannot get from school: Self-directed, project-based learning is the only kind of education that gives economic mobility to black kids. And, most importantly, hundreds of studies show that more funding to schools does not help black kids, but more funding for black families and black communities does.

So we should have school teachers educate only the most difficult children: if a parent says they need help, the schools should give help. But otherwise, we should provide families with enough money to ensure one parent stays home with children, and we should turn schools into social services organizations for anyone who needs them.

This is the sort of radical thinking that is going to change the plight of black people in the US. If black lives matter then institutions aimed to prop up white children must be defunded by local, city governments or national government. And each of us needs to do our part to make that happen.

Recently someone in my writing class hired a lawyer to tell me she wants a refund for the class. The lawyer sent an email to me requesting $25,000 in damages for his client. I sent this email in response:

Dear Sir.

I don’t give refunds for the class. I do not say anywhere that I give refunds.

It’s not against the law for me to have a student who didn’t like the class. This is a 12-month class. There is no law that says Lucy has to receive everything in the first two months. I have not broken any laws.

There are 85 people in the course and Lucy is the only person complaining. I wonder why that is? Do you have any ideas? Read more

I stopped talking with my mom a few years ago. She might not have noticed at first. My brothers have all cut her off at times as well. But my mom is pragmatic. She knows she and my dad were terrible parents. She apologizes and by all accounts, she is a much more enjoyable person to be around when she is not raising kids. Read more

Recently a flurry of articles about academic overachievers appeared in scientific journals. Specifically, the research found that people with a diagnosis of Autism were more frequently high achievers in school. And people diagnosed with ADHD were more frequently low achievers in school.

A paper published last week in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders explains the reason for the gap in achievement between kids with ADHD and kids with Aspergers: overachievement in written communication was common among kids with Aspergers and kids with ADHD. But kids with Aspergers were overachievers in reading comprehension and math, whereas kids with ADHD were underachievers in those areas. Read more

I learned about bouncing back from the diet industry. This is not surprising. All the best research about personal development comes from the diet industry because there’s so much money to be made if you can figure out how to help people lose weight. One study that I have never forgotten is that if you are trying to lose weight and you have a bad eating day, you’ll be fine if you just tell yourself “I’m good at my diet” and you go back to eating well the next day. Read more

Each night before I go to sleep, I lay in bed torturing myself with the day’s news. I know we are not supposed to do that, but there are very few vices I can fully engage in when we have five people living in a 1000-square-foot apartment. Screen-time news right before bed is a vice that takes very little space and does not involve the bathroom. Read more