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September 16, 2009 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-09-16

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One moment, decades of progress

f I reduce my mother and sis-
ter's college experiences to
just a few sentences, they have
similar profiles. Both were admit-
ted into elite private universities
(Harvard for my sister, Williams
College for my mother), both were
(or are) serious students and both
are people ofcolor.
But there are a few important
differences. For one, my mother is
black and my sister, like myself, is
biracial. For another, my mother
went to college in the '70s, while
my sister is a freshman this year. I
didn't realize how profound a dif-
ference her race would make in
Isabel's college experience until
my family dropped her off in Cam-
bridge last month.
In the past, my parents seldom
talked about their experiences of
race relations during college. But
when they did, they mentioned how
the divides were very strict. If you
were black and didn't hang around
with the few other black kids a lot,
you were criticized. My sister and I
find this difficult to relate to, since
in neither of our academic careers
had we ever experienced anything
like it and we had both gone to very
diverse schools.
The first change we noticed was

when my parents and I were wait-
ing to meet my sister and drop her
things off at her dorm room. Dur-
ing prefrosh move-in, parents must
drive to the Harvard football sta-
dium and wait in a long line of cars
leading to the Yard, where each
student's family gets thirty min-
utes to unload outside the dorms.
We were in our cars, waiting in the
line, looking around and making
abrupt observations about the other
families ("Looks like a lot of people
from New Jersey," I noted from the
license plates in line) when I saw
that behind our rental minivan was
a silver Mercedes and two black
adults in front.
"Mom, look, we're not the only
black family here," I said. "Where?"
my mom asked, and looked around
until she saw where I was pointing.
It may have been the 21st century,
but there was a part of all of us that
hadn't expected to see black and
minority students at Harvard. We-
were excited.
The column of vehicles was mov-
ing every few minutes, so there
were a lot of people getting out and
strolling around. My mom got out of
the car and played it cool. The lady
in the other car took the bait, exit-
ing her car after a few moments.

I stayed inside, behind the tinted she and the other mother had gravi-
windows, watching my mother and tated toward each other among the
the other mother talking. My mom many parents around them:because
did a lot of nodding, some smiling, they both were women of color who
a little laughing and then more nod- went to top colleges in a time when
ding. They talked about their Har- such places were a lot less accepting
of that. Their children knew this
was big, but not quite as much as
they did.
W ith a daughter After about 10 minutes, the line
of cars started to move and the con-
at Harvard, my versation was over. My mom got
back in. I was behind the wheel by
trailblazing then, with my dad reading in the
back, and we started to move for-
black mother is ward. The lady, my mom recounted,
was Lauren, a lawyer and mother of
validated. four from New Jersey. She was tak-
ing her daughter to college for the
first time, too.
My mom recalled the whole
vard-bound children, where they conversation with a laid-back
were from (the other mother was contentment. She had wondered
a Harvard alum), how long it had whether this moment would hap-
taken them to get there, how many pen when she was in college, when
kids they had, what their kids want- she graduated, and when her kids
ed to study and how proud they were born: would she end up back
were of their families. It was all the at an Ivy League school talking to
usual parental jabber, but under it other black parents the way she
all, my mom later explained, she just had? Now she knew the answer
felt a tacit acknowledgement that was yes. She had expected to meet
this was a big moment and they had a lot of middle-class or upper-mid-.
come a long way. That's why, in what dle-class parents, and maybe even
seemed almost like cosmic fashion, some famous Harvard parents, but

not as many black Harvard par-
ents. This assumption came more
from the traditional stereotype of
what kind of family sends a child
to Harvard. My mom had gone to
the elite Williams College, after all.
She was one of less than two dozen
black students there, and by my
mom's senior year, a large fraction
of them had dropped out. So it was
reassuring for my mother, who had
grown up in the more modest ech-
elons of America, to know she had
worked hard and gotten into a top-
notch school - and that years later,
she wouldn't need scholarships or
financial aid to send her children to
this kind of school.
When we were getting ready
to leave Isabel to catch our flight
back to Chicago, my mom cried and
hugged us both. Most of her tears
came from sending her last child
off to college, but I suspect a few
of them were also for being able to
send her daughter to a school she
had wished she could go to. She
knew that the divisiveness that had
colored her college years wouldn't
loom as large for her daughter, if it
even made an appearance at all.
-Daniel Strauss is a staff
writer for The Statement.

ANNARBOR.COM Wickram said.
From page 5B She said she would preferAnnAr-
bor.com to function like other news-
paper sites, such as those of The
Dearing said that the print edi- New York Times, The Washington
tion of AnnArbor.com provides Post and the Los Angeles Times. For
news access to readers who aren't Wickram,AnnArbor.comsblog-like
online-savvy. For those readers character detracts from her expec-
who were accustomed to reading tations for quality journalism.
their news in print, but had access other residents, like Ypsilanti
to the Internet and decided to try resident Lois Plantefaber, refuse to
out AnnArbor.com, the site offers read their news online.
an online tutorial video that dem- "I still have not gotten to read-
onstrates to new users how to use ing newspapers online - I don't like
the site. readingTheNewYork Timesonline,
But some of the most common and I don't like reading AnnArbor.
reader-submitted feedback on com online," Plantefaber said. "I
AnnArbor.com is that the Web site's go there periodically because it has
layout is confusing. local news."
Ann Arbor resident Christine Plantefaber explained that she
Wickram said that she prefers a thinks the print edition of AnnAr-
more traditional layout to read her bor.com doesn't seem to deliver
news online. the hard-hitting news stories that
"The way they designed it, it's she had been accustomed to read-
confusing to navigate the differ- ing daily in The Ann Arbor News,
ent sections and cross-referencing which may be a reaction to AnnAr-
doesn't really exist on the site," bor.com's ability to print only two

days a week.
But based on the circulation of.
the print edition of AnnArbor.com,
which, according to Dearing, stands
at about 40,000 copies daily and
50,000 on Sundays - at or a little bit
above what used to be normal for
The Ann Arbor News - the com-
munity seems to be responding well
to print.
As a forum for the community
and by the community, AnnArbor.
com has vowed to evolve based on
already on the agenda, according to
Dearing, is to add clear bylines to
stories on the homepage so read-
ers can more easily differentiate
between professional journalists
and bloggers.
With all of the community
involvement and even nationalhype
regarding the launch of AnnArbor.
com, many wonder where it stands
in terms of site traffic, to get a sense

for the site's popularity.
AnnArbor.com won't publicly
release numbers representing
site traffic, such as the number of
unique viewers on an hourly and
daily basis and how long readers
stay on the site, until the company
has had more time to determine
traffic trends with another month
or so. Dearing said that so far the
site activity he has monitored is
promising for the e-newspaper, and
that site traffic numbers have far
exceeded original expectations.
Although promising numbers
can suggest an optimistic future,
the community will determine the
fate of AnnArbor.com, and Dearing
knows this.
"What we're seeing is that peo-
ple are coming to the site, people
are using the site, we're hearing
encouragement from people," Dear-
ingsaid. "ButI thinkthat people are
still judging us and still waiting to
see us really prove ourselves, and I
understand that."

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