Tagged Race and Ethnicity

In a Role Reversal, Asian-Americans Aim to Protect Their Parents From Hate

Earlier in the pandemic, Ellen Lee offered to bring her parents groceries, to protect them from catching the coronavirus while shopping. They refused. Now when she asks, it’s because she’s worried they might get assaulted when they’re out running errands.

“They want to be independent,” said Ms. Lee, 44, a Chinese-American journalist and mother of three. “The way they see it, they are the parent, and their job is to take care of me.”

Her parents, who are in their mid-70s, told her they’re taking precautions, going to satellite Chinatowns in San Francisco rather than the main one and popping in and out to fetch delicacies such as egg tarts and roast duck. “They’ll turn it around on me, and say, ‘You’re the one who should be scared,’” she said, after they pointed out that her neighborhood might be unsafe because an elderly Chinese-American man was robbed and killed a few miles away from her Oakland hills home.

In the wake of recent shootings in Atlanta by a white gunman that left eight dead — six of them of Korean or Chinese descent — and surging attacks against Asian-Americans across the country, families have grappled with how to talk to their elders about protecting themselves.

Of the more than 18 million Asian-Americans in the United States, roughly three-quarters of adults were born abroad, according to William H. Frey, a demographer who is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and professor at the University of Michigan who analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. That’s because of both historical immigration policy and recent immigration trends.

Generational and cultural gaps make conversations about race and violence difficult with their American-born and raised children and grandchildren, who may not fluently speak the native language of their elders.

Be candid and direct, said Anni Chung, chief executive of Self-Help for the Elderly, a service provider in San Francisco’s Chinatown. “You can say: ‘I worry about you. If you have to run to the bank, will you let me know? I’ll take time off. If you go to the grocery, let me accompany you,’” she said. “Offer to help. They might not accept it, but the care and attention will please them.”

Ms. Chi, of Fremont, Calif., talked with her relatives about the recent rise in attacks on Asian-Americans.Carolyn Fong for The New York Times
Ms. Yi and the others imagined a victim’s final worry: “‘What about my babies? Who will take care of them?’”Carolyn Fong for The New York Times

Asian-American adults may be looking out for their elders while struggling with the recent attacks themselves. Emily Chi, a 31-year-old Korean-American in Fremont, Calif., noted how quickly Asian-Americans came together after the Atlanta shootings, with online fund-raising, critical historical analysis and other efforts. But she’s also grieving. She planned to attend a vigil in Oakland focused on the victims. “Let’s make sure they aren’t erased,” Ms. Chi said. “Let’s not forget them, before we skip to action.”

In her conversations with her grandmother, aunt and mother, they all imagined a victim’s final worry: “‘What about my babies? Who will take care of them?’” Ms. Chi said. “We see their names, we see their faces, and you feel like it could be you,” she said of the Asian-Americans killed. “It could be your grandmother.”

Small-business owners may have already suffered vandalism and other crimes firsthand. “Honor the first generation’s experience with violence — if you ignore it, the conversation will end,” said June Lee, executive director of the Korean Community Center of the East Bay.

But at the same time, give them context for understanding hate crimes, especially if they’ve come from racially homogeneous countries, she said. Explain the systemic issues behind what might seem like a random killing. “They also need to know their rights,” she said. “Asians are known for their silences, but silence isn’t a virtue in this situation. We have to speak up.”

Such conversations are a fraught yet tender rite of passage that reverses the traditional parent-child dynamic; parents who want to remain independent may brush off their children’s concerns for their safety.

If the elders are hierarchical in their thinking, and prefer advice from someone they consider their equal or in a position of higher standing, adult children could consider enlisting their doctor, pastor, or someone else in the community they trust, said Lia Huynh, a San Jose therapist who specializes in Asian-American issues.

“Asian-Americans have always been told, ‘Don’t make waves; don’t speak up,’” she explained. “Now things are coming to the surface, the feelings we had to stuff down for many years. People can feel alone, wondering, ‘Am I the only one dealing with this?’”

But they are not alone. About 42 percent of Asian-Americans say that Asian people in this country face “a lot” of discrimination, according to a recent Pew survey conducted before the killings in Atlanta.

The organization Stop AAPI Hate — which began tracking violence and harassment against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States in 2020 — received reports of 3,292 cases that year; in 2021, until the Atlanta shootings, 503 cases had been reported.

“We see their names, we see their faces, and you feel like it could be you,” Ms. Chi said of the Asian-Americans killed. “It could be your grandmother.”
“We see their names, we see their faces, and you feel like it could be you,” Ms. Chi said of the Asian-Americans killed. “It could be your grandmother.”Carolyn Fong for The New York Times

In November, while out walking her dog early one morning in Oakland, Calif., Deanne Chen, a 31-year-old Taiwanese-American, was mugged at gunpoint. Her assailant, who was Black, bear-hugged her from behind, shoved her to the ground, and flashed his gun at her. After she handed over her phone, he and his accomplice drove off. In the weeks that followed, the Oakland Police Department noted an uptick in violent robberies, with suspects targeting Asian and Latino communities.

When she told her parents what happened, she emphasized that she did not want Black people to be racially profiled. “I had to explain that one bad individual doesn’t represent an entire community. I asked them, ‘Holistically, what do you think creates crime?’” Ms. Chen said.

With the latest — and continuing — attacks against Asian-Americans, she added, “I don’t want this to be an opportunity for Blacks and Asians to get pitted against each other.”

She’s shared practical safety tips with her parents, telling them to remain vigilant when getting in and out of their car or unloading groceries. They’ll mention how their friends say they should watch out for each other and how their friends say they’re scared to go shopping. Her parents “don’t talk about their feelings, but will talk about everyone else’s. Which is a very Asian thing,” Ms. Chen said. “I know the fear is there.”

And yet, her mother also surprised her, calling the police in Atlanta “incompetent” and stating that their “racial bias” made everything worse for the victims. “I didn’t realize my mom was so woke!” Ms. Chen said with a laugh.

However, her parents would never admit that she might have influenced their opinion. “The trick is making them think it was their idea,” she said. “If you have the conversation in small, different ways, over time they start to read the news through the lens you provide them, and they come to their own conclusion.”

Ask a lot of questions, suggests Ener Chiu, of the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation. “Ask them how they feel, and what we can do to help them feel safe.”

As more seniors get vaccinated, he encourages them to gather in groups again, whether in parks, recreation centers, or elsewhere, and in time, become “actively engaged” in their community. “People won’t feel so isolated, carrying their pepper spray, ‘you against the world,’” Mr. Chiu said.

Recent events have galvanized some older Asian-Americans such as Ms. Lee’s parents, the ones who insisted on going grocery shopping.

Usually, her father texts her photos of wild turkeys and deer wandering the streets of their retirement community in the suburbs east of San Francisco. The other day, though, he sent a picture from a neighborhood protest, with her mother holding up a cardboard sign, “Stop Asian Hate.”

“Up until now, my parents have not felt heard except in ethnic media,” Ms. Lee said. “They complain, but they wonder who is listening. Now there’s a groundswell of energy, not only from other Asian-Americans, but allies, too.”

Vanessa Hua is the author of “Deceit and Other Possibilities,” “A River of Stars” and the forthcoming novel “Forbidden City.”

Talking to Children About Anti-Asian Bias

“I’m not sure Asian-American families can avoid ‘the talk’ any longer,” one expert said.

My daughter was the only kid who didn’t have a separate Korean name when we signed her up for Korean classes three years ago. The blank space on the registration form looked at me, as if to say we’d forgotten something as parents.

When she was born in the United States in 2012, my spouse and I, who are both Asian-American, never thought to give her a name like Seohyun or Haeun. Though Korean was the language I spoke growing up in New York with my immigrant parents, I’ve forgotten many of the words I used to know. Yet hearing it spoken still conjures the sense of home.

I had no ambition to teach my daughter Korean, but when she turned 5, she insisted she wanted to learn so she could talk to her halmoni — her grandmother. So I conceded.

On Seollal, the Korean New Year, she and the other girls in her class sported traditional silk outfits. The floor-length skirts flapped to show their patterned leggings underneath, in a church basement that smelled of steamed rice and sesame oil.

It was familiar and reassuring.

Still, I kept asking my daughter when she would try soccer, which seemed to me the “American thing” to do on a Saturday morning. It was held at the same time as Korean School. I kept thinking about the parents on the sidelines and wondered what we were missing.

In March 2020, my daughter was in first grade, eager to talk about a school assignment that asked her to write about a problem and how to be a part of solving it. Her response was that women should be paid the same as men. I felt proud.

But then she continued. A classmate had written that coronavirus was a problem and that keeping Chinese people out of the country was the solution.

Later the other kids asked: “Are you Chinese?”

In the summer of 2020, the Stop A.A.P.I. Hate Youth Campaign interviewed 990 Asian-American young adults across the United States about their experiences during the pandemic, and found that one in four had reported experiencing racism in some way.

Kids said that they had been bullied, physically harassed and had racial slurs shouted at them. Dr. Juliana Chen, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Mass General Brigham, said that kids who experience this kind of racism may stop going to school or speaking up in class. They might start acting out, feel unwell, have trouble sleeping or struggle with depression.

Tiffany Yip, a developmental psychologist at Fordham University, said that a child who hears a racist remark hears this: “You don’t belong. You’re other. You’re different.”

We are one of only a handful of Asian-American families in our school, which prides itself on teaching about inclusion. Earlier in the year, our daughter came home talking about Malala Yousafzai and Ruby Bridges, asking where we would have been sitting on the bus in times of segregation. Now I questioned what racial biases our progressive community might have held.

When schools closed and our country locked down, my family took daily walks, chalked the sidewalks, looked for teddy bears in windows, and tried to smile from behind our masks. But when a girl in our neighborhood pointed to my daughter and said they could not play together because of the “China virus,” I wept.

During lockdown, we devoured books with Asian-American heroines by authors like Grace Lin and Min Jin Lee. I marveled: “That’s my family’s story.” While my 7-year-old jumped from the couch, she said of one of the characters: “She likes to eat dduk guk” — Korean rice cake soup — “like me!”

Next we read about Li Keng Wong, a 7-year-old who was detained at the Angel Island immigration station in San Francisco in 1933. We admired the poems carved into the barracks there, wrote poems of our own, and taped them to our bedroom walls. But I struggled to find the words to explain to my daughter why Chinese-Americans were forced to live in these barracks; why they were separated from their families.

She doesn’t yet know about the 84-year old man who died two days after being shoved to the sidewalk in Chinatown in San Francisco last month, or about the six Asian-American women killed by a shooter in Atlanta this week. While attacks on Asian people aren’t always charged as hate crimes, many Asians feel an increasing sense of vulnerability.

And I found the answer to my daughter’s question about where we would sit on the bus. Asian-Americans have our own, less well-known place in the civil rights story. Asians also lived in the South in the 1950s, and we, too, would have been told to move to the back of the bus. In the 1860s, there were segregated schools for Chinese-American children, for families that looked like ours.

I am finding the language to share this with my daughter. I will tell her about these injustices and I will remind her of Fred Korematsu, an American civil rights activist who objected to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and others who in their bravery spoke their minds when they disagreed with what our systems condoned.

Kids begin to develop a sense of racial identity by age 3 or 4, Dr. Yip said. Once they enter grade school, they hear about race and racism from peers and the media they consume.

“By not talking about race” and what they’re hearing, Dr. Yip said, “you run the risk of intensifying stereotypes” which can then lead to racism.

As parents we fear these hard conversations, but Dr. Chen said that it’s important to ask certain questions: What have you heard? What do you worry about? What’s school like for you and your friends? Has anything like this ever happened to you or someone you know?

“We think we’re protecting our kids, by not talking about racist incidents” Dr. Chen added. “But actually not talking about it is not helping.” Building their racial identity is what helps them feel safe.

When a racist incident happens to your child, Dr. Chen said, don’t jump into solving the problem. First ask how they feel and listen. Tell them you don’t know all the answers, but you can find solutions together.

Dr. Yip also suggested telling teachers and school leaders about the incident. Parents can help start a conversation with all the kids involved. Ask: “Can you help me understand why you did this? How do you think it makes others feel?”

Make sure that the children who were targeted know it wasn’t their fault, Dr. Chen added. Role play what you will do if it happens again and tell them, Mom or Dad or your caregivers will keep you safe.

“Black families always have the racial talk,” Dr. Yip said. But many Asian-American families in past generations did not. They emphasized assimilating to what they thought was a post-racial state. Now with the surge in harassment and hate incidents, she said: “I’m not sure Asian-American families can avoid ‘the talk’ any longer.” It’s a talk that must include listening to, and coming to understand, all groups who face racial bias.

In hindsight, I now see that Korean School has done more for my family than soccer ever could. It’s a place where my daughter sees she isn’t alone. There are families who look like ours and wrestle with the same questions, about what we will forget, and what we will keep from our immigrant families’ pasts. Being in a community equips us to be resilient in the face of the racism that we will inevitably encounter. I resolved to teach my daughter about the parts of myself that I, for too long, believed were meant to be forgotten. This will anchor her in who she is becoming, as an American.

It’s been a year since the pandemic began. Ideas around race and identity have shifted in a seismic way. My daughter has gone from sewing masks for her bears, to carrying Black Lives Matter posters and voting with me in a presidential election. Her memories of these historic events will take shape over time.

But for now, she is 8. She is learning to do cartwheels and is making dioramas and writing short stories. When she grows up, she says she wants to be a writer. She’s decided already on a character for her first book. Her name will be Minjee.

Here’s what parents can do to help:

  • Read books, watch movies and consume media with racially diverse characters. Read with your children or talk with them about what they’re reading.

  • Be proactive in bringing up conversations about race with your kids. Ask them what they are hearing and experiencing.

  • Kids will hear what’s happening in the news. Discuss it with them in an age-appropriate way.

  • Role play what to do when you see a racist incident. Talk to your kids if a racist incident happens to your child or to someone in your community.

  • Read this parenting guide for parents of Asian-American teens: How are you and your children talking about racism?

  • Share these resources from the M.G.H. Center for Cross-Cultural Student Emotional Wellness with your kids.

  • Explore additional resources for talking about race with younger children such as Embrace Race and PBS Kids for Parents.

Sources: Juliana Chen, child and adolescent psychiatrist, Mass General Brigham; Josephine Kim, faculty, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Tiffany Yip, developmental psychologist, Fordham University

Heidi Shin is a journalist and a public radio and podcast producer. Follow her on Twitter @byheidishin and Instagram @shinherrie3

Even in Poorer Neighborhoods, the Wealthy Are Lining Up for Vaccines

Even in Poorer Neighborhoods, the Wealthy Are Lining Up for Vaccines

Officials acknowledge that the coveted shots are disproportionately going to white people and that planners’ efforts to course-correct are having limited effect.

Rose Woodside, 93, left, and her daughter, Adora Lee, 70 talking a nurse at a pre-vaccine screening in Washington, D.C. They obtained appointments after the city began giving priority to people in neighborhoods hit hardest by the virus.
Rose Woodside, 93, left, and her daughter, Adora Lee, 70 talking a nurse at a pre-vaccine screening in Washington, D.C. They obtained appointments after the city began giving priority to people in neighborhoods hit hardest by the virus.Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times
  • Feb. 2, 2021, 5:00 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON — As soon as this city began offering Covid vaccines to residents 65 and older, George Jones, whose nonprofit agency runs a medical clinic, noticed something striking.

“Suddenly our clinic was full of white people,” said Mr. Jones, the head of Bread for the City, which provides services to the poor. “We’d never had that before. We serve people who are disproportionately African-American.”

Similar scenarios are unfolding around the country as states expand eligibility for the shots. Although low-income communities of color have been hit hardest by Covid-19, health officials in many cities say that people from wealthier, largely white neighborhoods have been flooding vaccination appointment systems and taking an outsized share of the limited supply.

People in underserved neighborhoods have been tripped up by a confluence of obstacles, including registration phone lines and websites that can take hours to navigate, and lack of transportation or time off from jobs to get to appointments. But also, skepticism about the shots continues to be pronounced in Black and Latino communities, depressing sign-up rates.

Early vaccination data is incomplete, but it points to the divide. In the first weeks of the rollout, 12 percent of people inoculated in Philadelphia have been Black, in a city whose population is 44 percent Black. In Miami-Dade County, just about seven percent of the vaccine recipients have been Black, even though Black residents comprise nearly 17 percent of the population and are dying from Covid-19 at a rate that is more than 60 percent higher than that of white people. In data released last weekend for New York City, white people had received nearly half of the doses, while Black and Latino residents were starkly underrepresented based on their share of the population.

And in Washington, 40 percent of the nearly 7,000 appointments initially made available to people 65 and older were taken by residents of its wealthiest and whitest ward, which is in the city’s upper northwest section and has had only five percent of its Covid deaths.

We want people regardless of their race and geography to be vaccinated, but I think the priority should be getting it to the people who are contracting Covid at the highest rates and dying from it,” said Kenyan McDuffie, a member of the City Council whose district is two-thirds Black and Latino.

Alarmed, many cities are trying to rectify inequities. Baltimore will offer the shot in housing complexes for the elderly, going door-to-door.

“The key with the mobile approach is you can get a lot of hard-hit folks at the same time — if we just get enough supply to do that,” said the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Letitia Dzirasa.

Officials in Wake County, N.C., which includes Raleigh, are first attempting to reach people 75 and over who live in nine ZIP codes that have had the highest rates of Covid. “We weren’t going to prioritize those who simply had the fastest internet service or best cell provider and got through fastest and first,” said Stacy Beard, a county spokeswoman.

Fixing the problem is tricky, however. Officials fear that singling out neighborhoods for priority access could invite lawsuits alleging race preference. To a large extent, the ability of localities to address inequities depends on how much control they have over their own vaccine allocations and whether their political leadership aligns with that of supervising county or state authorities.

The experiences of Dallas and the District of Columbia, for example, have resulted in very different outcomes. Dallas County, predominantly Democratic, has been thwarted by the state health department, under the aegis of a Republican governor, which quashed the county’s plan to give vaccines to certain minority neighborhoods first. But Washington was able to quickly course-correct.

D.C. pivots to reach the more vulnerable

Adora Lee, a resident of Washington’s Ward 8, receiving the vaccine. “People who live in Ward 3 and people who live in Ward 8, they’ve got different social realities,” she said. “This is no joke for us.”
Adora Lee, a resident of Washington’s Ward 8, receiving the vaccine. “People who live in Ward 3 and people who live in Ward 8, they’ve got different social realities,” she said. “This is no joke for us.”Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

A few days after its 65-and-older population became eligible for the vaccine on Jan. 11, Mr. McDuffie, the city councilman in the District of Columbia, flagged the issue of wealthier residents getting disproportionate access to the vaccine in a call with city officials. Overall, 74 percent of deaths and 48 percent of cases in Washington have been among Black residents, who make up 46 percent of the population; 11 percent of deaths and 25 percent of cases have been among white residents, who make up nearly the other half of the district.

By the end of that week, the city announced a new policy — offering the first day of new appointments to people in ZIP codes with the highest rates of infection and death from the virus. Under the new system, more appointments would be added a day later and people from other neighborhoods could sign up then. The city also quadrupled the number of workers helping people make appointments through its call center, to 200.

But email lists in wealthier neighborhoods lit up in protest.

“It looked like maybe Ward 3 was being punished for being more computer savvy,” said Mary Cheh, a city council member representing the ward, where houses in neighborhoods near American University or the Potomac River routinely sell for more than $2 million. “I was inundated with emails from people who were just really angry about it.”

The day after the policy change, Ms. Cheh wrote to her constituents, citing the data about the shots and saying that “our anxiety to get one right away should not cloud the pursuit of equitable vaccine distribution.”

“When I sent out that note, people said, ‘Oh thank you, I understand now,’” Ms. Cheh said. Still, she called the city’s new system “a very blunt instrument,” and said it would be fairer to base need on an individual’s risk, not an entire neighborhood’s.

Adora Iris Lee, 70, lives in one of Washington’s priority neighborhoods — Congress Heights, part of Ward 8 in the district’s southern area, which is heavily Black and has had the highest number of Covid deaths. She said she still had spent more than three hours on hold, but obtained appointments for herself and her mother, who is 93.

“Being able to call at a time that was designated for us — I felt good about that,” Ms. Lee said. “People who live in Ward 3 and people who live in Ward 8, they’ve got different social realities. This is no joke for us.”

Still, Mr. Jones, of Bread for the City, said that even with the new system, hardly any of the people coming for shots at his clinic were its regular patients. The clinic started reaching out to its regulars and, with the city’s permission, reserved all its first doses for them and for clients of other social service organizations last week.

“It’s not just a case of preserving the spots for people,” Mr. Jones said. “Somehow we’ve got to persuade them to use those spots.”

Showdown in Dallas

A vaccine line at Fair Park in Dallas last month.Credit…Pool photo by Smiley N.

Dallas County’s rollout plans for the vaccine included an inoculation hub in a neighborhood that is largely African-American and Latino. But when the sign-up website went live, the link speedily circulated throughout white, wealthier districts in North Dallas.

“Instead of getting a diverse sampling, we had a stampede of people who were younger and healthier than those who had initially gotten the links,” said Judge Clayton Jenkins, head of the Dallas County Commissioners Court. Observers told commissioners that those in line were overwhelmingly white.

The county commissioners quietly contacted Black and Latino faith leaders in South Dallas, who encouraged constituents to show up for shots without appointments, as long as they offered proof that they were 75 and older.

That plan worked for a day or so.

“Then city council people in North Dallas got calls and the mayor said it would be open to everyone over 75,” Judge Jenkins said. “That led again to a huge stampede of people from the suburbs who had reliable cars.”

John Wiley Price, a Dallas commissioner who represents voters in South Dallas, argued that the 27,000 people who had signed up from 11 vulnerable ZIP codes should be given the vaccine ahead of other neighborhoods. Already, more than 300,000 Dallas County residents had registered; The county was only receiving a weekly allocation of about 9,000 doses.

Covid-19 Vaccines ›

Answers to Your Vaccine Questions

Currently more than 150 million people — almost half the population — are eligible to be vaccinated. But each state makes the final decision about who goes first. The nation’s 21 million health care workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities were the first to qualify. In mid-January, federal officials urged all states to open up eligibility to everyone 65 and older and to adults of any age with medical conditions that put them at high risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from Covid-19. Adults in the general population are at the back of the line. If federal and state health officials can clear up bottlenecks in vaccine distribution, everyone 16 and older will become eligible as early as this spring or early summer. The vaccine hasn’t been approved in children, although studies are underway. It may be months before a vaccine is available for anyone under the age of 16. Go to your state health website for up-to-date information on vaccination policies in your area

You should not have to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine, although you will be asked for insurance information. If you don’t have insurance, you should still be given the vaccine at no charge. Congress passed legislation this spring that bars insurers from applying any cost sharing, such as a co-payment or deductible. It layered on additional protections barring pharmacies, doctors and hospitals from billing patients, including those who are uninsured. Even so, health experts do worry that patients might stumble into loopholes that leave them vulnerable to surprise bills. This could happen to those who are charged a doctor visit fee along with their vaccine, or Americans who have certain types of health coverage that do not fall under the new rules. If you get your vaccine from a doctor’s office or urgent care clinic, talk to them about potential hidden charges. To be sure you won’t get a surprise bill, the best bet is to get your vaccine at a health department vaccination site or a local pharmacy once the shots become more widely available.

Probably not. The answer depends on a number of factors, including the supply in your area at the time you’re vaccinated. Check your state health department website for more information about the vaccines available in your state. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the only two vaccines currently approved, although a third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is on the way.

That is to be determined. It’s possible that Covid-19 vaccinations will become an annual event, just like the flu shot. Or it may be that the benefits of the vaccine last longer than a year. We have to wait to see how durable the protection from the vaccines is. To determine this, researchers are going to be tracking vaccinated people to look for “breakthrough cases” — those people who get sick with Covid-19 despite vaccination. That is a sign of weakening protection and will give researchers clues about how long the vaccine lasts. They will also be monitoring levels of antibodies and T cells in the blood of vaccinated people to determine whether and when a booster shot might be needed. It’s conceivable that people may need boosters every few months, once a year or only every few years. It’s just a matter of waiting for the data.

Employers do have the right to compel their workers to be vaccinated once a vaccine is formally approved. Many hospital systems, for example, require annual flu shots. But employees can seek exemptions based on medical reasons or religious beliefs. In such cases, employers are supposed to provide a “reasonable accommodation” — with a coronavirus vaccine, for example, a worker might be allowed to work if they wear a mask, or to work from home.

If you have other questions about the coronavirus vaccine, please read our full F.A.Q.

But when Judge Jenkins inquired whether geographical priority would pass muster, state officials said that if Dallas proceeded with the plan, the state would withhold the county’s supply.

According to a state health department spokesman, inoculation hubs had to agree to vaccinate any Texan, because not every county has a site. If Dallas excluded residents by geography, providers would be in breach of contract.

Dallas backed down.

Persuading people to get the shot

A mass Covid vaccination event in Denver on Saturday.Credit…Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Even successful efforts to target impoverished neighborhoods are running into another problem. Many Black and Latino people are hesitant to get the vaccine.

In Colorado, 1 of 16 white residents have received the vaccine so far, compared to 1 of 50 Latinos, who comprise 20 percent of the state’s population, according to a Colorado Springs newspaper, The Gazette.

“There are a lot of Chicanos who are like, ‘I want to wait, I have questions, I need some answers,’ ” said Julie Gonzales, a state senator from Denver, who starts her workday sending condolences to constituents, many of them Latino, who have lost family members to the virus.

Public health experts and outreach campaigns need to be attuned to cultural nuances that differ among Latino generations, Ms. Gonzales said. “It’s one thing to speak to an old-school Chicano who has been here for generations versus someone who is concerned about whether I.C.E. can find out their personal information if they try to get the vaccine,” she said, referring to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

A tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, conducted just before President Biden took office, found that while the share of people overall who wanted to get the vaccine as soon as possible has increased since December, 43 percent of Black adults and 37 percent of Hispanic adults said they wanted to “wait and see how it’s working,” compared with 26 percent of white adults.

When initial statistics in Philadelphia showed that only 12 percent of vaccine recipients were Black, city health officials recoiled. Blindsided by an inexperienced start-up company whose vaccination strategies faltered, health officials also attributed the low numbers to hesitation among city nursing home workers and hospital aides, many of whom are Black.

Now that the city has expanded eligibility, it is hopeful that the distribution will become more equitable. The vaccine is going to residents with high-risk medical conditions, as well as first responders, people who work in public transit and those in retail and food service jobs who come into contact with the public.

“Many of these are people who are paid less, tend to be from communities of color and are at high risk because they are exposed to lots of people,” said James Garrow, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Mixed success as outreach expands

Some cities now provide vaccination pop-up clinics in Black churches. Denver is directing doses to community clinics that serve the underinsured.

Dallas has a new bilingual call center. Still, according to the latest county data, white people, who make up 28.5 percent of Dallas’s population, have gotten 62.6 percent of its vaccine doses.

Even in Washington, D.C., frustrations linger despite clear progress. Last week, city officials announced results of their tweaked distribution plan: Just over half of shots have now gone to residents of neighborhoods given priority, up from 29.6 percent during the first week that older people were vaccinated.

Yet, during a daylong session last week, council members heard pained accounts from people like Janett Gasaway, 77, who still has not been able to get vaccine appointments for herself or her 89-year-old husband. Despite multiple calls — she on their landline, he on his cellphone — on the days that appointments are offered to the most vulnerable ZIP codes, they haven’t succeeded. On Thursday, 1,745 appointments were gone in 18 minutes.

“It is not working,” she said.

Talking to Kids About Racial Violence


The daughter of Diamond Reynolds, whose boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot by the police in Minnesota last week.

The daughter of Diamond Reynolds, whose boyfriend, Philando Castile, was shot by the police in Minnesota last week.Credit Eric Miller/Reuters

My husband is white; as an Armenian man, I am a hue darker, and our 10-year-old daughter is biracial, with brown skin. We’ve tried to shield her from some of the recent painful news stories related to bias. But after last week’s killings of two African-American men by police officers, and then the killings of five Dallas police officers, we need to be ready to talk with her about the terrors of prejudice.

I reached out to some experts who help teenagers and parents make sense of violent racism, and work toward something better. Here is some of the wisdom they offered:

  1. Don’t avoid it. “As moms and dads, we can be scared to talk about something so raw, and ugly,” said Tamara Buckley, an associate professor of counseling and psychology at Hunter College and the co-author of “The Color Bind: Talking (and Not Talking) About Race at Work.” “But not bringing it up doesn’t protect your family. It only puts the conversation in others’ hands.”
  2. All kids — not just minorities — need to talk. “Every youth needs to be nurtured to practice empathy, not judgment,” said Renée Watson, who has worked with high school students struggling to process the Black Lives Matter movement and whose work includes the young adult novel “This Side of Home.” “It’s time for us to get out of our own worlds. To be critical thinkers, young people must be exposed to news about every demographic.”
  3. It’s O.K. not to have answers. “Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable in front of your child,” said Ms. Watson. “Even as a teacher I don’t know everything. It’s not about me trying to get students to think how I do, but to create room for dialogue.”
  4. Ask open-ended questions. Buckley suggested asking: “How are you feeling about what you’re seeing in the news? What are your friends saying? What bothers you the most?”
  5. Notice changes in behavior. “Your son might answer, ‘It’s not bothering me,’” Dr. Buckley said. “Some young people may be in such shock they can’t take in the news. Keep a close eye on them. Do they seem stressed? Isolated? Watch for changes in demeanor, which can suggest they’re upset even if they’re telling you otherwise.”
  6. Turn to art. “If things get tense, music, painting, and dance are great ways to express yourself,” said Ms. Watson, who was a 2013 NAACP Image Award nominee. She said multicultural publishers like Lee & Low “know we need a mix of ‘mirror’ books — in which we see ourselves reflected — and ‘window’ books — in which we see others.” She offered a checklist to measure the diversity in your home library: Do all the titles featuring black characters focus only on slavery? Do all the ones about Latinos emphasize immigration? Are all your L.G.B.T.Q. books coming out stories? If so, you could consider books that examine broader issues in these communities.
  7. Educate yourself about social justice. “Know the difference between equality and equity,” said Shuber Naranjo, a diversity educator at Bank Street School for Children in Manhattan. “It’s like in a Broadway theater, there are the same number of stalls in the women’s and men’s bathrooms. It’s equal, but not equitable, because you see a longer line for women.”
  8. Don’t go it alone. Racism is a tough subject for one person to tackle. “Seek out other dads and moms,” Dr. Buckley suggested, “and find ways to support one another. I’ve noticed all this racial violence has been a real point of connection between black and white parents.”

How do you talk to your kids about race, policing and violence? Join six New York Times journalists for a live chat at 2 p.m. Eastern time, Tuesday, July 12.


A Poster Family for Diversity


Credit Giselle Potter

Clicking through the new website of the private school my three children attend, I landed on a close-up photo of my oldest child’s smiling face. I shouldn’t have felt jarred, but I did. The picture, accompanied by a short interview highlighting everything she loves about the school, had been posted on the admissions page. Born in India and adopted by my husband and me, who are white, she’s a minority student at a majority white school that’s striving to become more diverse. Her interview was one of many, but for me, her mother, it generated a spotlight’s heat.

My older daughter is 14. Our son and younger daughter, siblings born in Ethiopia, are 13 and 12. When the children were small, strangers often mistook them for adorable, boisterous triplets. The kids’ friendly smiles and our family’s multicultural makeup ensured that we attracted attention everywhere we went. More than once, professional photographers stopped us on the street to propose a photo shoot. Religious strangers felt compelled to thank my husband and me for “loving the Lord and loving orphans.” Shoppers in the grocery store flagged me down to gush, “Your family is beautiful.”

The idea of us made a lot of people feel good, hopeful even, but I quickly grasped that we could also be perceived by some as a kind of entertaining novelty. For years, another mom at our elementary school referred to me, in public and private, as “Angelina Jolie.” I did my best to shield the kids, and myself, from the attention, so that our family could be just that — a family, not a symbol of post-racial equality or evidence of a supposed Hollywood trend, a trend some critics characterized as white celebrities adopting black babies as fashion accessories.

By virtue of their white parents, transracial adoptees often move in majority white spaces, inadvertently providing diversity for others. Although I’ve always tried to place my kids in environments where they encounter peers and role models of the same race, they inevitably end up in the minority at school, at camps, in enrichment classes and on sports teams.

Early on I noticed how schools and kids’ programs love to feature children of color in their marketing materials to highlight their commitment to diversity, just as the big corporations do. As much as I wanted pictures of my three to entice more minority children to join my children in their activities, I couldn’t bring myself to sign the blanket photo releases that came with every registration packet. I didn’t want my children being used to promote an ideal of diversity that didn’t exist in reality.

But complications arose. Without my release, my son’s fourth-grade teacher couldn’t post group pictures to her classroom website, an inconvenience that didn’t seem fair to her. Then a photo of my daughter, taken without my knowledge at our town’s Christmas parade, popped up in a catalog for the recreation department. A picture of all three kids appeared in a brochure for their favorite summer camp, even though I’d specified no photos. Complaining after the fact felt petty and pointless when I couldn’t identify any tangible harm done.

And then there was the problem of my work as a writer. Frequently when I published a parenting essay, the editor would want to run a family photo. For years I resisted, putting myself at a distinct disadvantage in the world of mommy blogs and image-centric parenting websites. As the kids matured, I discussed the pros and cons of every photo request with the whole family. The kids voted to publish the photo every time, and sometimes I did. Although I’ve been careful to never include their real names in my work to guard their privacy, there’s no question that using my children’s photos on occasion has helped my professional career, a reality I’m conflicted about, even if my kids are not.

And so I gave up. These days I sign all the photo releases for schools and camps and teams because this is the way the world works. All I can do as a parent is maintain an ongoing dialogue with my children about the hidden messages in advertising, about the ways minorities are portrayed in the media, and about why I feel so protective of their likenesses.

Sometimes, when I find a picture of my daughter playing bass guitar on the girls’ rock camp Facebook page or discover a video of my son’s deft footwork being tweeted by his soccer club, I’m thrilled. To see my kids promoted for what they do, not what they look like, feels good. Finding them featured in a camp catalog or a school brochure doing nothing but looking “ethnic” alongside their white peers brings up less positive emotions.

The photo and interview on the school admissions page felt like a “do nothing” at first, even though the school does a good job representing students of all backgrounds in its marketing as a whole. The post also felt like an intrusion. I’d never signed a release for an interview, and nobody had warned me it was coming, let alone sought my permission.

“Did you know they were going to put this interview with you on the website?” I asked my daughter.

“Of course,” she said.

“And you’re O.K. with it?”


She’d made her decision. With my children approaching adulthood in the age of the selfie, they’ll be making decisions daily about how to use and distribute their own images, with their status as members of minority groups an added twist. As a mom who shies away from the camera, I hope I’ve given them the tools to figure it out.

Sharon Van Epps is a freelance writer.


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A-Fib Is More Dangerous for Blacks Than Whites


Atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, an irregular heartbeat associated with various types of cardiovascular problems, is more dangerous, and more often fatal, in black people than in whites, a new study has found.

Researchers studied 15,080 people, average age 54, of whom 3,831 were black. They followed them for an average of 20 years. The findings were published in JAMA Cardiology.

The rate of atrial fibrillation was higher among whites than blacks, and both white and black people with A-fib had increased risks of stroke, heart failure and coronary heart disease. Those with A-fib also had an increased risk of dying from these and other causes.

But even though rates of A-fib were higher in whites than blacks, the actual effect of A-fib led to much higher rates of disease in blacks than in whites. Compared with white people with A-fib, blacks with the condition were more than twice as likely to have a stroke, 42 percent more likely to go into heart failure, 76 percent more likely to have coronary heart disease, and nearly twice as likely to die prematurely.

The reason for the finding is not clear, but the study had no data on treatment or treatment disparities, which might partly explain the outcomes.

Still, the lead author, Dr. Jared W. Magnani, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said that “the extensive health-related differences here are likely fueled by racial disparities. We need a preventive health system for all Americans, and we don’t have that in place.”

Living With Cancer: Being Erased


Credit iStock

While I recover from a fractured pelvis, I have time to remember the day after a less ruinous fall two years ago. No bones broken then, but I quickly developed a shiner and then slowly an insight into the color of cancer.

A bluish-purple humdinger bloomed beneath my right eye, spreading its tendrils down my cheek. Leaning over or a deep breath hurt. With too many cancer-related hospitalizations, I was determined to avoid the emergency room. Learn from the pain, I instructed myself, and prepare your dish for the potluck: The word tugged me back to the 1970s.

I had slipped on the way to the bathroom at 4 a.m. A thud — my body hitting the hardwood floor — woke my husband who immediately supplied towels to sop up the bleeding from my forehead. Was that fall a consequence of the targeted medication of a clinical trial, a sliver of Ambien, the neuropathy in my feet from past chemotherapies, or all the above?

Still, food needed to be prepared for the gathering I was supposed to attend that evening of retired faculty women from Indiana University. The company would consist of compatriots on all sorts of committees over the course of some 40 years. We were the ones who arrived at the university to integrate the mostly male faculty. Many of these people had consoled me when cancer treatments necessitated my retirement.

I had already blanched the asparagus and started a dressing. As I assembled the dish, I rehearsed parries to the concerned comments my black eye was sure to elicit. “You should see the other guy,” I would tell my former colleagues. Or “It’s a counter-irritant; it takes my mind off cancer.”

After finding my way to the dinner, I joined some 25 variously frail and hale retired faculty women who had brought quiches and salads for a communal meal. They were filling their plates and sitting in small groups.

With only a spasm of pain, I settled on a couch next to a friend and started to launch into one of my usual shticks: that she should participate in the oral history project to document her work establishing gender studies and African-American studies at our university. But she interrupted me.

“Do you realize that I am the first black woman to retire here since I don’t know many years ago?”

Then we were off and running down memory lane: recalling E.S., a pioneering scholar, and C.M., a brilliant teacher. Careers blindsided, people lost to us. What had happened to them? Gone without a trace. Did their isolation in a Midwestern college town depress them and had their depression further isolated them? Were they pigeonholed as representative African-Americans and erased as unique human beings? Although the administration tried various retention strategies, somehow the environment remained inhospitable.

“It’s still a hard place to be a black woman,” my friend sighed.

While driving home I had worried and wondered why E.S. and C.M. did not, could not navigate their way to that evening’s event and whether newly hired African-American women would find the path as hazardous now as it had been then. At my front door, though, a more self-regarding thought stopped me in my tracks.

How odd that not one person had mentioned my black eye! “You look great,” one and all had volubly exclaimed at my coming and then at my going.

Did my friends assume that oncologists routinely punch their patients in the face? Or were they exhibiting some version of Midwestern niceness? Or are cancer patients invisible as individuals, visible only as cancer patients who must be perpetually bolstered and boosted? My colleagues had seen Susan with cancer, not Susan who arrived in their midst with a black eye.

“People who have had cancer are treated as a kind of minority group,” the prostate cancer survivor Michael Korda believes, “as if the most important thing about them is their cancer, much as many people still treat African-Americans, as if the only thing that matters about them (or to them) is that they are black.”

During the following months, I mulled over the hyper-visibility of categorized cancer patients and African-Americans, on one hand, and their invisibility as individuals, on the other.

Only this year, since it takes me quite a bit of muddling to learn anything, did Michael Korda’s insight make me realize how very few cancer memoirs we have from people of color, despite exceptions like those produced by Audre Lorde and Robin Roberts.

The experiences of minorities remain strikingly marginal in cancer literature: not only in memoirs but also in blogs, diaries, essays, stories, plays, novels, movies and television series. Since these genres generally express the perspectives of individuals, we are impoverished in our understanding when what we read and see excludes the reactions of patients from various economic and ethnic and racial backgrounds. Mortality statistics and drug advertisements notwithstanding, the cancer patients many of us imagine — as individuals enmeshed in their own stories – are white.

In the prize-winning book “Citizen: An American Lyric,” Claudia Rankine describes taking a few steps back when someone with multiple degrees said to her, “I didn’t know black women could get cancer.”


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