I usually appreciate Ms. Lempert’s columns, but today I am disappointed (“The reckoning: San Mateo then and now” in the Aug. 24 edition). There’s a difference between having benefited from racism, and being a racist. Sue, you benefited from racist policies in the ’50s. What do you want to do about that?
When you moved to San Mateo, the white middle class was subsidized to promote wealth-building. I don’t blame you for doing what made sense for your family. But not everyone got the same deal. That affects how their children and grandchildren start out in life.
People like to say they favor “equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.” But the opportunities you get are determined, to a huge degree, by how well you pick your parents. At this point wealth may matter more than skin color, and interventions to create more economically diverse neighborhoods could be more effective than racially-targeted policies. But we can’t dismantle the legacy of racism unless people are willing to look squarely at how they personally benefited, and say, “No more.”
We need to change school funding — private fundraising from rich parents is a critical element in making some districts “nicer.” We need to end height limits near transit and allow incremental density (e.g. triplexes or fourplexes) where we already have good schools, so more affordable condos and rentals become available.
Sue, I think you’re a good person who wants an equitable society. Reacting defensively when somebody points out that our society was, and is, inequitable, doesn’t help achieve that goal.