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.

Auros Harman

San Bruno

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(20) comments

Alexander Melendrez

Right on Auros!

Michael B. Reiner, PhD

Your comments, Mr. Harmon, are right on target. One of the biggest factors in individual success is the zip code into which their parents live upon the child's birth, from no effort on the child's part. Wealth-building through inheritance can be justified, as parents often work hard to leave for their progeny, but those born with a silver-spoon in their mouth (or even a nutritious meal) have an advantage that makes the playing field inequitable. Can that be denied?

Aristocracy passed down wealth and power via genetics; while our system provides more opportunity to rise above your rank, it's hard with a hand tied behind your back.

-- Michael B. Reiner, PhD, is a higher education consultant and educational researcher. Previously, he was a professor of psychology and college administrator at City University of New York (CUNY), Miami Dade College, the Riverside Community College District, and the San Mateo County Community College District. mreiner32205@gmail.com LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-b-reiner-phd-14057551/


I always find the "equality of opportunity" rhetoric kind of shocking. The scale of redistribution that it would take to truly equalize opportunity is _breathtaking_ -- are we going to start giving poor kids the private tutors, and summer programs, that rich kids get? Just aiming to put some kind _floor_ under "outcomes" -- making sure that everyone has adequate shelter and food, and that _every_ school is a good school -- is already ambitious!


Taffy....in Jesus words "'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her' (John 8:7).


Yes, that would also apply.

Tommy Tee

Excellent, Auros. You are spot on.

Cindy Cornell

Great response, Auros. Refusing to acknowledge one's privilege is a major rock in the road to understanding and equity.

Christopher Conway

and a major rock for those who want racial division and the redistribution of wealth


Chris, well said. Thank you!

Christopher Conway

You are more than welcome to constantly ponder your privilege Auros, the rest of us will go on with our daily lives working and taking care of our families, and completely disregard the divisive message you are trying to give. We are all priviledged to be living in the greatest country in the world with the freedom and opportunity we are all given. One day, people like these social justice warriors in our area will be happy with what they do have and not worry what their neighbors have. The commandments sent by God to Moses tells us not to covet thy neighbors property. I think liberals need to read that one commandment and ponder that for a while.


I see that that you quote the bible to Auros. I wonder if you have considered doing the same for your President. Here are a few commandments that come to mind that are very fitting along with the one you just used.

Thou shall not commit adultery. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not give false testimony. Knowing your ardent adoration of President Trump, you may be interested in the commandment about Thou shall not worship idols.

Christopher Conway

Taffy, I thought this was about San Mateo? I know your natural reaction is to pivot to our president but you really should stay on topic once in awhile.


Hello Tafthdyd

Chris has no worries. Old family money wealth has rendered his thoughts about Trump into disillusionment..


Just another thing of many I am happy about, - not being borne rich! Don't know what may have happened to me if I were, - considering so many negative examples!

Christopher Conway

Who are you calling Old?


My complaint is that many complacent upper-middle-class people don't recognize that wealth _was_ redistributed back in the '50s and '60s. Wealth was being expropriated from the poor, while we funded subsidized loans, subsidized education, and subsidized infrastructure, to the benefit of white middle class families. Today's upper-middle-class got their good educations and inherited real estate, because of policies in the past that were _obviously_, and _intentionally_ racial in character. I have friends in Mountain View whose home still had a racial covenant technically written into its deed, when they bought it in the early '00s.

If we played a game of monopoly, and I spent the first fifty turns giving you only $150 for passing Go, while I got $300; and every now and then I just re-possessed one of your properties with no justification, or destroyed one of your houses; and I sent you to jail arbitrarily for no reason every tenth turn or so; and then, at turn fifty, I was like, "OK, now we get to start playing by the same rules, so that's fair, right?" ... you would probably not consider that fair!

"Reparations" actually based on race are a complicated and thorny topic. It is a fair critique to say that right now, it is better to be a rich black person than a poor white person. My own belief is that policies that are economically targeted, like the "universal basic wealth" concept, are probably a better approach than directly-racial policies.


But the idea that "racism is over" is just willfully obtuse. We still clearly have a great deal of racially-tinged policies in force, and the accrued effects of past policies that were _intended_ to benefit whites over others will be with us for generations unless we make a conscious choice to level the playing field -- ideally by giving a hand up to those who were shut out in the past, not by trying to shove down those who already benefitted.

Michael B. Reiner, PhD

Your points are well taken. It is clear you are a serious thinker. I especially appreciate people who don't hide behind pseudonyms and anonymity when commenting online. As for your game of Monopoly, I think women have the same legitimate gripe; how long has that inequity existed?

Dirk van Ulden

Just another can of worms. What it really boils down to is that one needs to grab the opportunity for betterment once it has been provided. The issue seems to be that those who are now complaining and blame all on racism and under-privileged opportunities were never educated sufficiently to recognize opportunities. For those who are successful, they saw the light and went on. Education takes many forms and most comes from home. No matter how much coddling we do, there will always be folks who fall through the cracks. As an immigrant myself, I know what it takes: surround yourself with good influences and dump anyone who is cynical and a defeatist. .


@mreiner the non San Mateo resident.

Michael B. Reiner, PhD

Dear JustMike650... you commented "@mreiner the non San Mateo resident." What is your point? I was a resident until I needed to return to Florida to care for my elderly father during the pandemic given his illness. Nevertheless, I care about the community, even from a distance. Unlike you, I don't hide behind pseudonyms; I speak my mind and welcome criticism of my point of view. If you wish to discuss some issue, you have my @mreiner.

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