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October 16, 2010


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An interesting read (WaPo review:

Bottom line: The book will be more interesting in years to come as invaluable documentation of a slice in time when thoughtful blacks are seeking cognitive adjustment to the paradigm-busting implications of Obama’s election.

Kathy J, Washington Gardener Mag

There are many, many poor white kids in MoCo -- they are just falling thru the cracks and as you say about other low-income races are "invisible" to the overclass. They may not be enrolled in school at all. They certainly are not doing afterschool activities.
Agree though that race is not the separation here, but education and income is to a great extent.


It's the same in all the overclass suburbs - go to Greenwich, Pepper Pike, Palo Alto or Cherry Hills and you'll see the same thing. Multiculturalism and globalization have had an impact. The wealth/education divisions have been growing - look at income inequality stats. The wealthy and educated are accepted, the poor and uneducated are not.

All the vaunted tracking of students, grouped with their academic equals, means kids from the bad neighborhoods - with bad elementary schools - are in the slow classes in middle schools. They're further, tracked, subdivided and isolated in high school. Going to different classes solidifies the divisions, protecting the well-off from the struggling better than any boarding school.


Very interesting posting. My kids go to Oakland Terrace Elementary School just east of Connecticut Avenue in the dreaded "red zone" (where the county spends more per student to make up for the preponderance and needs of low SES families). Their school is excellent and very multicultural, and at this point it seems that my kids don't notice race or class. They talk about skin color in the same way they talk about whether someone has curly hair. As they're only in grades K and 2, it will be interesting to see how things evolve, especially with regard to class. I've noticed that their friends seem to generally be from educated families, as are my friends. Eg, my neighbors on either side are relatively uneducated Salvadoran immigrants -- and generally nice -- but I tend to hang out with the educated white families on the block (There are no educated African American or Latino families in my immediate area w/kids of a similar age). My son is friends with a Haitian American boy a few blocks away whose family is definitely well-educated. In my mind, it's all about class. I deliberately chose this neighborhood and school district because 1) it's diverse, 2) it was the "best" we could afford, 3) it had an excellent school, and 4) I determined that it had a critical mass of educated parents who could be pushy and advocate for themselves if necessary. So far, so good. I enjoy your blog!


Sorry, but I have to disagree with the assertion that kids in the "W" high school clusters in MoCo get exposed to racial differences in any meaningful way at all. Those schools are all over 95% white and Asian. Having a couple of token friends of another race is not the same as existing in an environment where your race (and culture and values) is not the clear majority. That is true diversity, that is the "real world," and these snoburb kids are woefully inexperienced in it. I was so embarrassed to see the way the prep school kids were talking to the servers at the new Chipotle in Kensington: assuming they spoke no English, being so rude to them, talking so far DOWN to them. It was really gross. I don't think these kids are racially enlightened, I think they are racially ignorant and pretty darn racist if you scratch beneath the surface. And really, is there anything better about being a "classist" a-hole than being a racist a-hole? They are cut from the same cloth.


Private school kids - can't speak for them. But here are some stats for 3 "W Schools"(public high schools in Montgomery County):

Walter Johnson:
62.8% white, 10.3% black, 13.0% Hispanic, 13.7% Asian, .2% Amer. Indian

75.5% white, 3.6% black, 7.3% Hispanic, 13.6% Asian, .1% Amer. Indian

65.3% white, 7.0% black, 5.7% Hispanic, 21.9% Asian, .1% Amer. Indian

There is some diversity there. And I find it interesting that you so blithely lump Asians in with whites. A generation ago, that wouldn't have been possible. That's advancement, right? Anyway, thought you guys would like to see the demographics. Doesn't show their incomes, though!


Please - let's not put ourselves on par with Greenwich... or Westchester for that matter. Not on your life.


Charlene, you can get a sense of income disparaties by looking at how many kids in each school are on FARMS -- Free and Reduced Price Meals. I'd be willing to be that it differs significantly between the downcounty consortium -- Blair, Wheaton, Einstein, Northwood, and Kennedy HSs -- and the W schools. There may also be measures for each school regarding the number or percent of ESOL students, which I'm sure is also lower in Snoburbia than in my part of Silver Spring.

I agree that Greenwich is out of our league. We don't have enough hedge funds around here.


"[E]xisting in an environment where your race (and culture and values) is not the clear majority. That is true diversity, that is the "real world."

Actually, your definition of the real world is inaccurate. Racially, the U.S. has a White American majority. Minorities compose just over one-third of the population (102.5 million in 2007), with Hispanic and Latino Americans and black Americans as the largest minority groups, by ethnicity and race, respectively. In the United States at least, the real world's clear racial majority is white.


Re. earrings: I believe the accurate term for the earrings you're thinking of are "bamboo earrings." See lyrics to "Around the Way Girl" by L.L. Cool J:

"I want a girl with extensions in her hair, bamboo earrings, at least a pair. A Fendi bag and a bad attitude, that's all I need to get me in a good mood."


Sure, I'll pile on. Maverick's comment: "That is true diversity, that is the "real world," and these snoburb kids are woefully inexperienced in it."

Diversity as defined and used as you did is complete unmitigated crap. Your using it as a cudgel to bash the racist, sexist neanderthal snoburbia kids who
stand in the way of your "crusade". So apparently, until every group of people in every possible human condition is equally represented by every available color or
chromosome combination, we have failed. This is just a dumb idea - and often a last
resort of the professional victimologists who arose from the civil rights movement. You are the one who needs racial "enlightenment".

Another Snoburbia reports on race

We live in an Arlington Snoburbia. My daughter attended a primarily white middle school with many middle to upper class friends. She now attends a primarily black/Hispanic high school with primarily middle to lower economic status friends. In both places race was an issue... comments flowed freely by her white classmates about the size of her "black" body features or the "ghetto" school she was going to attend for high school. Or the soccer parent who told her that her shorts, basketball length by all standards of today's players, were called "ghetto" shorts in the school in which she taught... especially nice when it was said in front of her white soccer teammates. While she was not snubbed by them directly, she was often put where they wanted her... in a different group than themselves. When attending the Virginia Junior Academy of Science competition one year there were very few students who were Black. And teachers were no different... one even insisting that she must have spent a lot of time at the beach because she was darker skinned than her friends. Race is an issue everywhere ... it just isn't talked about in such a way that you can hear it unless you are on the receiving end that is.

Anyone who thinks that class is the issue isn't really paying attention.


However, if he were very poor and undereducated, people might wonder (not aloud) how he discovered jazz.

Where in the world do you people think jazz was born?


Hi Lydia,

I landed here via The Washington Post profile of you and of this site!

I must say Snoburbia is -- timely. Matters of class are timeless, come to think of it.

And this post on Race was very interesting to me. We live in the Montgomery County neighborhood formally known as McKenney Hills but informally known as the subdivision where S'Spring, Kensington, and Wheaton Converge. When I first moved here four years ago, a neighbor said, "Oh, we claim Kensington as our city, it just sounds nicer." While another neighbor uses Wheaton. I prefer Silver Spring, tho I have learned since that that is supposedly "downmarket," tho not as beat-down as saying you live in Wheaton, ha hah haha.

Okay, but here is a Comment about your Class trumps Race among These Kids Today theory. There is little evidence that those relaxed attitudes about race continue as individuals get older. And among the affluent and well-educated, the self-selection that is baked into their Experience from high school on -- starting with college choice -- only reinforces beliefs and values that one acquires in childhood. This is to say that Snoburban kids may or may not grow into truly enlightened adults. For enlightenment happens when you realize that neither money or skin-color are what binds us. Or what SHOULD bind us. Honestly, the major obstacle on this front is the very American propensity for material acquisitions. And as we have learned in the past decade, having MORE STUFF (an affliction by the way that grips poor people, middle-class strivers, and those who have seemingly "made it") usually leads to spiritual isolation.

Sorry for getting all Hippie Dippy on you but that is my theory. My two children are learning that the life of the mind, and the care and feeding of their souls are just as important as having alot of STUFF. For the record, I am an African-American divorcee, who has lived in quintessential Snoburbias from coast to coast. My goal is to raise children who move through the world confidently, with compassion, toughness (not mean-ness), and open minds and hearts. Oh, and with good humor. These things to us are worth more than any Mercedes filled with premium gasoline, or a Bethesda address.....

Still, I am glad to have found your site. I will check back periodically. Meantime, best of luck -- I think you are brave to have four kids, even WITH a husband as back up.


I am Pakistani-American, who grew up in McLean, VA, went to a super-elite college in America, and am now doing my masters in another super-elite school in Europe.

I totally agree with you! 100%. In affluent suburbs of DC, race is never an issue. If you are South Asian American, no one ever looks at you differently or wonders about your achievements. We are affluent but diverse.

Unfortunately, it is a thing that rest of the country fails to understand.

Ben Round

If snoburban Maryland is like snoburban Philadelphia, I would caution against adults reading too much into teen usage of terms like "ghetto." To many of them it is simply a fashion affinity, like
Emo, punk, preppy, Goth, and hippie. Kids of any race can and do adopt any of those affinities - and may switch again next year.

And even if the mixing is of token quantities and all the same class, it's a way better way for kids to grow up than the legal segregation when I went to school down South.

Dani Williams

Lydia, I too am glad I found your blog in todays WASHPOST. I am even more thrilled with Amy's (see post above.) I too am a college educated(master's to be precise)professional who is married to a professional working on hisn PhD. And I am Black. What I find most telling is that even in your fun chiding of your neighbors, you clearly miss the point that race still has a lot to do with EVERYTHING-even those of us who do well. While you profess that you and your neighbor's kids have friends of "all races" and only speak of race in the same way they do hair color, for instance. I wonder how many TRUE FRIENDS of other races (house guests,movies, dinner, shopping together) THE PARENTS of these kids have. And like Amy said in her post: I too wonder how enlightened they will be as young adults. I would offer that elitism itself makes it easier to not see race as a factor in most things-even among those who consider themselves "enlightened." Lydia, not to worry, I'm not only being tough on you as I struggle with some of the same issues with my young daughter (having lots of material things and a good private school we could afford in our very nice neighborhood.) Where I come from what you call Snob-Burbia, we call "Keepig Up With the Jones." (It is a trap for many) I encourage our daughter to have some friends of other races who may not be from as affluent families as are most of her black friends. (But in our neighborhood that is difficult!) Above all, I teach her to have a spiritual center and strive to be the best(not better than some whites or other Blacks...just THE BEST PERIOD!)Like her, many of her classmates in the car line are dropped off in large BMW, Lexus and Mercedes SUV's. (They all think they are getting one as soon as they turn 16!)The caveat: We live in the beautiful area of Mitchellville in Prince Georges County. It has highest percentage of affluent, educated Blacks in the nation! Try researching our area for an interesting perspective on Snob-Burbia!


I went to a private high school very near Bethesda, and noticed this too. Our school was lauded for it's "diversity," but I'd argue that having a skintone rainbow of upper-middle-class private school kids isn't actually the same as "diversity."

Will Shetterly

Good luck talking about class in the US. Too often, when you suggest class is more important than race, people assume you think race is irrelevant. I went googling once to find anyone who actually believed we're living in a post-racial society. I only found one: Bill Bennett. And he was speaking on the eve of Obama's election; he might've rethought that the next day.

We have a capitalist economic system. At its most basic, that means money trumps everything else.

An article from 2007 that may be relevant: Blacks See Growing Values Gap Between Poor and Middle Class - Pew Social Demographic Trends


Snob urbia is all over the world, my cousin, a latino lawyer married a german man with a Phd and they live in a high class neighborhood in Munich. She always told me that they choose that place so she and her kid would feel less discriminated. But even when ppl would not look at her different it was hard for her to make german friends. After 14 years she has an small group of good german friends that are either socialist or not rich. So, even if you are not openly discriminated, is still very hard to be part of an upper class neighborhood in a more intimate way than just soccer games and kids parties


I am impressed by your post and the comments on race in snoburbia. Although their are probably many correlations in the Maryland/ DC area between race and class I think snoburbia has evolved to include those from all backgrounds. I grew up in what I thought was a middle class neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland. My neighborhood was so “middle class” that all of the neighborhood children attended private schools, me included. I clearly recall the neighborhood talk when a kid had to drive their parents car when they first got their license. After all what new driver drives a two year old car? I didn’t realize my world was different until college when I was exposed to students from around the country who had never been to Martha’s Vineyard, never gone skiing, and (brace yourself) had never heard of a Vera Bradley. I say this all tongue in cheek because as an adult I still have my snobby moments and my husband (a wonderful South Georgia military man) pokes fun at his bourgeoisie wife. To bring this full circle, as a African American female who grew up in snoburbia it was/ is a lifestyle and way of thinking. My color just made my Oakley shades look even better.

Another Snoburbia reports on race

Dear Ben,
The term "ghetto" was used by an adult making a comment about the clothing of a biracial adolescent in front of her white friends and their parents. It was most definitely a comment about race and it most definitely was perceived by my child as a comment on her race and where she looked like she came from. Unfortunately, it was made to her, about her rather than the group... who were also wearing such shorts. Consciously or not this adult sent a message about race. And, perhaps, it would best to teach kids that the term "ghetto" is negative and, perhaps, overused.


This is a really interesting blog. I live in a less affluent part of MoCo, but often hang out in a more affluent part of MoCo. I attended high school at Blair with it's coveted magnet program. I remember during my time there we dealt a lot with racial/cultural/class differences between people in school. I also remember that we had an oddly united front in dealing with the wealthier schools. I was privileged enough to attend classes with other kids from across the spectrum. Sometimes with magnet kids, sometimes not, sometimes both. All through the range we called it "Whiteman" High School with joking derision, and mused about how many of them drove their newly bought cars to school. As pointed out the name isn't entirely fair. However if you compare Blair's racial makeup to Whitman's, the difference is pretty startling.

I also remember a game while I was still attending between Blair and Whitman which caused a major ruckus. During the midst of the game the Whitman crowd began chanting the N-word like it was any other sports jeer. A fight broke out between coaches, it was a bad scene. The thing I will say is that it seems like race isn't an issue inside the upper class but becomes one between classes. In my experience those of upper class families aren't necessarily openly racist to those of their social class. However when there is a class difference assumptions of poverty AND racial issues come into play.

Good blog and good post!


Apropos of absolutely nothing, perhaps these earrings would be more illustrative:


Hey Karmela, its

"I want a girl with extensions in her hair, bamboo earrings, at least TWO pair. . . " In the live version, he says "TEN pair . . ."

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