More

My white parents adopted African-American twins when I was young. This is our story.

I'm white. My adopted brothers are black. This is how their world differs from mine.

In 1969, my white parents adopted twin, 4-month-old African-American and Mexican-American baby boys.

I was born a year later, making us three children under 3 years old. And, boy, were we a handful.

This was just two years after the landmark United States Supreme Court decision invalidating laws prohibiting interracial marriage, and just five short years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, forbid racial discrimination in schools, and allowed people of color to drink from the same water fountains as white people.


Many people over the years have asked me what it was like growing up with my African-American brothers as my “real” brothers.

The boring truth is that this was my “normal.” My brothers and I bickered and fought like the close-in-age siblings we were.

Image courtesy of Elena Kennedy.

Our circle of friends included other families who were also interracial. I didn’t even notice at the time that I was the only white kid in my first grade class until years later when I saw my class picture, and there I was  — the only white kid, with a white teacher.

We lived in a pretty progressive town, Montclair, New Jersey. That year, the school system was creating “magnet schools” to help integrate the schools. So while I walked to our neighborhood school, my brothers were bused to the area of town that was primarily white to desegregate and improve integration.

I didn’t really like that my big brothers and I wouldn’t be at the same school. I think, to this day, there are acquaintances of ours that know us separately and don’t put it together that we’re brothers and sister even though we have the same last name.

Although we were being raised in the same family, their experiences were separate and different from mine.

Out in the world, they were being treated differently than I was.

When we went to the same middle school, I remember us walking home together and noticing that one of my brothers said someone was looking at us funny. Billy and Toby would always notice who was looking at us funny, and I never ever noticed.

One time, my brother Billy was chased in a store for taking a shirt off the rack and running back to us to say this was the shirt he wanted our mother to buy. The store clerk followed in hot pursuit, thinking a theft was in progress.

Later, when Billy could drive, I remember him getting stopped by police on the parkway driving home, and the police looked over to the passenger side where my white dad sat and asked if everything was all right. My dad replied: “Yes, my son is just driving us home. Was he speeding?” We knew this was an odd traffic stop because, no, he wasn’t speeding.

Last year, I asked my brother to do me a huge favor and drive my son from New Jersey where we were visiting family to our home in Dayton, Ohio, (where I live now) — a 10-hour drive.

In order to drive my son home, we agreed it would be best to write and sign a letter saying my brother had permission to drive my car and was taking my son home to Ohio and include a picture of my driver’s license in case there was any trouble.

It made all of us feel better to know he had that note. It also made us miserable to write it. And we held our breath the whole way they drove to Ohio and until Billy returned safely back to NYC.

Image courtesy of Elena Kennedy.

My brothers go into the world as African-American men, and the world treats them as African-American men  —  with implicit bias, prejudice, and fear. I go into the world a white woman and I am afforded the benefit of the doubt and second chances.

When I went away to college in Ohio, people were surprised to learn that I grew up with African-American brothers.

“What was it like?” The question stumped me. It was just my normal. I didn’t know anything different to compare it to. Yet, I do know that it’s not everyone’s normal, and in some circumstances, people don’t interact with people of color in their daily lives.

Under different circumstances, I might have been a white person who didn’t regularly interact with people of color. I could have had an understanding of race taken from books, biased news reports, from TV or movies. Instead, I have agonized over my brothers “driving while black,” and I worry for their lives when they come to visit me.

I want to make the world safer and more fair for my family and yours.

Maybe now you’ll speak up when you witness something that seems unjust.

Maybe now you will see an uncomfortable interaction involving a person of color and you’ll think, "What if that were my brother or sister?"

What can you do? You can talk to your friends and neighbors about how you feel about injustices in the world. You can join a racial justice group in your town, your school, or your place of worship.

I am sharing this because I hope my story starts just one constructive conversation today that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

True

The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

Keep Reading Show less
Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

Screenshot taken from a live video of the trial.

A recent (and fairly insensitive) sketch from “Saturday Night Live” said it best regarding the widespread fixation many have on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial:

“It’s not the most pertinent story of the moment, but with all the problems in the world, isn’t it nice to have a news story we can all collectively watch and say ‘glad it ain't me?’”

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

Schadenfreude, celebrity fascination and previously inaccessible information now being at our fingertips is a potent combination in this trial, making amateur lawyers and psychologists of all who feel compelled to unleash their hot takes. And though the right to converse and speculate exists, is it always in our best interests to do so? Especially when it means potentially spreading misinformation, or at the cost of empathy and compassion?

Keep Reading Show less

Prior to baby formula, breastfeeding was the norm, but that doesn't mean it always worked.

As if the past handful of years weren't challenging enough, the U.S. is currently dealing with a baby formula crisis.

Due to a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, labor shortages and inflation, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with formula demand and retailers are rationing supplies. As a result, families that rely on formula are scrambling to ensure that their babies get the food they need.

Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, "Why don't you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?"

That might seem logical, unless you understand how breastfeeding works and know a bit about infant mortality throughout human history.

Keep Reading Show less