Natasha Warikoo at Harvard Book Store

presenting

Race at the Top:
Asian Americans and Whites in
Pursuit of the American Dream in Suburban Schools

Date

May
16
Monday
May 16, 2022
7:00 PM ET

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes NATASHA WARIKOO—Professor of Sociology at Tufts University—for a discussion of her new book Race at the Top: Asian Americans and Whites in Pursuit of the American Dream in Suburban Schools.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to re-introduce in-person programming this season, beginning this March. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About Race to the Top

The American suburb conjures an image of picturesque privilege: manicured lawns, quiet streets, and—most important to parents—high-quality schools. These elite enclaves are also historically white, allowing many white Americans to safeguard their privileges by using public schools to help their children enter top colleges. That’s changing, however, as Asian American professionals increasingly move into wealthy suburban areas to give their kids that same leg up for their college applications and future careers.

As Natasha Warikoo shows in Race at the Top, white and Asian parents alike will do anything to help their children get to the top of the achievement pile. She takes us into the affluent suburban East Coast school she calls “Woodcrest High,” with a student body about one-half white and one-third Asian American. As increasing numbers of Woodcrest’s Asian American students earn star-pupil status, many whites feel displaced from the top of the academic hierarchy, and their frustrations grow. To maintain their children’s edge, some white parents complain to the school that schoolwork has become too rigorous. They also emphasize excellence in extracurriculars like sports and theater, which maintains their children’s advantage.

Warikoo reveals how, even when they are bested, white families in Woodcrest work to change the rules in their favor so they can remain the winners of the meritocracy game. Along the way, Warikoo explores urgent issues of racial and economic inequality that play out in affluent suburban American high schools. Caught in a race for power and privilege at the very top of society, what families in towns like Woodcrest fail to see is that everyone in their race is getting a medal—the children who actually lose are those living beyond their town’s boundaries.

Praise for Race to the Top

“In communities across the country, white and Asian parents argue over whose style of parenting is naturally better. Rather than consider such either/or questions, Warikoo effectively demonstrates that each group is making strategic choices that best advance their own children. As she passionately writes, the real argument should be how to support the children being left behind.” ―Pawan Dhingra, Amherst College

“This powerful book is a significant addition to our understanding of envisioned pathways to success among Asian American immigrant parents and youth in the US, as well as the continued and contested power of whiteness in the current historic moment. Warikoo underscores key ways in which Asian parents benefit from the historically ‘locked in’ system of race exclusion that makes privileged spaces like Woodcrest possible in the first place.” ―Lois Weis, author of Class Warfare: Class, Race and College Admissions in Top-Tier Secondary Schools

“Warikoo’s powerful new book is a must-read for all social scientists of immigration, education, and inequality in the US, as well as for parents who want to do ‘the best for their kids’ while creating an inclusive society. This first-rate analysis will be on course syllabi for years to come.” ―Michèle Lamont, Harvard University

Natasha Warikoo
Natasha Warikoo

Natasha Warikoo

Natasha Warikoo is Professor of Sociology at Tufts University. A former Guggenheim Fellow, Warikoo studies racial and ethnic inequality in education. She is the author of The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities. She is co-chair of Scholars Strategy Network Boston, which aims to connect scholars, policymakers, and community leaders to effect change. Warikoo earned her BSc/BA in mathematics and philosophy at Brown University, and her PhD in sociology at Harvard University.

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