Integration Movement Needed During Divisive Election

IMG_0814Elections are inherently divisive, with deep contention portending for November, but ruptured personal relationships aren’t a predestined outcome of differing political views. While the ballot box garners attention, groundwork for unification starts in local communities. This concept was reinforced during an engaging recent discussion with a University of Illinois student working to create a campus integration movement.

Although our discussion focused initially on her pursuit of a leadership certificate at the Urbana-Champaign campus and my role as her coach in that endeavor, it was quickly clear that our pairing has a broader purpose. Whoever created the partnership saw past age and ethnicity differences to focus on what matters most; common interests.

The increasing political segregation of our nation and risks associated with this division inspired my first two novels. Having identified potential solutions to these problems, I had thoughts to share. She also imparted her experiences and insights—highlighting safety, inclusion and opportunity concerns based on obstacles in daily life, and compounded by a “Build the Wall” rally held by one candidate’s supporters outside La Casa cultural house and other venues frequented by Latino/a students.

Several integration movement paths forward that don’t need to wait for November are evident, including many highlighted in Brandeis University Professor Susan Eaton’s book: Integration Nation: Immigrants, Refugees, and America at its Best. [Read more…]

Six Actions We Can Each Take to Build Unity

As a four-year-old in 1968, I sent my mother into sheer panic at a local McDonald’s when I loudly asked the large man next to her why he only washed the inside of his hands. Amidst the race riots of that tumultuous year, the African American gentleman, rather than mistake my naïve question as mean-spirited, kindly explained a fact of life to which I had been only minimally exposed. He was born with dark brown skin.

March forward to 2014. Despite clear progress, some issues facing America remain as they did when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were viciously removed from our leadership landscape. Regardless of one’s view of whether recent widely covered tragedies were driven by race or other factors, few argue that racial bias isn’t an ongoing challenge in our country.

In fact, research has shown that biases, including self-selection preferences, are inherent in the human condition. It has also shown that the vast majority of biases are held and acted on unconsciously. When made aware of biases and encouraged to explicitly consider them in their actions, most people willingly change behavior.

So how can those of us in at least the second half of our lives encourage continued progress toward a color-thoughtful world, even if we aren’t, for various reasons, interested in joining any of the hundreds of post-Ferguson protests or haven’t yet heard about the tragic death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, whose only error appears to have been not understanding how police would react to seeing him with a toy gun.

To move toward a more united America, I believe we need to start within our communities and with ourselves. Following are a few options to consider:

  • Take on a mentoring role. We had the opportunity this summer to invite a young man into our home who needed a safe place to train for college sports, as well as gain access to employment. We were aware of this African American young man through a basketball network from our kid’s AAU basketball days, but hadn’t met him until he showed up at our door with luggage in tow. He learned from us. We learned from him. Seeing the value this type of engagement could bring, I’ve signed on as a volunteer mentor for 360 Youth Services in Naperville, Illinois and have since been paired with a fascinating young man from an immigrant family. Male mentors, I’ve been told, are particularly difficult to attract to these programs.
  • Find Ways to Broaden Your Exposure. Geographically, we are re-segregating in the communities in which we live, a shift detailed in books such as The Big Sort by Bill Bishop. If you find yourself in an all-black, all-Hispanic, all-white or other ethnically concentrated communities, look for ways to broaden your exposure to people from different backgrounds. College, working in Congress and global corporate roles contributed to my education. There are many other ways to access diversity, including volunteer work, shared interest groups and military reserve service.
  • Consider Your Biases. The Golden Rule concept of treating others as we want to be treated is the sole unifying principle that covers every major faith along with those who don’t follow a faith. Consistency is a critical component of Golden Rule behavior. When you act or speak, ask yourself if you would make the same decision or statement if you changed the racial or ethnic makeup of everyone involved. (As an added exercise, try applying this concept to the actions of political leaders. Are your expectations consistent, regardless of party?)
  • Create Integration Sundays. Dr. King often remarked that the most segregated hour of the week is 11 a.m. on Sunday. For those involved in a faith community that may be lacking diverse membership, push to create regular Integration Sundays at your place of worship. Integration Sundays (or Fridays or Saturdays) can include attending each other’s house of worship, sharing a meal and/or participating in common charitable activities with worshippers from another ethnic or racial community. Over time, you’ll get to know people from another background on a deeper, human level.
  • Advocate for Interfaith. For a diverse nation, respect for those of different backgrounds must extend to those of different faiths as well. (Interfaith experiences include secular humanists, atheists and agnostics, so you aren’t required to believe in a higher power to participate.) Interfaith weekend events offer enrichment. When I recently asked Dr. Paul Eppinger, Executive Director of the Arizona InterFaith Movement, about interfaith experiences conducted through his organization, his eyes lit up about the hope that comes from giving people an opportunity to discuss and respect their differences, and their similarities. My wife and I were raised in different faiths with different holy days. Our backgrounds created distinct perspectives on many issues. We’ve bridged those differences now for 26 years.
  • Encourage schools to create integration experiences. While court orders drove integration following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, our movements are now re-segregating our schools. According to a UCLA Project on Civil Rights study, by 2011 the percentage of blacks in majority white schools was less than it was in 1968. Latinos attend even more segregated schools than do blacks and Asians, a challenge exacerbated by growing demands to provide language-segregated instruction for Spanish-speaking immigrants. Repeating the court-ordered busing of the past isn’t necessarily the right answer. Small group projects, through athletics, volunteer activities and extra-curricular activities have proven to be more effective at building cross-racial friendships than simply attending the same school. Can our schools alter schedules to allow for regular, full-day small group work or activities that help to build friendships across communities? Can sports activities include a post-buzzer component?

Whatever your take on what really happened in Ferguson and the need for changes in areas such as mandating police body cameras, our best path to respect, understanding and unity starts with the actions we take. Pick one of the above, or identify your own step forward.

Just don’t wait to start. For Tamir Rice, it’s already too late.

MSNBC’s Matthews Frets On U.S. Language Segregation

At the conclusion of his MSNBC Hardball show tonight, host Chris Matthews recognized the problem of America’s growing language segregation. Speaking in context of Scotland’s secession vote today, Matthews said he worries “occasionally where we are headed in the United States as we see the erosion of English as our agreed upon, common language. Nothing is easier than to break apart over language. Nothing is harder than to unite across the barriers of language.”

Well said, Mr. Matthews. If nothing else, the secession vote in Scotland alerts some among us to the dangers of growing divides by race, ethnicity, class, political party and, yes, by language. My first two books tell a story of where this may take us. For the rest of the Hardball commentary:

Scotland Secession: Warning for U.S.?

Just a few months ago, political pundits treated tomorrow’s secession vote in Scotland as no more than a passing nuisance.

After 307 years together, Scotland and England are so intertwined that most firmly believed Scots would overwhelmingly vote to remain invested in the relationship. Several months ago, polls suggested they were right.

Now, less than 24 hours before voting begins, polls suggest it is just as likely that the Scottish people feel more than a bit aggrieved by perceived and real transgressions. Even if a “no” vote succeeds tomorrow, it comes only after the three major U.K. political parties promised in recent days to step up Scottish authority if voters reject the referendum.

Regardless of the vote’s outcome, there are real lessons to be learned for the United States and other nations, particularly those countries of the increasingly segregating sort. Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, news stories are routinely recognizing the re-segregation of America’s schools. A move toward more integrated living that started in the 1960s began reversing in the 1990s. We are segregating in where we live by race, ethnicity, economic class and, increasingly, language and political party.

At some point, this re-segregation will lead to divide. I believe the point is approaching far faster than most conceive today. Nationalist efforts frequently cloak themselves under the veil of progressive ideology, the idea that target voters are being treated as a separate and unequal underclass able to obtain their fair share of economic and political power only through independence. Do you see any precursors of this movement in today’s political climate?

Peaceful voting and separation is the best secession outcome, but is no means assured as attested [Read more…]

Is U.S. Segregation Leading Us to Being the 2040 Ukraine?

The United States has lessons to learn to avoid being the 2040 Ukraine.

Strong parallels exist between the stories in my first two books and the situation playing out in Ukraine today, so much so that a reader teased me yesterday that I had provided Putin’s playbook. Several parallels are particularly concerning.

Russia seeks to expand its territory to include more ethnic Russians ✔

In my books, Mexico is part of a coalition working to annex Southwest U.S. territory heavily populated by Mexican Americans and Mexicans. (The book is not an anti-immigrant or anti-Mexican rant, so you’ll need to read to understand the full context.)

Speakers of minority Russian language considered “oppressed” ✔

Schools in the Southwest and other parts of the country are increasingly teaching in all-day Spanish, including at the community college level. Not expecting immigrants to learn English is increasingly being advocated as a civil rights issue, when it is instead a path to another layer of societal segregation on top of our existing segregation issues.  Segregated societies are historically ripe for secession and annexation efforts.

Geographic concentration of Russian speakers provides clear starting point for invasion ✔

There are already several U.S. areas where speaking Spanish is critical to finding employment and fluency in English is not necessary. The scope of these territories is expanding.

Several internal political leaders in Crimea welcome invasion ✔

Too many political leaders focus on their own self-interest. For many in Crimea, the opportunities for political and economic gains may be greater under Russia than under Ukraine. It is certainly conceivable that we will have U.S. politicians who think they’ll have more power if the nation divides.

Weakened, indebted economy in Ukraine undermines border protection resolve and economic response options ✔

My distaste for our high and growing debt levels is driven, in part, by my belief that it substantially restricts our crisis response options. Ukraine’s response options are highly restricted by both Russia’s military superiority and Ukraine’s tenuous economic circumstances.

[Read more…]

Does Coca Cola Ad Celebrate Diversity or Segregation?

The Super Bowl failed to generate much conflict, but Coca Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” advertisement is stirring generous gulps of internet angst. At the heart of the controversy is this complex question: 1) Was Coca Cola celebrating diversity by having “America the Beautiful” sung in a multitude of languages or is the iconic brand instead suggesting that we should become a nation segregated by language?

Coca Cola could easily have sent a powerful message of unity by having all of the singers come together at the end of the commercial and sing the last few phrases together in English. Such a commercial would have sent a powerful message that America celebrates diversity, honors multilingual citizens and welcomes immigrants from all over the world to join in becoming part of a nation that shares important common bonds.

I suspect that most but not all of today’s trauma could have been avoided had the producers not worried about offending people who believe it’s good to create new communities segregated by race, religion and language. Suggesting that people who move to the United States should learn English over time is racist to some academic elites and particularly to self-interested politicians who see personal gain in dividing America along language lines. It’s possible that the ad’s producers worried that having everyone sing in English at the end would have been taken as a slap against those in the United States illegally, because legal immigrants are required to learn English as a condition of citizenship. Whatever the reason, Coca Cola missed an opportunity to create a point of unity. If their intent was to generate controversy, they have succeeded.

My first two novels — Melting Point 2040 and Secession 2041 — tell stories of what awaits if we allow ourselves to be re-segregated by race, religion, class or language. We should welcome voices in every language to America. But we should also want to welcome immigrants into a nation where we can speak together and develop a united direction, rather than further segregation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=443Vy3I0gJs#action=share

 

 

Border Security, Immigration Reform and Dennis Michael Lynch

Unless border security issues are resolved, Senate passage could prove the permanent plateau for immigration reform efforts in the 113th Congress. More importantly, if border security is not substantially improved from a current state in which even immigration reform advocates believe at least 11 million undocumented workers are inside U.S. borders and many believe the number is much higher, America faces a largely unconsidered threat to its existence in today’s shape and form. (This challenge serves as the premise to my novels.)

With border security so critical to a much-needed immigration reform process, I spent last night listening to Dennis Michael Lynch, a filmmaker who has invested his own time and money investigating border security and immigration issues far more deeply than 60-second puff pieces typically spewed as investigative reporting on border security. A link to the web site for “They Come to America” and “They Come to America II” is below. I recommend these films for anyone interested in immigration and border security issues. If you haven’t considered why the U.S. government has signs posted in Mandarin Chinese along human trafficking routes from Mexico, you’ll be certain to consider new questions after watching the movies.

Border Patrol in Texas from theycometoamerica.com

Border Patrol in Texas from theycometoamerica.com

They Come to America

I was hopeful at the start of the year that real immigration reform could move forward, even though such reform might temporarily and partially negate the premise for my books. The principles by the Senate Gang of Eight included a path to citizenship for those here illegally that would be “contingent upon our success in securing our borders and addressing visa overstays.”

When recently resigned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said repeatedly in recent months that the border is already secure, she uttered an absurdity that made clear this Administration could not be trusted to use fact to assess or pursue border security. If you watch Lynch’s films, you’ll have no doubt the notion that we have secure borders is beyond reasonable belief.

Recently, congressional debate has centered around who can be trusted to accurately assess whether our borders are secure before triggering the path to citizenship for those who entered or overstayed illegally in the past. Without secure borders, passage of an immigration reform bill now would just be another “rinse” in a series of “rinse and repeat” processes on immigration that date back to President Reagan. [Read more…]

Language Segregation a Tough Barrier, Study Finds

Growing racial diversity in the U.S. student population is not preventing a spread of segregation, with African American and Hispanic students attending “more segregated schools than at any time in the past 20 years,” notes University of Texas at Austin Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig in his Cloaking Inequity blog post referencing his new co-authored study: “Nearly 50 years post-Jim Crow: Persisting and Expansive School Segregation for African American, Latina/o and ELL students in Texas.”

One finding of the study highlights the risks of language isolation, an issue that drives societal upset in my novel Melting Point 2040:

“Some policies that have been adopted with the intent of improving language acquisition, as in the past, have the effect of increasing linguistic isolation: for example, research has found that school systems that are racially diverse often adopt “clustered bilingual” programs in an effort to best serve the linguistic needs of ELL students. As in the past, a linguistic rationale used by school districts in terms of meeting the needs of ELL has the effect (intentionally or unintentionally) of increasing isolation of ELL students and reducing exposure to native speakers during the school day.”

Creating a melting pot society in which immigrants integrate into the broader community is an important component of creating national stability, longevity and, ultimately, elements of unity. It turns out that integration also improves success rates for individuals integrating into broader society, making the efforts of some to promote racial, ethnic, religious or language segregation as part of self-serving political agendas all the more troubling.

See the link below for more on this study’s findings:

Troubling Segregation Trends Continue

 

Whole Foods Language Policy Just the Start

In Melting Point 2040, 18-year-old Mexican immigrant Juan Gonzalez is spurred into aggressive political protest by an English fluency requirement at a massive retailer in a heavily Spanish speaking part of Arizona. War gamer/survivalist and English-only speaker Pete Roote is angered by a Spanish-only hiring requirement at a Colorado meatpacking firm established because it is easier to train in one language by hiring only Spanish-speaking applicants. In my novel, those events take place in 2040.

Last weekend, a dispute began drawing national attention to issues of language requirements. Two employees at a Whole Foods store in New Mexico claim they were suspended for complaining about what they characterized as an English-only requirement. Whole Foods disputes the characterization of their policy, saying they require English to be spoken on the clock, except when speaking to customers who prefer another language. The company says the policy is to spur “inclusion” and to improve employee safety, noting also that employees can speak any language at lunch, on breaks, or if all participants in a discussion agree to speak in another language. The company also says that the two suspended employees were suspended for “rude and disrespectful behavior,” not a language policy violation.

At a news conference outside the Albuquerque store, the director of the New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) threatened to launch a nationwide boycott of Whole Foods if the company does not change its policy. MoveOn.org, often seen as a branch of the Democratic Party, has jumped into the fray nationally, starting a petition drive to force Whole Foods to allows employees to speak with each other in any language. [Read more…]

Is Multiculturalism a Failure?

In the past two weeks, a soldier in London was beheaded by Islamic terrorists, a soldier near Paris was stabbed in the neck by an angry immigrant and immigrants rioted in Stockholm. As these events built, social media platforms lit up with exchanges on whether multiculturalism is starting to fail — or has already failed. At question are policies that bring in immigrants from Islamic nations to stave off population decline and associated economic calamities.

Is Multiculturalism a Failure?

The issue, from what I have seen, is not that diverse peoples cannot live together in harmony. It is that diversity requires integration for long-term success. Many advocates of multiculturalism suggest that is is culturally insensitive or racist to require immigrants to learn a common language, adapt new societal norms in the new country and otherwise take part in the broader society. I believe the opposite is the case.

One of America’s current failings is that we are stepping backward in implementing Brown v. Board of Education. [Read more…]