In recent weeks, issues of race, language, immigration and the potential for broader conflict have elevated considerably following a national report showing that racial segregation is expanding at a dramatic pace. That this study took place and subsequent consternation is taking place in the United Kingdom should offer no relief to those of us worried about the long term impacts of segregation in the United States.
A recent column in Express laments Britain’s move toward looking like America: “In such places as Detroit and Baltimore a white person is as rare as a truthful politician. There are entire school districts that are white, black or Hispanic. It is important to stress this is wrong for everyone involved, from black to white and every colour in between. Segregation is not the way forward; integration is, yet we are further away from that in this country than ever before.”
The Express columnist noted former Equality and Human Rights Commission Chairman Trevor Phillips saw accelerated segregation coming eight years earlier when he warned Britain was “sleepwalking into segregation” and allowing “ghettoes” of different races and faiths to flourish. “Predictably he was shouted down and bizarrely even branded a racist,” the columnist wrote. (Segregation is Madness.)
Long-term segregation, along racial, language or religious lines, has led to violent confrontation in nearly every country through human history where it has been allowed to flourish. Those who suggest it won’t happen here believe the conditions for conflict won’t exist in their lifetime. I believe we are merely awaiting the final demographic shifts and ascension of exploitative, self-serving politicians to turn growing divisions into conflict if we don’t begin acting to create more integrated experiences.
There is no greater gift that we can give to mothers on this day than to ensure their children do not end up fighting in senseless conflicts driven by divisions we saw coming, but then allowed to happen.
In Melting Point 2040 and Secession 2041, I focus on the consequences to the nation from re-segregation and politically exploited division. The attached article does a nice job of explaining the nearer-term consequences of re-segregation on America’s children.
There is a great deal to like in the proposed bipartisan immigration compromise put together by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and others.
I’ve often worried that principles are generally the last consideration in the political process. With this agreement, the eight senators started with principles. That alone is commendable.
Our political system flaws – where party leaders seek divisions to exploit instead of problems to solve – means that these principles are unlikely to be fully followed in the coming decades even if enacted. Still, even with my skepticism, I’m heartened that the agreement matches five critical principles I think are important to national longevity:
1) All men and women are created equal in our rights to pursue success.
2) People who follow the law should have a better chance of succeeding than those who break it.
3) An integrating society speaking a common language is more likely to survive over the centuries than a segregating society speaking separate languages.
4) We need to attract bright, hard-working, tax-paying immigrants to grow our economy and meet our social program promises.
5) While it would be nice to have principle #1 applied to all seven billion people on the planet, our national survival and prosperity means we can only model this behavior with our citizens and legal immigrants.
Iowa State Associate Professor Warren Blumenfeld argues in the linked column against having a shared national language. He creates a number of spurious assertions that official English:
1) Marginalizes non-native English speakers,
2) Decreases the likelihood of supporting multi-cultural programs, and
3) Suggests that other languages are not important to learn.
The professor recounts the racist behavior of a playground monitor and quotes an unnamed individual that “no true patriot could support or tolerate this hateful law” as evidence of the accuracy of his message against “cultural genocide.”
I think the Professor is missing the point.
America needs to be multi-cultural and multi-lingual; on that he is correct. However, we benefit as a nation by sharing a common language that allows us to communicate effectively with each other. A common language also minimizes the risk of being torn apart. (See other posts on this blog for comments about ongoing secession efforts around the world.) Continue reading
Often, Americans are presented with either/or solutions – usually choices between what satisfies the Democratic party base and what satisfies the Republican party base. To me, good policy starts with sound principles. An upcoming book touches on the complex issues of immigration policy and language mandates. Following are several principles that impact my policy expectations in this area:
- Societies have a better chance at success when people who comply with the law are more likely to succeed than those who break the law.
- America was built by immigrants and needs a strong flow of immigrants bringing new ideas and work ethic to continue to be successful.
- It’s easier to successfully interact with people who speak the same language.
- Bureaucratic processes require constant review and streamlining to be effective.
So how to these principles play out to policy recommendations? That’s in the book. The recommendations as championed by a main character may surprise you.
In the upcoming book, Melting Point 2040, a lead character is identified as holding the David Laitin named professorship at the University of Chicago. While every other character is fictional, Stanford University Professor David Laitin is not. Professor Laitin, formerly a University of Chicago professor, is a recognized expert on the role of language, religion and ethnicity on national survival. His research, much done with other academics, is interesting for its conclusions about the ability of multi-cultural societies to survive. His findings are reassuring for multi-cultural societies like the United States, India and others, but the concepts do encounter challenge. My concerns are informed by looking at national boundaries over centuries and millennia rather than within a single century. Through history, few strongly multi-cultural societies lasted more than several hundred years. To ensure survival for 1,000 years or more (without more civil war), it’s critical to understand what triggers civil wars and then avoid these conditions. For more, I recommend http://www.ninetymeetingsinninetydays.com/Civil_War.html for an overview and http://www.uclouvain.be/cps/ucl/doc/etes/documents/12.Laitin.pdf for a more detailed look at the role of language on national survival. As an aside, who came up with the name for civil wars? The word “civil” is out of place.
As the author of an upcoming book, Melting Point 2040, I write stories about how our world could look in 2040 if we don’t solve our toughest issues. Having worked in Congress two decades ago, and then with Congress from the outside in many of the intervening years, I have become increasingly concerned that our political system is stacked against everyday Americans. Campaigns are too long. Money is too prevalent. Perhaps most importantly, the primary structure in most states forces candidates to adhere to political extremes to even get on the November ballot. There was a time when statesmen and stateswomen played key roles in policy decision-making. That time has passed. So, if I dwell on political system reform in this blog, it’s because I think systematic changes are a precursor to fixing many of these other issues.