Category Archives: Segregation

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.



Get On Your Side of the Room, Ladies

As ultra-orthodox religious leaders increasingly insist that women be segregated from men during public events, universities have begun allowing women to be forced to one side of the room. Now the practice is nationally sanctioned, glorified as a better alternative than forcing women to the back of the room.

“Concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system,” a national organization of administrators stated recently in condoning forced gender segregation at university-sanctioned events.

If it had been orthodox Christians in America making these segregation demands, you certainly would have heard by now. MSNBC might even provide 24-hour coverage of ensuing protests.

The demands, however, originate with Islamic scholars and clerics in the United Kingdom and other Western European nations. Universities UK, a national association of vice chancellors in the United Kingdom, issued the guidance above, stating that free speech rights and religious respect are more important than concerns about gender segregation.

Universities UK at least acknowledges the rights of students and faculty to publicly object to forced gender segregation or, more aptly, gender apartheid given the ultimate goal of some segregation promoters.

“Those opposed to segregation are entitled to engage in lawful protest against segregation, and could be encouraged to hold a separate debate of the issues, but their views do not require an institution to stifle a religious society’s segregated debate where the segregation accords with a genuinely-held religious belief,” the association states in its guidance document on “External speakers in higher education institutions.”

What happens when white or black nationalists, espousing theories supported by a church, demand that their on-campus events be racially segregated?

What happens when hard-core Islamists demand segregation not just by gender, but further demand that Muslims be separated from Jews, Christians and especially anyone who doesn’t follow an Abrahamic faith?

There is a conflict growing between some elements of Islam and western democracies. Western Europe is giving America a preview of the debates heading across the Atlantic.

Forced public segregation is never an acceptable answer. America is already challenged with voluntary re-segregation – by race, political party, language, religion and other factors. If we head down the path argued by Universities UK of saying that publicly forced segregation is acceptable as long as it derives from “genuinely-held religious belief,” where do we stop?

Muslims have the right to practice forced segregation inside their mosques, just as Catholics have the right to not allow female priests. No one, though, has the right to impose forced gender segregation at events supported by public resources, just as no one has the right to impose racial segregation at such events.

In trying so hard to appease all sides of an issue, Universities UK missed that some principles require unwavering support.

Golden Rule Constitutional Amendment Needed Now

Senator Rand Paul’s proposed constitutional amendment that “Congress shall make no law applicable to a citizen of the United States that is not equally applicable to Congress” is certainly necessary, but addresses a too-small portion of what ails society.

The idea that “all men are created equal,” as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, is still far from reality in national governance.

One reason for this failure is that the constitution lacks the consistency demands of the Golden Rule. Many see the Golden Rule – the idea that we should do unto others as we would have done unto us – as a religious declaration. It is not. While certainly a moral equivalency statement, the Golden Rule crosses religions and is recognized by most atheists and agnostics as important to a well-functioning society. Faith is not required to recognize the value of the Golden Rule.

Nearly every major religion, though, contains elements of the Golden Rule in its scriptures, the words of its prophets and/or its culture – including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and dozens of others. See Scarboro Mission’s web site and a chronology created by Professor Harry Gensler for more details. The Arizona Interfaith Movement has background as well.

I believe we clearly need two constitutional amendments, one to fix our electoral system as outlined in an earlier post.

The second constitutional amendment I am pushing here is perhaps even more important.  The Golden Rule in single measure provides the structure to fix a multitude of societal flaws. Though I haven’t yet perfected the wording, this proposed amendment would read: “Congress shall make no laws that conflict with the Golden Rule concept that we should treat others as we would fairly expect to be treated after understanding the impacts and circumstances of others.”

There are a number of fallacious arguments against the Golden Rule, the most well known being that if I were a violent criminal, I would not want to go to jail for my crime. Continue reading

Six Questions Syria Raises for America’s Future

Syria’s collapse into ethnic and religious civil war carries with it lessons for the United States perhaps far more important than current missile-launch debates.

Two lessons are critical:

  • Segregated societies can be divided easily, just as Syria is being torn between Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, Kurds and other religious sects in their different geographic strongholds.
  • Politicians who exploit divisions, or fail to heal wounds of divisions, can quickly turn nations into bleeding grounds.

After substantial advances toward racial integration in recent generations, progress has halted in many parts of America and even moved toward re-segregation in many regions by race, ethnicity and, recently, language.

Syria reminds us that we need to answer different questions beyond those being debated today in order to create a more unified society. Following are six questions particularly worthy of introspection and debate:

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Race, Gays, Gender and Segregation

Fifty years after Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech came to describe a nation that might someday no longer face torment from racial segregation, identifying the appropriate government role in facilitating equality remains subject to intense, ongoing debate.

It isn’t always easy to discern which political issues are truly about establishing equal rights versus increasingly common efforts to use equality as a cloak for old-fashioned political payoffs that confer advantages on a favored voting bloc.

Skin color, gender and sexual orientation don't change how the Garden of the Gods appears. Our laws should follow suit.
Skin color, gender and sexual orientation don’t change how the Garden of the Gods appears. Our laws should follow suit.

I’ve been giving these subjects a great deal of thought and study as I work on the third book in the “Melting Point” series, “Doing Unto Others,” because it suggests our policies need to be developed around the concept of “doing unto others as we would have done unto ourselves.” This concept was spoken by Muhammad, is written in the Bible’s Book of Matthew, was taught by Rabbi Hillel and is contained in the teachings of Confucius as well as in Buddhist and Hindu scriptures.

The “Golden Rule,” as it is often called, is a core unifying concept in mankind, yet is frequently ignored in governing the United States and other nations, with the Congressional and IRS exemptions from Obamacare just the latest affront to the concept that government shouldn’t do to its people what it is unwilling to live itself.

To determine which rights should be pursued because they are truly about establishing equal opportunities, I suggest that a simple question leads to the answer: “Does the imposition of equal treatment harm others in a manner they cannot mitigate?”

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Egypt’s Deadly Lessons on Religious Diversity

Deadly violence in Egypt, escalating in recent days, raises critical questions about what happens when religion and government intertwine. America’s founders purposely prevented the imposition of a national religion, while also making clear that the United States would operate as “one nation under God.”

Were they right to separate government from a specific religion? Does it make sense for our government to maintain a connection to God, though without a single national religion?

Basing my thoughts on reviewing history, I conclude that belief in a superior being who holds us accountable for our actions is critical to the long-term survival, prosperity and decency of a nation. It is also clear, however, that single-religion nations are a particular threat to global peace. Reviewing the deadliest incidents of man-made violence throughout history supports my view that America’s founders had the balance right. Continue reading

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
Border Patrol in Texas from

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. Continue reading

Zimmerman, Trayvon, Segregation and A Gun in My Back

I watched parts of the George Zimmerman trial and read about more, but didn’t see the full trial. Still, I was not at all surprised by the not guilty verdict, even while sensing that both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman could have acted differently to avoid the conflict that turned deadly. I learned as a youth that appearances can be misinterpreted and situations can turn wrong quickly. I’ve tried to keep that in mind throughout my life.

At 18, a group of friends and I went digging for golf balls in the Fox River aside a golf course in St. Charles, Illinois. When we returned to our cars with buckets and boxes of wet, muddy golf balls, a half-dozen police cars came screaming around the corner and officers came running out of their cars with guns drawn, throwing us up against the cars. Only after substantial discussion and dumping all our golf balls did the police realize that we were not really in the neighborhood to burglarize homes. We had cut through a yard on our way to the river. The owner had called police. But we were teenagers in dark clothes and fatigues. Our dress helped make the owner and police nervous.

That same summer, many of these same friends and I were chased through fields near a St. Charles movie theater by police again running with guns drawn. We had no idea why we were being chased, but didn’t want to wait around to find out. We were playing war with toy guns at the time, which we quickly dropped and did our best to avoid capture. It was only just before friends sang Happy Birthday to me on my 18th birthday in the St. Charles jail that we learned one of the game players had climbed the roof of the theater to gain a sight line and had scared moviegoers and management into believing an armed robbery was underway. Appearance put our lives at risk that day in a way none of us had anticipated. A police officer was actually sanctioned for not shooting one of our friends when he turned with his toy gun drawn when he was told to freeze, thinking it was someone else in the game trying to get him out.

Two days ago, my son and I were playing golf in Port Marnock, just outside of Dublin, Ireland. On the 15th hole, a group of 10 young, drunk teenagers ran up, surrounded our cart, tried to steal a golf ball and began badgering us. One sat down in the cart and tried to take control of it. Another started snooping in so I grabbed my wallet and cell phone, then took the cart key. After five minutes of politely suggesting that the kids needed to just get on their way, one turned to us and asked, “Do you know what it feels like to have your head smashed in with a golf club.” The lone girl in the group egged the boys on to be men and fight. My son and I kept our cool, but became insistent that the kids needed to just get on their way. Perhaps we had the good fortune that neither of us was particularly scared even though we were outnumbered substantially. The kids appeared to be 13- to 16-year-olds and none were individually imposing. Finally, the kids grew tired of us not giving in to letting them take our cart or nearby golf ball and ran off to steal another of our golf balls further down the fairway. I can’t help but think how badly this situation could have gotten if the kid threatening to hit us with golf clubs had reached into the bag just two feet away from him and started to come after us. There would have been no winners from such a confrontation, regardless of the outcome. Would we have acted only to deflect blows coming at us, or attacked back to avoid taking a golf club beating? I have little doubt we wouldn’t have just stood and taken whatever blows came our way.

Did Trayvon deserve what happened to him? Of course not, but it doesn’t mean that George Zimmerman wasn’t justified in responding in self-defense. Since the war-game arrest and golf-ball gun in my back, I’ve been careful to avoid unnecessary conflict and tried to be aware of when others might see me as threatening, crossing the street if necessary to allow others to feel comfortable that they are safe. That restraint served us well in Ireland as well, and may have made a difference in the lives of some of those kids. I don’t know if race played any role in the Zimmerman/Martin confrontation. But I do know that conflicts can develop, impressions can be inaccurately created and situations can go wrong even when everyone involved is of the same race.

P.S. — Everyone else in Ireland was delightful and we enjoyed dozens of great discussions with people around the country. I highly recommend a visit to anyone looking for a friendly destination. I also genuinely appreciated the concern shown by golf course management after the incident.

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., 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. Continue reading