Tag Archives: segregation

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. 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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Can Islamic and American Values Coexist?

How should the United States handle immigrants who have no intent to follow our laws? In the interest of tolerance and openness, should America welcome immigrants who believe it is their religious obligation to instill gender segregation at every opportunity? Should we ensure immigrants share our commitment to freedoms of speech and religion, along with other foundational rights such as the right of women to vote?

While incidents of gender discrimination occur on occasion inside the United States, gender segregation is becoming a frequent challenge on United Kingdom university campuses where radical Islamist student organizations are becoming increasingly bold in enforcing gender segregation at university events.

In recent years, radical Muslim gangs have begun roaming London streets and entering gay night clubs to beat patrons for their homosexuality, a punishment some who follow Islam believe is their religious duty to administer despite no legal backing in the U.K. or most non-Islamist countries for these heinous actions.

I believe firmly that robust, legal immigration is essential to America’s long-term economic prosperity. We need to welcome people of all races, religions and cultures. But I also think it’s fair to insist that those entering here tolerate Americans, our Constitution and our insistence on equal rights.

There are many of the Muslim faith willing to adapt to America’s legal requirements or whose view of their faith does not contradict compliance with our laws. Many others do not, and it is those individuals we should weed out in the immigration process.

UK universities fall victim to campus segregation trend – The Commentator.

Thoughtful concerns about re-segregation

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.



Admiring 42 and 46664: Robinson and Mandela

Two numbers of critical importance in the global battle to end racial segregation are on my mind today.

I just watched the first screening of “42” and suggest that everyone should see the movie or read one of many books about the pain Jackie Robinson endured for the simple right to play baseball. The movie displays how Jackie’s Brooklyn Dodgers teammates came to accept him as one of their own, though for most this acceptance came only once they knew him as a man. The stereotypes and fears that flourish in a segregated society come tumbling down when people get to know others as human beings, particularly once all involved accept that others share equal rights. To ensure enough time passed to reach that point, Jackie had to endure horrific taunts, threats and other abuse. Endure he did, and the world today is a better place for it.

Robben Island prisoners had their meals segregated by race
Among the many injustices endured by Nelson Mandela, even the food available to him at the Robben Island prison in South Africa was segregated by race.

I am also thinking of the number 46664. That number was the Robben Island prison number of Nelson Mandela during the first 20 of his 27 years in prison. His segregation, for advocating the simple idea that race should not define a person or his or her rights, was harsher and lasted longer than the pain suffered by Jackie Robinson. Like Jackie Robinson, he choose not to lash back at those who wounded him so grievously. When he became President of South Africa, he refused to seek revenge. Millions are likely alive today because he was willing to absorb his pains rather than seek vengeance. I only hope that his health holds out and he can continue to bridge racial divide in South Africa.

I was fortunate to have the chance to visit Robben Island a few years ago, and to be led on a tour of the prison outside of Capetown, South Africa by a man who was imprisoned with Mandela. Among the many horrors of seeing the prison was a list showing that even the amount and quality of food prisoners received was determined by their race.

I was asked by a student during a recent speech what I was thought was the greatest threat to America’s future. At the time, I answered terrorism. In hindsight, segregation seems the better answer.

School Segregation Leads To More Violent Crime, Study Finds

Thought you might find the following piece interesting as it discusses the effect of school resegregation. While I don’t agree with all of the characterizations of the article, the idea that integration is a positive contributor rather than a zero-sum game is an important one.

“In the past decade, resegregation through so-called “white flight” and relaxed integration enforcement is leading to greater inequality from an earlier age. Modern inner-city schools are often underfunded, while dropout rates are high and violence is common. Police officers routinely intervene to discipline students for minor infractions, exposing minority kids early to the criminal justice […]”

via School Segregation Leads To More Violent Crime, Study Finds.

Finally Integrating Prom

My first reaction was simply: Why is this still an issue?

It’s remarkable that, in 2013, teenagers are finding they have to overcome objections of adults to engage in an integrated activity. Societies in which races, ethnicities and languages are allowed or required to operate separately never reach the level of integration and understanding necessary to develop harmony and national continuity.

As a nation, our integration progress has become more sporadic and demographic evidence suggests is even reversing in many areas of the country. Continue reading

Segregation Suggestion at CPAC Misses Mark

A controversy erupted recently when a Towson University student suggested that black Republicans should be segregated from white Republicans during a recent gathering of political conservatives. “We self-segregate as it is,” the student was quoted as saying during a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) session.  “I really don’t think we have any other choice, it’s just human nature.”

Recent U.S. demographic trends and other historical studies suggest his first statement is accurate. But the idea that we have no other choice but to segregate is wrong, ignores evidence of the value of integration, and weakens our society by separating each of us from others whose philosophies, cultures and ideas can enrich America’s melting pot and us as individuals.

While this article, and many others about the exchange, rightly call out those in the conservative movement who advocate racial intolerance, there is equal evidence that many liberals think race should be a determining factor in establishing a wide range of government policies. Both directions call for the population to be segregated. Segregation does not bode well for America’s future, and should be rejected in whatever forum the idea arises. Building a common language and common elements of culture are necessary pre-conditions to the nation’s long-term survival.

Baltimore Sun Article