In a recent discussion at a local high school, we talked about concerns with the re-segregation of America and how not sharing a common language and some elements of common culture and experience makes it difficult to solve community problems. From an overall perspective, America looks more diverse today than 50 years ago. That diversity, however, is not evenly spread. Our melting pot is coagulating into separate spaces.
Much of our divide, as Bill Bishop writes in The Big Sort, is driven by demographic choices families are making to live in communities where other residents look like them and share their political and economic interests. To compound this segregation, race is a primary characteristic used in establishing legislative and congressional districts around the nation with majority-minority districts created to elect officials of a particular race or ethnicity. Racial gerrymandering had the positive purpose when promoted in the Voting Rights Act of ensuring that minorities had electoral power. Too many politicians, though, recognize this Act means they will never represent a diverse constituency. They then proceed to mock the Act by fostering racial divides to enhance their reelection prospects at the expense of solving real problems.
The linked article, from the Richmond Times Dispatch, provides background on another growing issue worth understanding, the issue of segregation within communities and even within individual school districts: http://bit.ly/13Yd9wV
How do we ensure that America has enough of a common culture to be united? How do we encourage integration, while maintaining respect for various cultures and differences? Not easy questions. But it’s clear we have yet to find the right answers.
It’s not just in the United States that we find politicians exploiting language differences for partisan advantage. The link below highlights how language differences turn into political division (this time in Canada).
Maintaining a common language and elements of common culture are among the reasons that immigration reform is critical. We want and need to welcome immigrants. But we want those who come here to share a common language as quickly as possible and to learn how our government works (or should work in any case). Both of these happen with legal immigration, but not with many entering illegally.
We want to encourage citizens to be bilingual and trilingual, but a common language contributes to the nation’s stability and longevity. Without it, we have to rely on politicians to not exploit differences. That hasn’t proved workable of late.
The linked story below provides more evidence of America’s move to re-segregate, a trend that brings with it troubling implications for our future.
Families increasingly live in places where neighbors look and sound like they do. The absence of school choice in most of the nation prevents many children from pursuing better schools where they might experience multiple cultures. Race is used as a critical factor in drawing congressional and legislative districts. A troubling number of politicians use racially divisive tactics to win elections, often criticizing people who disagree on issues as traitors to their race.
Given all of this, can we be surprised that school segregation is becoming more pronounced than during civil rights days? Melting Point 2040 is a story of what the future holds if we don’t take action soon.
News that a bipartisan U.S. Senate group has agreed on immigration reform principles gives hope to the idea that problem solving in Washington could push partisanship to a temporary political pasture.
Our deeply flawed political process will turn any such grazing grasses bitter soon enough, though, even if an agreement is reached and a significant issue is temporarily addressed.
Four political system flaws are the biggest impediments to solution-oriented government:
- Money, and
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
Tomorrow, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As we do, it’s worthwhile to also celebrate the man whose teachings guided Dr. King. Benjamin Elijah Mays was a minister, college president and Dr. King’s spiritual adviser. His life story and views are worth remembering. A quote on the importance of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, from the attached article, stands out as one of his many crucial insights: “Make no mistake—as this country could not exist half slave and half free, it cannot exist half segregated and half desegregated.”
Unfortunately, America is again being divided by politicians more intent on securing the advance of the Democratic or Republican parties than on finding common cause and uniting the nation behind it. America is resegregating – in the communities in which we live and the viewpoints to which we expose ourselves. For decades now, we have created racially segregated political districts, yet appear surprised that politicians act on the personal gain they accrue from fostering divisions. With today’s second-term presidential inauguration, it’s clear we’ve come a long way from the nation in which a young Benny Mays watched his father be forced at gunpoint to remove his hat, salute and bow to a mob of white men simply because they were white. But we still have a very long way to go to eliminate racism perpetuated by some people of every race.