Thursday, July 10, 2014

Shedding Light On The Differences Between Race, Ethnicity & Culture

Photo Credit: Mike Hiatt
Here are some helpful insights from Marque Mathias Jensen on the unique differences on how we define race, ethnicity and culture:
"Here in the USA,  people often assume that the race of a person defines also their culture, ethnicity, and even class, this lie is the fruit of racism learned and internalized.   If instead, we see race as a social construct that only has the power assigned by society, we can begin to appreciate ethnic differences and culture uniqueness without allowing the lies of race to force us into making false assumptions. 
Our Latino American neighbors often have less of a problem with this as they know that a Honduran,  Puerto Rican, Brazilian or …  could have any type of skin pigmentation.   Ignorance that believes that race = ethnicity = culture,  is where conversations around these categories often become awkward and difficult. 
For example working in multi-cultural services in colleges I observed the following multiple times: 
The young student, who as an infant, was an adoptee into a wealthy European-American home, from, for example, Uganda or Korea. While the parents have usually tried and done their best, this student will often struggle with identity, and their peers struggle to know where they “fit” into the categories we’ve been trained to assign people. 
WHY? Typically, people would tend to visually categorize this person as: 
     Racially: Black, or Asian, and then assume they are also... 
     Culturally: African-American or Asian-American. 
But for this student, often raised in a small accepting community they are more aware that they are: 
     Ethnically: Ugandan or Korean, and having been raised in mainstream culture... 
     Culturally: European-American. 
For some reason we think if we can know what box they fit into we will better know, or not need to know, that person. 
It is proof that to some extent we have bought into the lie that one’s race tells can tell us something significant about a person. It is proof that we all have been impacted by racism, by benefiting from it or by internalizing it. 
However the lines of race, ethnicity and culture are blurry and frequently very imprecise. It is important to know the culture and ethnicity one identifies with, but will we allow people to define themselves, even when they defy the standard stereotypes? The cultures and ethnicities of our world are beautiful and complement each other in ways that can strengthen and expand us all, yet what happens when  no traditional category fully encompasses how they view their own identity?"
To read more of Marque's thoughts on this topic please click here.

(HT: Christena Cleveland for the link.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Widening Gap in U.S. Between Older Whites & Younger Minorities

Photo Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões
From Don Lee of the Tribune Washington Bureau:
"As the U.S. population ages and becomes more ethnically diverse, the country is seeing a widening demographic gap between older whites and young minorities — a shift with significant social and economic implications. 
Non-Latino white Americans made up almost 79 percent of the country’s population of people more than 65 years old, as of last July, but the white share of residents under age 15 slipped further, to 51.8 percent, according to an analysis of new Census Bureau data released Thursday. 
By comparison, Latinos accounted for 7.5 percent of people in the U.S. over 65, but almost 25 percent of those under 15. The large population gains of Latino and other minority youths mean nonwhites not only will have more voting clout in the years ahead, but will also constitute the labor force of tomorrow. 
Yet this racial generational gap, particularly large in California and the Southwest, also points up the potential challenges as the U.S. relies on younger minorities to pick up the slack of an aging nation, including supporting social programs for a mostly white senior population. 
“What we are seeing here is just the tip of the iceberg as white baby-boomers continue to retire, and whites make up ever-smaller shares of the childbearing population,” said William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer who analyzed the annual census data on population by age and race. 
“It suggests that even greater priority should be given to providing these young minorities education opportunities and other resources to be successful as members of the labor force,” he said. 
The new census release shows how economics can drive population and migration trends. The nation’s foreign-born population grew by 843,145 people from July 2012 to last July, down about 5 percent from the previous 12-month period. The drop came mostly from Latinos, whose immigrant population growth has been overtaken by Asians. Part of the decline in the foreign-born Latino growth reflects demographic and economic changes in Mexico, said scholar Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda."
To read more on this story please click here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Do You Know What Juneteenth Is?

Photo Credit: ניקולס
Today, June 19th, represents a significant day in American history. On this day in 1865, news finally reached Galveston, Texas that the Civil War had ended and that the slaves were freed.

Here is some history from Juneteenth.com:
"Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. 
However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. 
Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these version could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln's authority over the rebellious states was in question   For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory. 
General Order Number 3 
One of General Granger’s first orders of business was to read to the people of Texas, General Order Number 3 which began most significantly with: 
"The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer." 
The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. While many lingered to learn of this new employer to employee relationship, many left before these offers were completely off the lips of their former 'masters' - attesting to the varying conditions on the plantations and the realization of freedom. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. North was a logical destination and for many it represented true freedom, while the desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove the some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. 
Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America. Recounting the memories of that great day in June of 1865 and its festivities would serve as motivation as well as a release from the growing pressures encountered in their new territory. The celebration of June 19th was coined "Juneteenth" and grew with more participation from descendants. The Juneteenth celebration was a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on this date."
There are some striking parallels between what happened on June 19, 1865 and the spiritual condition of many people today. It was in January 1863 that President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in the Confederate. Their freedom had been granted by the man in authority to do so...but no one had told those in captivity.

Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ made a way for us to have our sin forgiven and cleared a path for us to enter into a relationship with God. He has done everything that needs to be done for us to be free. But many people have not heard this good news. They need a messenger to tell them that they can be free if they place their faith in Christ.

Who can you help set free today?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Last Remaining Navajo Code Talker Passes Away

"The last of 29 Navajos who developed an unbreakable code that helped Allied forces win World War II died in New Mexico on Wednesday of kidney failure at age 93. Chester Nez was the last survivor of the group of Native Americans recruited by the Marine Corps to create a code based on their language that the Japanese could not crack. His son, Michael Nez, said his father died peacefully in his sleep at their home in Albuquerque. 
“He had been battling kidney disease, and it seems like the disease won,” Michael Nez told Reuters. “He’s the last of a great era, a great part of history.” About 400 Code Talkers would go on to use their unique battlefield cipher to encrypt messages sent from field telephones and radios throughout the Pacific theater during the war. 
It was regarded as secure from Japanese military code breakers because the language was spoken only in the American Southwest, was known by fewer than 30 non-Navajo people and had no written form. The Navajos’ skill, speed and accuracy under fire in ferocious battles from the Marshall Islands to Iwo Jima is credited with saving the lives of thousands of U.S. servicemen and helping shorten the war. Their work was celebrated in the 2002 movie “Windtalkers.” 
In his memoirs, Nez said he knew he made the right decision to join the fight. “I reminded myself that my Navajo people had always been warriors, protectors,” he said. “In that there was honor. I would concentrate on being a warrior, on protecting my homeland. Within hours, whether in harmony or not, I knew I would join my fellow Marines in the fight.” 
In 2001, when the surviving Navajo Code Talkers were invited to Washington to receive the Congressional Gold Medal for their service, Nez told Tribune Newspapers that their operations did not always run smoothly. were mistaken for Japanese,” he said. The death in 2011 of Lloyd Oliver made Nez the last surviving member of the unit. The president of the Navajo Nation, Ben Shelly, said he had ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in memory of Nez. 
“It saddens me to hear the last of the original Code Talkers has died,” Shelly said. “We are proud of these young men in defending the country they loved using their Navajo language.” Last November, the American Veterans Center honored Nez for bravery and valor above and beyond the call of duty, awarding him the Audie Murphy Award for distinguished service. 
“I was very proud to say that the Japanese did everything in their power to break that code, but they never did,” Nez said in an interview with the Stars and Stripes newspaper the day before receiving the award. Nez and his fellow recruits were called communications specialists by the Marines and were taught Morse code, semaphore and “blinker,” a system using lights to send messages between ships. 
The code they developed substituted Navajo words for military terms. CHAYDA-GAHI, which translates to “turtle,” came to mean a tank while a GINI, “chicken hawk” in English, became a dive bomber. America was NE-HEMAH, “our mother.” The Code Talkers served in all six Marine divisions, and 13 were killed in World War II. Nez also volunteered to serve two more years during the Korean War. He retired in 1974 after a 25-year career as a painter at the Veterans Administration hospital in Albuquerque. 
Shelly said the Navajo Nation was drafting a proclamation in honor of Nez that it plans to present, along with the Navajo Nation flag, to the Code Talker’s relatives. Nez is expected to be buried at the Santa Fe National Cemetery next week."