Tuesday, September 22, 2015

2015 Demographics for U.S. College Students

Photo Credit: US Dept of Education
The nation's college students are growing in number and our campuses continue to become more diverse. Taken from the most recent edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac and the Open Doors Report, the following statistics from the 2013-2014 school year contain some interesting facts concerning the current make-up of college students in the United States:

  • There are approximately 21 million college students studying within the United States.
  • Of those 21 million students, more than 4 out of 10 are American ethnic minorities and international students. 
  • Within the state of California alone, there are nearly 2.7 million students. This is an amazing 13% of the country's total! Of these students, over 1.7 million are American ethnic minorities and international students. 
  • Texas has over 1.5 million students in the state, including half a million Hispanic students. 
  • Primarily due to the presence of New York City, 1.3 million students attend college in the state of New York and nearly half of those students are American ethnic minorities and international students.
  • The number of Native American students across the country is approaching 200,000. 
  • Students of Asian American/Pacific Islander heritage now number close to 1.2 million students. 
  • There are 2.7 million African Americans on our campuses, over 13% of all students.
  • Hispanics and Latinos are rapidly growing in number and influence and now comprise well over 14% of all students, totaling over 2.9 million students. 
  • The number of international students currently studying in the U.S. is now over one million. 
  • In demonstration of the country's increasing cultural diversity, half a million of America's college students define themselves as being multi-ethnic.
  • Another 1.2 million students do not self-identify as belonging to any particular ethnic group nor do they define themselves as being multi-ethnic.
  • Students of European descent are still in the overall majority with 10.9 million. If current trends hold true, however, there will be no ethnic majority within the next few years.

What does this all mean? The college campuses of the United States are becoming more diverse, the coasts are rapidly growing and our cities are home to many of the nation's students. In order to reach these students, campus ministries like the one that I work with, Cru, need to adopt new approaches that will effectively reach: 1) students of color; 2) those that speak a primary language other than English; and 3) those in our major cities. The world is here. How will we respond?

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Can One's Religious Beliefs Excuse Them From Their Job?

Photo Credit: King County, WA
What is going on in Kentucky concerning county clerk Kim Davis issuing marriage licenses is an important matter. It is likely, though, that few of us (including me) have a deep understanding of how the law works in these types of cases.

I would suspect that many of us have strong biases in this particular situation and are likely primarily focused on "our side" winning and not necessarily attuned to what the law requires.

A country that values religious freedom as well as the civil rights of all its citizens ensures that cases like this bring with it many questions. This is not a simple matter.

I found this article from Eugene Volokh in The Washington Post to be helpful for me in grasping some of the legal issues related to this case. Things are not "cut and dry" here but Volokh's insights helped me in gaining a greater sense of the issues at play.

Here's a highlight:
"Under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, both public and private employers have a duty to exempt religious employees from generally applicable work rules, so long as this won’t create an “undue hardship,” meaning more than a modest cost, on the employer. If the employees can be accommodated in a way that would let the job still get done without much burden on the employer, coworkers, and customers — for instance by switching the employee’s assignments with another employee or by otherwise slightly changing the job duties — then the employer must accommodate them. (The Muslim flight attendant I mentioned above, for instance, claims that she has always been able to work out arrangements under which the other flight attendant serves the alcohol instead of her.) 
Thus, for instance, in all the cases I mentioned in the numbered list above, the religious objectors got an accommodation, whether in court or as a result of the employer’s settling a lawsuit brought by the EEOC. Likewise, the EEOC is currently litigating a case in which it claims that a trucking company must accommodate a Muslim employee’s religious objections to transporting alcohol, and the court has indeed concluded that the employer had a duty to accommodate such objections. But if the accommodation would have been quite difficult or expensive (beyond the inevitable cost that always come when rearranging tasks), then the employer wouldn’t have had to provide it. 
Now I’m not saying this to praise the law, or to claim that it’s demanded by vital principles of religious principles. One can certainly argue against this approach, especially as applied to private employers, but also as applied to the government. 
The government is barred by the Free Exercise Clause from discriminating based on religion, but the government has no constitutional duty to give religious objectors special exemptions from generally applicable rules. Maybe it (and private employers) shouldn’t have such a statutory duty, either. But my point so far has been simply to describe the American legal rule as it actually is, and as it has been for over 40 years (since the religious accommodation provisions were enacted in the 1972 amendments to Title VII)."
(HT: @spulliam for the article link)

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Understanding Marginalization Of Sub-Dominant Cultures

Photo Credit:
United Nations Photo
"Dominant cultures" and "sub-dominate cultures" might be terms that are foreign concepts to many of us. I often find it helpful to define terms, which I'll attempt to do here, so that we're on the same page with one another as we grow in cultural understanding together.

In its simplest sense, a dominant culture is a culture within a nation or geographic area that determines what is "normal." To put it another way, members of a dominant culture are those who most often get to experience their values, beliefs, customs, and way of life as that which is considered the norm.

Within the United States, it is those of us that have a European American heritage that would be considered the dominant culture. Additionally, because those of us of European descent are more than half of the U.S. population, we can also be considered the majority culture.

On the flip side, a sub-dominant culture are those where the values, beliefs, customs and way of life of its members are not considered the norm. Examples within the U.S. could be Muslims of Middle Eastern heritage, Americans of Chinese descent or Mexican Americans. Within the U.S., we might also refer to those that identify within these groups (as well as many other sub-dominant groups) as ethnic minorities.

However, dominant/majority and sub-dominant/minority are not necessarily interchangeable terms. For example, Afrikaners within apartheid-era South Africa (and in many ways, still today) were most certainly of the dominant culture since they held positions of governmental authority, owned the bulk of land and established cultural norms. However, they would not be considered the ethnic majority since less than one out of every ten South Africans identify as an Afrikaner.

It is probably helpful to consider dominance/sub-dominance as related to power and ethnic majority/ethnic minority as related to numbers of a population. Although sub-dominant and ethnic minority groups often are the same groups within a society, it is possible for an ethnic minority group (e.g. Afrikaners in South Africa) to be the dominant group.

Understanding these nuances can be helpful for us in recognizing the ways that sub-dominate and ethnic minority cultures can be marginalized within a society. In Suffering & the Sovereignty of God, Dr. Carl Ellis offers the following insights as to how marginalization can take place and the role that Christians can play in addressing it:
"Marginalization happens when that which is valid is regarded as invalid merely because it differs from the prevailing standards of creature-ism [i.e. judging the Creator by the standard of the creature]. Thus, people who fit this description are relegated to a position of insignificance, devalued importance, minor influence, or diminished power. How does marginalization affect human interaction? 
Every society has a dominant culture and at least one sub-dominant culture. Each of these has a corresponding cultural agenda and intra-cultural consciousness. Those in the dominant culture tend not to realize they have a culture, and those in the sub-dominant culture know very well that everybody has a culture. 
All in the sub-dominant culture are exposed to the dominant cultural agenda. But few in the dominant culture are even aware that there is a sub-dominant cultural agenda. Therefore, to those in the dominant culture, the concerns of the sub-dominant culture tend to be marginalized. We can define these dominant and sub-dominant cultures in terms of race, generation, gender, geography, language, etc.  
This begs the question: who is going to show the world how to deal with these kind of power differential dynamics? It must be the body of Christ. There are four dimensions of marginalization:   
1) Relational (face-to-face) marginalization
2) Systemic marginalization - which is marginalization by way of time-honored conventions and protocols, 
3) Marginalization by design - which is intentional marginalization resulting from subjugation [e.g. the African slave trade], 
4) Marginalization by default - which is marginalization resulting from a lack of either real or perceived power... 
One thing that exacerbates ethnic-based suffering in the world today is the lack of a full understanding of marginalization. For example, we tend to think of only one manifestation - relational by design. We don't think much about the other three dimensions. If we in the church are going to have something prophetic to say to the issue of ethnic-based suffering, we must deal with [all four dimensions of suffering].  
Every sub-dominant group has a distinct paradigm for marginalization. For example, the African American experience has largely been a struggle against racism and its effects - an application of creature-ism. Therefore, racism is regarded as the paradigm for all marginalization. We may know that marginalization does not ultimately require a racist motive. However, from an African American perspective, marginalization is assumed to have a racist motive. 
Anglo-Americans without this paradigm tend to view African American protest against marginalization as "playing the race card." African Americans, on the other hand, may view Anglo Americans' protest as being in denial. When this happens we will speak past each other, because we do not understand that marginalization is the foundation of ethnic-based suffering. The theology of the Christian community has been weak in that area. If we are going to be a prophetic voice against marginalization, we will need to address it with some serious theology."
My hope in gainer a better understanding of these concepts is that we will grow together in our ability to address injustice in the world so that a greater number of people will come to know our Creator, the God of justice, truth and grace.

(HT: To my friend Chris Pratt for the heads up on Dr. Ellis's thoughts on this matter)