Tag Archives: otherness

What Is WRONG With These People?

It’s spring! Finally!

And if a recent jaunt around the Internet is to be believed, America seems to be growing more bigots than tulips this year.

In Virginia, supporters of “religious freedom” have prevented a group of local Muslims from building a mosque, demonstrating once again that “religious freedom” bills should be labeled “Christian privilege” bills, since they sure aren’t about extending religious liberty to anyone else.

Speaking of Muslims, a student at UC Berkeley who was returning from an academic conference had the bad judgment to call his uncle on his cellphone while he was in his seat waiting for the plane to load. His uncle lives in Iraq, so he spoke to him in Arabic. This evidently was all the evidence of terrorism required by Southwest Air, which removed him from the plane and called police to interrogate him.

Then there’s Mississippi.

I’m not sure who these good “Christians” are gunning for, but according to news reports, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has signed into law something called the Church Protection Act. It allows churches to empower designated members of their congregation as part of a security team with a “shoot to kill” authority equivalent to a police officer but with less government oversight. Who Would Jesus Shoot? (What could possibly go wrong…??)

And of course, in Mississippi, North Carolina and elsewhere, there is the (to me, at least) inexplicable paranoia about bathroom use. Evidently, males are more susceptible to this condition–at least, according to a recent article in Slate:

For many men, taking a piss at the office is apparently a “nightmarish” experience. That’s one of the many fascinating things we learn in Julie Beck’s engrossing essay on the psychological minefield that is the public bathroom, published today in the Atlantic. We all know people who do their best to avoid defecating outside the privacy of home, but the fears and fantasies that Beck explores in her piece are almost Sadeian in detail—paranoia about seeing and being seen, elaborate attempts to construct sonic shields, and most of all, a deep sense that the perils of humiliation and social opprobrium waiting on the other side of the restroom door may very well outweigh the relief of relieving oneself.

If there is one thread connecting these depressingly regular eruptions of insanity, it would seem to be fear–fear of “the other”–fear of people who are perceived as different from “normal” (i.e., from “me.”) People who speak a different language, pray to a different god, love differently, pee differently…

For people who see difference as threatening and dangerous, the world must be a really scary (and uninteresting) place. I’d feel sorry for them, but the incredible stupidity of it all makes sympathy awfully hard to summon up.

I’m going to go water my tulips…..


Another Indicator–As If We Needed Confirmation

Time Magazine recently reported on a study of bias in the “sharing” economy.

Users of accommodations-booking site Airbnb that have African-American sounding names are less likely to have their rental requests approved by potential hosts, according to a new report that highlights the difficulties minorities face when taking part in the sharing economy.

The study’s findings probably shouldn’t come as a surprise; we have literally mountains of data demonstrating similar results among job-seekers.

This particular report joins daily news reports of attacks on Mosques and Muslims, pushback against efforts like “Black Lives Matter,” and of course, the increasingly unhinged and unapologetic racism of Donald Trump (which has thus far been met with only tepid condemnation from most of the other GOP candidates).

I doubt that Americans will ever be able to have a truly frank, open discussion of race and racism. Even the eruption of long-suppressed animus in the wake of Obama’s election has been met with denial; the existence of overwhelming, vicious hatred directed at the First Family has been denied, or–if admitted–attributed to Obama’s “leftism” (what a joke that is!) or other personal deficits.

And before I get angry posts to the effect that it is legitimate to disagree with the President’s actions and priorities, of course it is.  Criticisms of policies are perfectly reasonable. No one–certainly not this writer–is suggesting that any President is beyond reproach, or that he, or any other political figure, should not be subject to criticism based upon performance.

But let’s get real.Only the willfully blind can miss the obvious: the extent to which the ferocity of attacks on the President and First Lady are based upon the President’s perceived “otherness.”

Racism has been called “America’s Original Sin.” It’s time we dealt with it.

I certainly don’t have a magic wand, nor do I know how to change a culture that accommodates categorizing people on the basis of religion or skin color or sexual orientation. I do know that we can’t solve problems when we refuse to admit they exist.

And we definitely have a problem.

Go Back to Wherever You Came From is Not a Policy and Not in America’s Interests

Pew recently issued the results of its in-depth research on immigration.

First, a few “factoids.”

When we include the children and grandchildren of those who have immigrated to the U.S. since 1965, immigrants have accounted for 55% of America’s subsequent population growth. (They’re projected to account for 88% of the population increase over the next 50 years.)

Nearly 14% of the population is foreign born.

Compared with U.S.-born adults, recent arrivals are less likely to have finished high school, but they are more likely to have completed college or to hold an advanced degree.

As with so many other issues, American attitudes are polarized: Some 45% of adults say immigrants in the U.S. are making American society better in the long run, while 37% say they are making it worse.

A recent op-ed in the New York Times offered some useful perspective on the issue:

History provides some clarity about the relative costs and benefits of immigration over time. Fifty years ago this month, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. By any standard, it made the United States a stronger nation. The act was endorsed by Republicans and Democrats in an era when cooperation was still possible. Indeed, the most serious opposition came from Southern Democrats and an ambivalent secretary of state, Dean Rusk. But it passed the Senate easily (76-18), with skillful leadership from its floor manager, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and Johnson himself….

The flood of new immigrants also promoted prosperity in ways that few could have imagined in 1965. Between 1990 and 2005, as the digital age took off, 25 percent of the fastest-growing American companies were founded by people born in foreign countries.

Much of the growth of the last two decades has stemmed from the vast capacity that was delivered by the Internet and the personal computer, each of which was accelerated by immigrant ingenuity. Silicon Valley, especially, was transformed. In a state where Asian immigrants had once faced great hardship, they helped to transform the global economy. The 2010 census stated that more than 50 percent of technical workers in Silicon Valley are Asian-American.

Not to mention that our food choices have improved immeasurably….In short, any rational analysis demonstrates that immigration has been (and continues to be) incredibly beneficial to the country.

I suspect that it is another “factoid” from the Pew survey that really explains “the Donald”– and for that matter, most opposition to immigration: By 2055, the U.S. as a whole is projected to have no racial or ethnic majority.

Let’s be honest: much of the animus expressed toward immigrants (and protestations to the contrary, that animus is not limited to those labeled “illegals”) is based upon the “otherness” of some of them. To be blunt, much of it is racist.

As I’ve noted previously, my son-in-law is a (legal) immigrant, and in his thirty-plus years in America, has never experienced that animus. I’m sure it’s just coincidental that he’s a very pale Brit….