Images of America: Where are these people going?

Climbing_into_America_Ellis_Island_by_Lewis_HineAMERICAN IMAGES say a lot about the values we share. This week, we’ve already looked at two pictures that get people talking about values that unite us. Now, we’re adding a third.

Today’s question: Where are these people going?

Titles vary in exhibitions when this famous 1908 photograph of a stairway at Ellis Island are displayed. The two most common are: “Climbing into America” and “Climbing into the Promised Land.” The photographer, sociologist Lewis Hine, also made the photo we looked at yesterday. Considering how easy it is to snap photos today, you may not appreciate how hard Hine had to work to create this image.

One historian describes Hines’ process this way: “Amidst crowds of anxious immigrants milling about, Hine had to locate his subject and set the pose—almost always, because of the language barriers, without words. He had to set up his 5-by-7-inch view camera on its rickety tripod, focus the camera, pull the slide, dust his flash pan with powder, and through his looks and gestures try to extract the desired pose and expression. With a roar of flames and sparks, the flash pan exploded, an exposure was made, and beneath the protective cloud of smoke which blinded everyone in the room Hine would pack up and leave. A second exposure was out of the question; one shot was all he had.”

So, yes, Hine did “pose” this photograph of a few of the more than a million immigrants who passed through the Ellis Island immigration center near New York City that year. He achieved this “pose,” most likely, by asking the men and women continuously streaming up this stairway to stop and look his way. Just a few of them agreed to look into the camera. One man appears to be lifting his paperwork perhaps to cover his face. The woman in the photo has decided not to look Hines’ way.

Hines took about 200 photographs at Ellis Island between 1904 and 1909. His motive? Humanizing the sea of immigrants; showing the faces and illustrating the optimism of these men and women who, at the time, were dismissed by many Americans as impoverished rabble. Most Americans wanted to avoid these newcomers; Hines saw America’s future at Ellis Island.

Today, looking into Hine’s Ellis Island photos, most Americans wonder: Could he have captured one of my own ancestors? A great grandfather or great grandmother?

Today, these immigrants don’t frighten us—they are us. Today, discussion groups relate this photo to United America Core Value 7: Nearly all Americans believe in the value of “Getting Ahead—Individual achievement, status and success.”

Share these images …

The United America photo gallery Images of America was developed so you can freely share these inspiring images with friends. This method has been used successfully with groups nationwide to spark spirited and constructive discussions about what unites us as Americans. Then, to fully understand the 10 core values, get the book United America. So, come on! Start your own discussion …

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Images of America: Should “we” protect this child?

Lewis Hile photo of A Little Spinner in the Mollahan Mills Newberry SC

WHAT IMAGE says “America” to you?

Discussion groups nationwide tend to pull this image out of our stack of 100-plus pictures. It’s so visually striking!

Today’s question: Should “we” protect this child?

The easy answer is: Certainly! America outlawed child labor long ago—not to mention banning the obvious occupational health-and-safety issues in this factory.

But wait a minute! When we’ve shown the Images of America array of pictures in discussion groups, some participants find an entirely different lesson in this photograph, which they say makes them think about United America Core Value No. 4: “Self-reliance and individualism: Reliance on oneself; independence; emphasis on individual strengths and accomplishments.”

Part of the American narrative is that poor people can work hard to pull themselves toward prosperity. Some discussion-group participants hold up this particular picture and, without trying to justify the appalling conditions of child labor a century ago, they do talk about the powerful spirit of striving embodied in this little girl. As you can imagine, this kind of reflection quickly runs into objections from other group members—but that’s why we use these classic photos to start discussions. We discover all kinds of complex relationships between our core values.

This photograph by sociologist Lewis Hine was one of many startling images he captured of American children struggling to survive in the early 20th Century.

In response to his photos, Americans were horrified, right? Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

There were national efforts to abolish child labor as early as 1904, but Americans weren’t ready to enact sweeping laws until several decades later! In the depths of the Great Depression, American adults finally pushed to ban children from factories for a very practical reason—they wanted those jobs for the millions of unemployed adults! And, if we really dig into this issue, we discover that lawmakers declined to protect kids in farm settings. To this day, hundreds of thousands of children are involved in harvesting the food we eat, according to reporting in The Atlantic as recently as 2012 in a story headlined Do Children Harvest Our Food?

The answer to today’s question is more complex than we might guess at first glance!

Get a conversation going …

The United America photo gallery Images of America was developed so you can freely share these inspiring images with friends. This method has been used successfully with groups nationwide to spark spirited and constructive discussions about what unites us as Americans. Then, to fully understand the 10 core values, get the book United America. So, come on! Start your own discussion …

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Images of America: Black Lives Matter

Dorrie Miller Above and Beyond the Call of Duty smallTHIS SUMMER, as millions of us set out to explore America, we’re inviting you to think about images of our country that have inspired men and women over many years.

Images of America is one of the Free Resources used by groups nationwide to discuss United America. If you click on that book link, you’ll find the full Photo Gallery with more than 100 famous images like the 5 we’ll look at in depth this week in OurValues. We’ve carefully chosen images that can be freely reposted, printed and shared for discussion. Please, use this week’s OurValues series as a convenient introduction to help get friends talking about United America and the 10 values that really do unite nearly all of us in this nation.

OK, let’s get started!
Today’s question: Who’s that man in the picture?

More than half a century before the current “Black Lives Matter” campaign for racial justice, Dorie Miller embodied a closely related idea in a startling new way for millions of Americans who found themselves in the midst of World War II. At the time, most Americans were barely aware that African Americans were part of our armed forces—let alone risking their lives with such heroic distinction.

Doris Miller, born in 1919, is far better known by his nickname Dorie. He was a cook on the battleship West Virginia at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He had just finished serving breakfast when the first of nine Japanese torpedoes hit his ship. Like other crew members, when the attack began, Miller raced to his assigned battle station: an anti-aircraft battery that he discovered had already been destroyed.

Everyone aboard was in shock from the extent of the carnage the ship and the crew already had suffered. A commander spotted Miller and told him to help with the ship’s captain, who was so gravely wounded that he would not survive the day. Miller stood 6-foot-3 and was able to move the skipper to a more sheltered spot, where the captain tried to continue giving orders.

Then, Miller was assigned to a different set of anti-aircraft guns. Despite problems with that equipment, Miller soon was firing the big .50-caliber machine guns skyward. Later, Miller helped move and evacuate wounded survivors, saving many men who otherwise would have perished in the smoke, fire and rising sea water as the fatally damaged ship sank.

Doris Miller better known as Dorie Miller with his Navy Cross

“Dorie” Miller with his Navy Cross.

Miller was the first African American to receive the Navy Cross. He was celebrated coast to coast as an iconic figure in the nationwide campaign to mobilize all Americans in the war effort.

In particular, the poster designed by David Stone Martin (“Above and Beyond the Call of Duty”) was proudly hung in African American communities. A Chicago native, Martin went on to produce many illustrations and paintings, some of which hang today in major art museums and the Smithsonian. Before his death in 1992, Martin was famous for designing album covers featuring Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte and many more artists.

While Dorie Miller’s memory lives on to this day—he did not survive World War II. In 1943, he was killed in action when the USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine.

Talk about these images with friends!

The United America photo gallery Images of America was developed so you can freely share these inspiring images with friends. Feel free also to print out this week’s five-part series—or repost the columns—to get friends talking. This method has been used successfully with groups nationwide to spark spirited and constructive discussions about what unites us as Americans. Then, to fully understand the 10 core values, get the book United America. So, come on! Start your own discussion …

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Multiracial America: Republicans or Democrats?

Oklahoma legislator Lisa_Johnson_Billy

A Native American Republican? Political analysts, including many American Indian political activists, tend to assume that Native Americans lean Democratic. Plus, over the past decade, a number of Republican politicians have sparked controversy with their insensitive comments about Indians. But, late last year, the conservative National Review was telling its readers to look for the Republican Party to make inroads among Native Americans. One rising GOP candidate in Oklahoma is Lisa Johnson Billy, who was born into a Chickasaw-Irish family. Elected to the Oklahoma House in 2004, she is now vice chair of the GOP caucus and is deputy whip. (CLICK ON HER PHOTO to read an oral history transcript about her life.)

Racial differences translate into political differences. What are the political preferences for multiracial Americans? Do they mirror the general population, or are they unique?

This week, we’ve discussed the changing demographics of American society, considering the Pew Research Center’s new study of multiracial adults. We considered that the U.S. Census undercounts multiracial Americans, how race can change based on self-identification, whether biracial adults feel closer to one race or another, and the variation in racial discrimination by different biracial combinations. Today, we look at multiracial Americans’ political preferences.

Single-race black Americans strongly identify as Democrats: 92% do so. The same is true for black-American Indians (89%), white-blacks (73%), and white-black-American Indians (72%).

Single-race whites tend to prefer Republicans: 55% feel this way. A similar preference is evident for white/American Indian adults (53%). This multiracial group is the only one that prefers the GOP.

The majority of single-race Asians (68%) prefer Democrats. The same is true for white-Asians (60%).

So, when we examine political preferences, we see a pattern that we’ve observed all week: one race tends to dominate in a multiracial adult. In particular, if black is part of the combination, it tends to dominate the other race.

Are the political preferences of multiracial Americans what you expected?

As we conclude this week, what is your biggest surprise?

Your opinion matters:

Tell us what you think—leave a comment below—and tell friends about this series. You’re free to share these columns or to print them out and show them to friends to spark discussion.

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Multiracial America: Who experiences the most racial discrimination?

Crispus Attucks portrait

Did you know the first American casualty in the Revolutionary War was an African American Indian? Crispus Attucks was killed on March 5, 1770, in what was known as the Boston Massacre. Attucks was a merchant seaman and dockworker. His father was an African-born slave and his mother was from the Wampanoag tribe in southeastern Massachusetts.

Very few multiracial adults report that their mixed-race backgrounds have been a disadvantage, according to the new Pew reported we’re consulting this week. But many multiracial adults have experienced racial discrimination.

Of the following combinations, which would you predict experiences the most discrimination?

  • White/black
  • White/American Indian
  • White/Asian
  • Black/American Indian

It’s the last group—black/American Indian—that experiences the most discrimination due to racial background, according to Pew. More than seven of ten (71%) adults with a black/American Indian background say they have been subject to racial slurs and jokes. Two-thirds (67%) say they have received poor service in restaurants or other businesses. And, 39% say they have been unfairly stopped by the police.

Adults with a white/black heritage are second: 61% have been subject to slurs or jokes; 57% have experienced poor service; and, 41% say they have been unfairly stopped by police.

Generally, white-Asians and white-American Indians have experienced less discrimination. Yet 60% of white-Asians say they have been subject to racial jokes and slurs. For the most part, however, white-Asians and white-American Indians don’t experience the same levels of discrimination as adults who are white/black or black/American Indian.

As we saw yesterday with respect to social connections, the black/white division dominates the multiracial experience when it comes to racial discrimination.

If you are multiracial, has your mixed-race background been an advantage or a disadvantage?
Have you experienced racial discrimination?

Your opinion matters:

Tell us what you think—leave a comment below—and tell friends about this series. You’re free to share these columns or to print them out and show them to friends to spark discussion.

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Multiracial America: Do biracial adults feel closer to one race?

Maya_Rudolph

Actress-comedian Maya Rudolph is biracial: Her mother is soul singer Minnie Riperton, who is African-American, and her father is songwriter Richard Rudolph, who is Jewish. In an HBO interview, Maya said, “I don’t care for labels. They’re just kind of—forced.”

Most multiracial Americans are biracial—they have two different races in their backgrounds. Do they feel closer to one race?

The answer depends on which races make up a biracial background, according to the new Pew study of multiracial Americans.

The majority of Americans with a white-black background (58%) feel they have a lot in common with black Americans. About 19% say they have a lot in common with whites.

Americans with a black/American Indian background are similar: 61% say they have a lot in common with black Americans. Just 13% feel that way about Native Americans.

The picture is much different when we look at biracial Americans with an Asian-white heritage. The majority of Asian-white Americans (60%) say they have a lot in common with whites; just 33% say they have a lot in common with Asians.

Similarly, those who are both white and American Indian feel closer to whites than to Native Americans.

The pattern is simple: the black/white division dominates. If a person’s biracial mix includes black heritage, the person feels closer to blacks. If a person’s biracial mix does not include a black heritage but does include a white background, the person feels closer to whites.

If you are biracial, do you feel closer to one race or the other?

Are you surprised to know that the black/white division dominates?

START A CONVERSATION …

Tell us what you think—leave a comment below—and tell friends about this series. You’re free to share these columns or to print them out and show them to friends to spark discussion.

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Multiracial America: Can you change race?

Voices_of_Multiracial_Americans___Pew_Research_Center

CAN YOU GUESS this woman’s racial identity? In a Pew video, which you can see below, she explains how her self description sometimes varies.

Race was once thought of as a fixed category. One was or wasn’t this race or that. Now, we know that the definition of race is fluid; it includes several factors, one of which is self-identification.

Does this mean you can change race?

Having a multiracial background doesn’t necessarily mean that one identifies as multiracial. Six of ten (61%) Americans with a mixed race background do not consider themselves to be multiracial, according to the new Pew survey of multiracial America. (Recall from yesterday’s column that Pew defined a multiracial background by looking at the race of a respondent, parents, and grandparents.)

About seven of ten adults (69%) with a multiracial background who currently identify as multiracial always thought of themselves that way. But three of ten (29%) who have a multiracial background and who now identify as multiracial used to think of themselves as one race.

Changing race goes the other way, too. Among those with a multiracial background who currently think of themselves as one race, 29% used to think of themselves as multiracial, while 70% always thought of themselves as one race.
So, yes, for some people you can change your race.

Today, ask friends …

Has your racial identification changed over time?
Do you know anyone whose racial identification has changed?

VIEW THE VIDEO …

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