Bias Busters: Is diversity America’s new Manifest Destiny?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Bias Busters

Three MSU covers of cultural guides

FROM WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome Joe Grimm, editor of the Michigan State University School of Journalism’s series of guides to cultural competence. Here is Joe’s first of five columns …

MSU 100 Questions International students guide front

Click this cover to visit the bookstore.

Besides July 4 parades, picnics and fireworks—this week will feature citizenship ceremonies in many cities. These inspiring civic ceremonies, where men and women from around the world become Americans, are reminders that we are a nation of immigrants. (And, here’s one immigrant’s story.)

The elasticity of the noun, “Americans,” has been coming up a lot at Michigan State University. Consider this: Michigan became a state in 1837.  MSU was organized to fulfill a mandate in Michigan’s 1850 Constitution that called for the creation of an “agricultural school;” and the first class of 63 young men were almost exclusively farmers.

Today? Now, MSU is a community of 50,000 students from countries all around the world studying nearly every academic discipline offered at major universities. The campus welcomes every race and ethnic group in the U.S., and MSU’s Office for International Students reports more than 7,000 students arrive each year from other countries, including China (our biggest international group at more than 4,000 students) plus Brazil, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and dozens of other nations. As part of the faculty of MSU’s School of Journalism, I just returned from a week of teaching classes held in Saudi Arabia.

As American Independence Day rolls around this year, I’m thinking that, as Americans, we need to rethink our vision of Manifest Destiny. In the 19th century, Manifest Destiny meant that America should stretch from sea to sea. It was one pressure that led to the acquisition of a large part of Mexico by the United States. That old Manifest Destiny also gave American leaders an excuse to conquer many of the native peoples living on this continent.

I’d like you to join me this week for a five-part series about diversity in America. And our first question is: In the 21st century, could America’s new Manifest Destiny be that of becoming the most diverse nation on Earth?

At MSU, we’re already laying the groundwork so that diverse communities can peacefully embrace these many cultures. I teach a series of classes in which MSU journalism students become “Bias Busters” and rigorously research guidebooks to understanding various aspects of our nation’s growing diversity. Professionals refer to this as achieving “cultural competence”—and that goal already is encouraged in major corporations, health-care systems, schools and other public institutions.

This series of Bias Busters guides we are publishing answer the simple, everyday questions we hear in coffee shops and at work. But the guides and this week’s holiday also surface some big truths. Here are two of them:

  1. While we may look different, sound different and have different traditions, our basic values, needs and hopes are fundamentally the same. We all want to live in peace, to be clean and safe, to go where we wish and to do as we like. We want this for others, too. Understanding this makes it much easier to ask the questions and hear the answers in a way that draws us together and not apart.
  2. Several of the 10 core values in Wayne Baker’s book, United America, really resonate this Fourth of July week. They include symbolic patriotism, critical patriotism, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Come back each day, through Friday! In the next four parts of this series, I will look at four of our most intriguing minority groups. You may pick up some fascinating facts to share at your own Fourth of  July party.

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Categories: Justice and Fairness

Bias Busters: Some surprises about our largest minority group

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Bias Busters
Hispanic front cover web res

Click the cover to visit the bookstore.

FROM WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome Joe Grimm, editor of the Michigan State University School of Journalism’s series of guides to cultural competence.

You probably already know that Hispanics are America’s largest minority group. They surpassed blacks in 2003.

And Hispanics keep passing milestones. Some recent changes, several of which are covered in 100 Questions and Answers About Hispanic and Latinos:

  • Most American Hispanics and Latinos are not immigrants. They were born here.
  • In 2014, Hispanics and Latinos surpassed whites as the largest ethnic group in California. New Mexico claimed that distinction first, but California is a far larger state.
  • Hispanic children now make up more than one quarter of all pupils in public elementary schools.
  • According to a 2013 report by the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project, Hispanic high school graduates are now more likely to attend college than their non-Hispanic white peers.
  • In June, Pew reported that for the first time in nearly 20 years most U.S. Hispanic workers are native-born, not immigrants.

These are important statistical benchmarks, but numbers do not add up to understanding. That requires personal investigation, engagement and conversation with people.

When journalism students at Michigan State University contemplated a Bias Busters guide on Hispanics and Latinos (both terms are used, though neither has a strong preference), this was the first question: If so many Americans are Hispanic, do we even need a guide? Some research into what people are searching for on Google said that we do.

These are some questions for you:

How do you keep up with rapidly changing dynamics?

Do you read, and if so, what? Do you have sources who keep you informed? How do you stay current?

JOE GRIMM is visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism and editor of the Bias Busters guides to cultural competence. He spent more than 25 years at the Detroit Free Press, 18 of them as its recruiter. You can read more about the series on its website at: http://news.jrn.msu.edu/culturalcompetence/

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Categories: Justice and Fairness

Bias Busters: How Asian students contribute to America

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Bias Busters

FROM WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome Joe Grimm, editor of the Michigan State University School of Journalism’s series of guides to cultural competence.

100 Q&A Asians front cover

Click the cover to visit our bookstore.

An international student who came to the United States this week for a summer educational program sent a question to the program’s director. Her suitcase was full, she wrote, and she is used to having a stuffed animal to help her sleep. She asked if she could buy one in the city where she would be staying.

When she arrived, she found a new stuffed animal in her room. The program director noted that the toy, like the student, had both come from China.

It seems like most things we buy in the United States are made in China. It is absolute fact that many people studying in our colleges and universities are from China. Education has become a top U.S. export, but it is the kind of export that one must come here to obtain—and it takes years to acquire.

According to the Institute for International Education, “International students make up slightly under four percent of total student enrollment at the graduate and undergraduate level combined. International students’ spending in all 50 states contributed approximately $24 billion to the U.S. economy.”

In April, the U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program reported that, for the first time, international students enrolled in the United States had exceeded 1 million.

Three quarters of the international students in the United States were from Asia and 29 percent were from China, like the student with the stuffed animal.

International enrollment is significant at Michigan State University, where the Bias Busters guides are produced.

Students in an international advertising class produced “100 Questions and Answers About East Asian Cultures” to help Americans understand their peers from overseas. The group included Americans and students from China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

Their guide answers questions about culture, communication, food, religion and money. Students said they learned from publishing the guide and from working with each other.

Do you think international enrollment hurts or helps U.S. students? Why?

Should the U.S. make it easier for international students educated here to stay and work?

JOE GRIMM is visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism and editor of the Bias Busters guides to cultural competence. He spent more than 25 years at the Detroit Free Press, 18 of them as its recruiter. You can read more about the series on its website at: http://news.jrn.msu.edu/culturalcompetence/

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Categories: Justice and Fairness

Bias Busters: Arab Americans, terrorism and patriotism

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Bias Busters

FROM WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome Joe Grimm, editor of the Michigan State University School of Journalism’s series of guides to cultural competence.

100 Q&A_ArabAmericans

Click the cover to visit our bookstores.

People of Arab descent have lived in the United States for well more than a hundred years. Yet, after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there was a sudden interest in knowing more about them. There was also a spike in apprehension both about Arab Americans and by them.

Arab Americans became double victims.

As Americans—most Arab Americans were born on U.S. soil—their homeland had been attacked. As people of Arab ancestry, some suspected they had connections to terrorists. There was even retaliatory attacks and profiling.

The updated guide 100 Questions and Answers About Arab Americans comes from a guide that was actually published before Sept. 11.

The basis for the guide was questions that Arab Americans regularly encountered. Those included:

Are Arab Americans more loyal to their home countries or to America?

Why did they come here?

Where do they live?

Which are the Arab countries? Is Iran one of them? What religions do they practice?

The Bias Busters series modeled on the Arab Americans guide is designed with four qualities in mind. The guides are written with respect for the groups they cover and for the people who ask the questions. Answers are vetted and edited for accuracy. The answers are checked by experts to be authoritative. Finally, guides are written and published to be accessible. All the guides are in paper and eBook format and available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and others.

This guide, like the others, is meant to make people feel comfortable asking questions of their own and learning more.

What would you like to know about Arab Americans?

Other than books and the Internet, how do you get your information about other cultures?

JOE GRIMM is visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism and editor of the Bias Busters guides to cultural competence. He spent more than 25 years at the Detroit Free Press, 18 of them as its recruiter. You can read more about the series on its website at: http://news.jrn.msu.edu/culturalcompetence/

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Bias Busters: Better interfaith communication

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Bias Busters

FROM WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome Joe Grimm, editor of the Michigan State University School of Journalism’s series of guides to cultural competence.

NAIN conference in Detroit 2014

Click the logo to visit the NAIN 2014 website.

So far, the Bias Busters series includes six guides. The latest is 100 Questions and Answers About Arab Americans, which we discussed yesterday. The next we will produce—and our first guide to concentrate on interfaith issues—will be about Muslim Americans.

How does it make sense to follow up a guide about Arabs with one about Muslims? Many Americans assume that these are pretty much the same groups: All Arabs are Muslims, aren’t they?

No, they are not. And that is one of the first lessons for readers in the new guide when it is published in November.

Most of the world’s Muslims are not Arabs. And most Arab Americans are not Muslims, either. Simple and significant facts like these are the heart of the Bias Busters series.

We hope that with clear, accurate information, people will be more comfortable talking with each other and will have deeper conversations with more people.

The guides begin by interviewing people from the group we write about and they are meant to start conversations and journeys.

We will begin our journey on the Muslim guide with two conferences in Detroit in August. The first will be the North American Interfaith Network conference in Detroit Aug. 10-13. The second will be the convention of the Islamic Society of North America Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.

These are some of the questions we will be asking, but we’d really appreciate it if you could give us a head start with answers of your own:

What are major misconceptions about Muslims? What do people get wrong?

What are essential facts to understanding Islam in America?

JOE GRIMM is visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism and editor of the Bias Busters guides to cultural competence. He spent more than 25 years at the Detroit Free Press, 18 of them as its recruiter. You can read more about the series on its website at: http://news.jrn.msu.edu/culturalcompetence/

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Categories: Uncategorized