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

Common Ground: A new nation of immigrants?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series American Common Ground
Scene from PBS Independent Lens docmentary Las Marthas

OUR FOUNDING FATHERS? Yes, our Hispanic founding fathers! In February, PBS will broadcast an eye-opening documentary, “Las Marthas,” about a long tradition in Laredo, Texas, of marking Washington’s birthday by celebrating Hispanic ancestors in the region. (Click this photo to learn more about regional, public previews PBS is scheduling for the film.)

It’s a cliché to say that America is a land of immigrants, but it’s still true—and it’s truer today than it has been for a long, long time. We’ve experienced an historic immigration milestone in our history. Is this milestone making us a new nation of immigrants?

The historic milestone is this: Over 40 million immigrants (including those unauthorized) now call America home, according to Pew’s analysis of Census data. This figure is a new record. Percentage wise, this means that 13% of the American population is now foreign born.

This is the highest number of immigrants in absolute terms. But is it also the highest percentage? It’s not, according to U.S. Census data and analysis. The highest percentages of immigrants occurred over a century ago, at three time points: 1870 (14.4%), 1890 (14.8%), and 1910 (14.7%). For the record, these were the periods when my immigrant ancestors—on both sides of my family—came to America.

One big difference is the source of immigration—the countries of origin. In these earlier years, Europe was the biggest source. Now, Mexico is the biggest source, accounting for almost three of ten (29%) of immigrants, according to Pew. Mexico is closely followed by Asia (25%).

The reception of immigrants through American history has been tumultuous, occasionally bloody. But I believe it is also a reinforcement of one of America’s 10 core values: respect for others. Respect for others includes respect for people of different faiths and of different races and ethnicities, as I discuss in my new book, United America. Generally, our nation has been more welcoming of immigrants than other nations.

But before you leave today’s column thinking of Mexican-Americans as newcomers: Watch your local PBS TV schedules in mid-February, when the public-TV network airs Las Marthas. Filmmaker Cristina Ibarra takes viewers inside a tradition little known outside of Laredo, Texas. For many generations, Mexican-American families have marked Washington’s birthday by introducing their young debutantes in elaborate American Revolutionary-era gowns. The point of the festival is to remind Americans that many “Mexican” families have lived in what is now the U.S. for hundreds of years. (Are you a teacher or small-group leader? Here’s a wonderful, free, 14-page discussion guide to Las Marthas.)

Are you surprised at the record number of immigrants?

Do you welcome our new emerging ethnic mix?

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Categories: Equal Opportunities

Valuable Objects: Missing photographs, missing memories?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Valuable Objects

Jennifer Pollard with photo of her great grandmotherAmericans today are the most photographed people in history. Smart phones and Facebook make it easy to capture daily images of our lives and share them. Go back a generation or two, however, and photographs are rare. Many are missing, representing gaps in the stories of our families.

Do you have a photographic gap in yours?

Here’s a story of one such gap: Jennifer Pollard’s family is from Barbados, the tiny island nation just north of South America. Jennifer participated in our recent group discussion on objects and the values they signify. She showed a photograph of her Great Grandmother Cecelia. This photo is a valuable object. But the missing photograph is one of her Uncle Arlington, one of her Great Grandmother’s 11 children. Seven immigrated to America, and her uncle was the first. As Jennifer told us, “He came through Ellis Island, and he started a dry cleaning business in New York.”

As she told her story, she reflected that the activity of sharing such valuable objects can be difficult. “You realize how many gaps you have about your family,” she said. “I did meet my Uncle Arlington and some of his siblings—but my regret is that I didn’t get to know them more and to meet those whom I didn’t get to meet. I wish that they had lived longer so I would have been able to learn more about them. … A part of me is missing because I don’t have a decent knowledge of my great aunts and great uncle.”

Arlington’s story is a classic immigrant story of people coming here to make a better life for themselves and their families. His example illustrates the values of achievement, hard work, and enterprise.

Do you have a story like Jennifer’s?

Is there a gap in your family knowledge?

What object would you use to tell the story of your values and how you got them?

Please, take a moment to add a Comment, below. And invite friends to read along. Use the blue-”f” Facebook icon or the small envelope-shaped email icon.
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Categories: Getting AheadSelf-Reliance

Cultural Competence: Is your name a barrier … or a bridge?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Cultural Competence

From Dr. Wayne Baker: Please welcome Joe Grimm, a journalism professor at Michigan State University and editor of a new series of guides to cultural competence. Here’s the first book in the MSU series.
And—here’s Joe Grimm …

Middle-school journalism students in Unis Middle School in Dearborn Michigan. Photo by Joe Grimm, used by permission.

Middle-school journalism students at Unis Middle School in Dearborn, Michigan. Photo by Joe Grimm, used by permission.

Names can be barriers.

Until you know a person’s name and how to say it, you might hold them at the verbal equivalent of arm’s length.

It happens with people whose name you can’t remember. It happens if the name is unfamiliar. The barrier can be rooted in culture, language or religion.

When Living Textbook partner Emilia Askari and I began working with middle-school journalism students in Unis Middle School in Dearborn, Mich., we met a room full of people with names with which I had little familiarity. Most of the students there are Arab-American Muslims.

In my family, most people are named after relatives, saints or for qualities expressed in the names. Instead of Steven and Terry and Kyle, this class had Ali, Fatima and Khalil.

As an ice-breaker, I told the students my name and how I got it. I asked to hear the story of their names.

“My name is Khalil, and there are multiple reasons on why I have my name. First, my name means friend of God. Second, my uncle’s name is Khalil.”

“My name is Fatima. I was named that because it is the name of the prophet’s daughter. My name means the one kept away from evil and bad character.”

“My name is Ahmad. That name means praiseworthy. My dad named me that because his brother that died was named Ahmad, too. My name is also one of the many names of the prophet Mohammed.”

One student, named Mohammed, said that there are so many boys at that school with his name that when someone calls it, “half the school turns around.” Having grown up with a lot of people named after Saint Joseph, I understood immediately.

Names can be barriers, but they should be bridges.

sm MSU cultural competence guide cover 100 questions and answers about Indian Americans

Click the cover to learn more about the book.

Care to learn more about this? In “100 Questions About Indian Americans,” first in a series of guides by Read The Spirit and the Michigan State University School of Journalism, one of the issues that comes up is names.

Whose name presents a barrier to you?

Can you get closer to them by learning its story or pronunciation?

What names seem funny or odd to you? Do you know where they come from?

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Categories: Equal Opportunities

Immigration Reform: No more “illegal immigrants”?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Reforming Immigration Policy

End of Illegal Immigrant graphicImmigration reform now includes language reform!

This week, the Associated Press (AP) announced that the phrase “illegal immigrant” is no longer proper style for journalists following AP’s widely used style guide. How influential is that guide? More than 2 million copies have been sold since the guide was first developed in the 1950s. The guide—including its regular updates—is as influential among writers and editors as the Merriam-Webster dictionary. (That includes editors at ReadTheSpirit and OurValues, who consult both the AP guide and Webster’s.)

My questions today:
Are you glad to see “illegal immigrant” go?
Or, would you prefer to keep it?

The AP news is a timely cap for our week exploring immigration reform: We’ve discussed how most people think the current immigration system is broken and favor a path to citizenship, the ancient tradition of welcoming the stranger, the fact that America remains the Number One preferred destination for immigrants, and that each of us has a family immigration story. Today, we consider this new shift in language.

Here is what AP now says in its style manual:

illegal immigration: Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use “illegal” only to refer to an action, not a person: “illegal immigration,” but not “illegal immigrant.” Acceptable variations include “living in” or “entering a country illegally” or “without legal permission.”

To learn more about the perspectives of AP executives, here is a statement by Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll. Of course, not everyone agrees with the change. Some politicians, like John McCain, have said that they will stick with “illegal immigrant.” Generally, Republicans have preferred the phrase. Some media commentators have taken issue, including Jay Leno who joked about the politically loaded nature of the change.

Today, I want to know your reaction:

Is abolishing “illegal immigrant” an improvement?

Do you prefer alternatives?

Does immigration reform require language reform?

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Categories: Equal Opportunities

Immigration Reform: What’s your family’s immigration story?

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Reforming Immigration Policy
‘CLIMBING INTO THE PROMISED LAND’ That’s the title given to Lewis Hines’ famous 1908 photograph of newly arrived immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. One print of the photograph is displayed in the Brooklyn Museum, which regards the photo now as part of the public domain.

‘CLIMBING INTO THE PROMISED LAND’ That’s the title given to Lewis Hines’ famous 1908 photograph of newly arrived immigrants arriving at Ellis Island. One print of the photograph is displayed in the Brooklyn Museum, which regards the photo now as part of the public domain.

Debates about immigration reform don’t go long before we are reminded that America is an immigrant society. Almost all Americans are descendents of immigrants or are immigrants themselves.

What’s your immigration story? Today, please, tell us how your family first came to the United States.

Almost 70% of Americans know the story of how their families first came to these shores, according to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). More than four of ten (43%) say they know the story very well. The majority of Asian Americans and Latino Americans say they know their family’s immigration story very well, but only a minority of white and black Americans can say the same.

I know my family’s immigration story on my mother’s side very well—because it’s so short. She was born in America, but her parents were born in England. My grandfather grew up in an English poor house, and like so many, immigrated to the States primarily to better his lot in life. These grandparents never lost their English accents, and it always surprised me when my grandfather said that he felt discriminated against because of his heritage and language.

The story on my father’s side is much longer, with five or six generations born in the United States. The story is hazy before that, but it appears that the ancestor who immigrated came from the English-Scottish borderlands as part of the so-called Great Migration of the Scots-Irish to America. The reason for moving was the same—to escape poverty and find economic opportunity.

How well do you know your family’s immigration story?

Would you tell us the story?

Does your story influence how you see immigration reform?

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Categories: FreedomGetting Ahead

Immigration Reform: Who dreams of coming to America?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Reforming Immigration Policy
COMING TO AMERICA: The most famous African author of the 20th Century, Nigerian Chinua Achebe never dreamed of moving to the United States and resisted coming for many years. Nevertheless, he lived here on and off in recent decades—the first time after the tragic Nigerian civil war in which Achebe backed the unsuccessful bid to create an independent Biafra. The United States represented a safe haven and an important global pulpit for Achebe’s messages. When he died on March 21 at age 82, he was living in Boston. Photo by Stuart C. Shapiro released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

COMING TO AMERICA: The most famous African author of the 20th Century, Nigerian Chinua Achebe never dreamed of moving to the United States and resisted coming for many years. Nevertheless, he lived here on and off in recent decades—the first time after the tragic Nigerian civil war in which Achebe backed the unsuccessful bid to create an independent Biafra. The United States represented a safe haven and an important global pulpit for Achebe’s messages. When he died on March 21 at age 82, he was living in Boston. Photo by Stuart C. Shapiro released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

WHO still wants to come?

That’s today’s question and reflects the popular image of immigration as a veritable flood of people from around the world who would move to America if they could.

First, is that image accurate? Do millions of people around the world dream of coming to America?

Gallup’s worldwide survey of 154 nations found: About 13% of the world’s adult population would like to move permanently to another country. That’s about 630 million who would like to emigrate.

What’s the Number One preferred destination? Yes, it is the United States. An estimated 138 million adults would like to move permanently to America. That’s equal to 44% of the current population of the United States.

But the U.S. is not the only dream destination: Other favored destinations include the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Australia.

In raw numbers, China, Nigeria, India, and Brazil would be the biggest “suppliers” of migrants to the United States. Gallup estimates that 48 million people from these four nations would like to relocate permanently to America.

There are four countries where 25% or more of the total adult population would like to move here permanently. Over one-third (37%) of adults in Liberia would like to move to the United States, 30% of adults in Sierra Leone, 28% of adults in Dominican Republic, and 25% from Haiti.

Are you surprised by these findings?

Does this information shape your views on immigration reform?

What’s your story of immigration?

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Categories: Equal OpportunitiesFreedom