Family stories from StoryCorp

StoryCorp is an audio-history project that’s been around for a decade in which people talk about their lives and the lives of others. Here are three stories of American diversity.

A working black family:

A working Hispanic family:

A working white family:

You can see these on YouTube, or order a DVD from PBS here.


Cheerios are good for your heart: the sequel

I wonder what’s happening in the Cheerios world in the wake of the racist backlash against the ad with the interracial family:

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So how’s Republican outreach doing?

Here’s the latest from the Republican National Committee’s Florida Hispanic Outreach Director:

Yes, I have changed my political affiliation to the Democratic Party.

It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today. I have wondered before about the seemingly harsh undertones about immigrants and others. Look no further; a well-known organization recently confirms the intolerance of that which seems different or strange to them.

Studies geared towards making – human beings – viewed as less because of their immigrant status to outright unacceptable claims, are at the center of the immigration debate. Without going too deep on everything surrounding immigration today, the more resounding example this past week was reported by several media outlets.

A researcher included as part of a past dissertation his theory that “the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ.” The researcher reinforces these views by saying “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.”

Although the organization distanced themselves from those assertions, other immigration-related research is still padded with the same racist and eugenics-based innuendo. Some Republican leaders have blandly (if at all) denied and distanced themselves from this but it doesn’t take away from the culture within the ranks of intolerance. The pseudo-apologies appear to be a quick fix to deep-rooted issues in the Republican Party in hopes that it will soon pass and be forgotten.

The complete disregard of those who are in disadvantage is also palpable. We are not looking at an isolated incident of rhetoric or research. Others subscribe to motivating people to action by stating, “In California, a majority of all Hispanic births are illegitimate. That’s a lot of Democratic voters coming.” The discourse that moves the Republican Party is filled with this anti-immigrant movement and overall radicalization that is far removed from reality. Another quick example beyond the immigration debate happened during CPAC this year when a supporter shouted ““For giving him shelter and food for all those years?” while a moderator explained how Frederick Douglass had written a letter to his slave master saying that he forgave him for “all the things you did to me.” I think you get the idea.

When the political discourse resorts to intolerance and hate, we all lose in what makes America great and the progress made in society.

Although I was born an American citizen, I feel that my experience, and that of many from Puerto Rico, is intertwined with those who are referred to as illegal.

Pablo Pantoja has come to his senses. Who’s next?

The GOP’s wish … with a capital W

Wow! Mitt Romney was such a bad candidate that Republicans are now longing for the charisma of former president “He Who Shall Not Be Named.” (From the National Journal):

As Republicans reassess their future in the presidential wilderness, seeking a message and messenger to resonate with a new generation of voters, one unlikely name has popped up as a role model: former President George W. Bush.

Prominent Republicans eager to rebuild the party in the wake of the 2012 election are pointing to Bush’s successful campaigns for Hispanic votes, his efforts to pass immigration reform, and his mantra of “compassionate conservatism.” Bush won 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000 and at least 40 percent in 2004, a high-water mark for a Republican presidential candidate. …

These signs of wear and tear to the Republican brand are prompting some of Bush’s critics to acknowledge his political foresight and ability to connect with a diverse swath of Americans, although the economic crash and unpopular wars on his watch make it unlikely he will ever be held up as a great president.

“Unlikely” is understating it. “Never” is the correct word.

But the whole idea of “compassionate conservatism” is an oxymoron to begin with. It’s just that the phrase was  enough to convince media hacks that you can go after programs like Social Security (which Bush did at the beginning of his second term) in a caring manner. “Compassionate Conservatives” told lies to put is in an unnecessary war when it should have focused our military on the real enemy in a cave in another country, gave billions of dollars to the super rich in tax cuts, turned a budget surplus into a huge deficit and alienated nearly every minority group in the nation.

Then it plunged us into a financial disaster.

Because it lost the last presidential elections, the GOP wants us to get the warm fuzzies by remembering the eight years of Bush the Dumber, the person the party totally pretended never existed during the campaign.

That’s why you call it the Stupid Party.


And the mourners are all sanguine? Don’t think so.

I’m guessing that now that the election is over, a lot of people are thinking that the divisiveness between red and blue, conservative and liberal, majority and minority will come to an end. Now we can work together to improve the country for everybody.

And then I saw a Tumblr site called White People Mourning Romney and realized it ain’t gonna happen.

There are some seriously pissed off people out there. And they’re pissed off because they’ve been lied to by the conservative entertainment complex for the past four years.

Rosie Perez explains Mitt Romney’s Latino comment

Uh oh. Looks like Mitt didn’t do the right thing.


That’s mighty white of you

It looks like the big news of the day was that more minority babies were born in America in 2011 than white babies.

Whatever that means.

Anyone ever hear of a plurality? If white births made up 49.6% of all births in the U.S., that’s a pretty big number. Seems the media freakout was that if you took at all the other ethnicities and added them together they would outnumber whites.

Which implies that there’s some kind of takeover of the country? Or what?

Is there some belief that all the minorities are going to get together and say “This is our country”? Because if that’s the case, the answer is, “Well, yeah. If you’re born in America, you’re an American, so this is your country.”

And that is bad because …?

I’m not trying to be dense. I just don’t see the significance of it. We’re Americans. We don’t all get along. That’s sort of the fun of being an American. You’re supposed to have different views. That’s why people left Europe centuries ago. That’s why people leave their countries today. Because, contrary to what the paranoids on the right say, the country’s success has been its diversity.

And what is white, anyway? Historically, when other ethnic groups arrived in America seeking opportunity, they were cast as outsiders. Irish, Italians, Eastern Europeans. All lived in ghettos. All assimilated. All white. Those white babies aren’t 100 percent from one ethnic group.

Two ethnic groups were severely oppressed. Native Americans (who actually are THE real Americans) and Africans (who prior to the mid-19th century didn’t come over voluntarily). Are they trying to tell us that those groups are less American than the European whites who came over after the mid-19th century? Anyway, even when you put those two groups together, that’s still doesn’t outnumber whites. Asians have arrived. Add them, and they still don’t outnumber whites.

Are we supposed to believe that people coming from South America and south of the U.S. border are the tipping point? Hell, the ancestry of vast numbers of them is European. So doesn’t that make them European whites? So aren’t European whites still the majority? And since I’m going to be really cynical about this, in the Trayvon Martin case, wasn’t George Zimmerman white until his father said his mother was Hispanic? When the cops brought him in after the shooting, do you really think they looked at him, saw the name George Zimmerman and said, “Oh, yeah. He’s Latino.”?

I can’t really reason this one out. I’ll hand it off to Juan Cole at Informed Comment, who titles his blog post: Minority Births the Majority? On how the whole idea of White People is Made Up.

Whiteness as it was constructed in the nineteenth century was not about skin color but about being Protestant and propertied. There were even distinctions within the group. WASP or White Anglo-Saxon Protestant did not refer to all Protestants of English heritage, but rather to a northeast elite that tended to marry within themselves and to have a disproportionate hold on political and business office. The Scottish-American elite was another subgroup (Presbyterian as opposed to Episcopalian).

So not all whites were equally white. Moreover, Catholic immigrants such as the Irish, the Poles and the Italians were either not considered white when they first came or were denoted as a lesser category of white. Jews, Arabs, Japanese and Chinese were also not considered white. Indeed, a special law was made to keep Chinese in particular out of the country.

Over time, the Catholic minorities who immigrated into the US in the big 1880-1924 wave, before racist immigration laws were implemented, became accepted as ‘white.’ In the past 30 years, Jews have been accepted as white. It is even possible, I think, to argue that middle class Blacks on the model of Bill Cosby’s the Huxtables have become ‘white.’ You’ll note that Harry Reid said of Obama the candidate that he ‘had no dialect,’ so for older ‘whites,’ blackness was in part cultural, wrought up with an imagined African-American speech pattern. Thus, the Obamas are in some sense ‘white,’ producing that odd argument about whether Obama is ‘black enough,’ which non-Americans must have found baffling.

Read his whole post. Then ask yourself if the breathless minority birth announcement is even relevant.

A bad lesson plan

Want to know a certain public school in Georgia thinks is an effective way to teach third graders? Here are a couple of math questions from homework at an elementary school in Norcross in Gwinnett County:

–“Each tree had 56 oranges. If eight slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”

— “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in one week?”

Needless to say, some parents are livid. But the surprise here is that the school is mostly made up of minorities. According to census figures, this is the breakdown:

Total Students (2009 – 2010): 1199

African American: 286 (23.9%)
American Indian: 5 (0.4%)
Asian: 71 (5.9%)
Hispanic: 746 (62.2%)
Pacific Islander: 0 (0%)
Two or more races: 37 (3.1%)
White: 54 (4.5%)
Not Specified:0 (0%)

Fulltime teachers: 91.5
Student/Teacher Ratio: 13.1
Eligible for discounted/free lunch: 87 (7%)

That’s actually a decent student/teacher ratio. So in a school that’s more than 90% minority, the teachers who are responsible for the homework questions thought mixing lessons on slavery with lessons on math was a good idea.

I don’t think you can blame this on racism. I think you blame this on stupidity.

(Oh, and the correct answers are “Seven, you moron,” and “Fourteen, you prick.” Extra credit for more age-inappropriate answers.)