Thursday, April 19, 2007

Americans need to be honest about racial and ethnic problems

Panel looks at America's melting potMSU's Public Affairs Conference created forum for diversity dialogue.Steve Koehler News-Leader Whether America is a melting pot or an ethnic stew, it needs to examine the role diversity plays in its culture, according to panelists Wednesday at Missouri State University's Public Affairs Conference.
Yasmin Shiraz, an African-American author, and Joseph Boyce, a former editor with the Wall Street Journal, said the country should do away with the practice of setting aside months to recognize certain cultures or ethnic groups.

"Special months compartmentalize these sort of things," Shiraz said.
"Let's be honest and recognize women and blacks and Latinos all year long."
Boyce said the younger generation has shed many hangups about gender and race.
He added that Americans need to be honest about racial and ethnic problems.
"We know when we're doing something wrong and we know when we're doing something right. We know racists, sexism and discrimination."

The panel discussion was entitled "Melting Pot or Ethnic Stew? Recipe for the Future of the United States."
Avelino Gonzalez, who came from Cuba in 1960, considers himself an American first and suggested the country stop promoting cultural diversity.
"We're already the most diverse country in the world. I am not a Cuban American.
"I am an American," said Gonzalez, professor in the computer engineering department at the University of Central Florida.
"Cuban American implies I have divided loyalties."
Shiraz disagreed with Gonzalez's suggestion to stop promoting cultural diversity.
"There are some businesses, Fortune 500 companies, where minorities are not allowed or welcomed. They have one black, one Hispanic and 300 other employees," she said.
Shiraz said publishers of her book in 2002 changed the silhouettes of women on the book cover to have clearly African-American features because they felt she couldn't reach a general audience as a black writer.
"Books written by African-Americans are marketed almost exclusively to African-Americans," she said.
The world of movies, television and advertising is homogenizing groups, Shiraz said.
"Ethnic cultures are being told to tone down their ethnicity.
"They're trying to have everybody look the same," she said.
Annie Gill-Bloyer, the faith outreach organizer for the ONE campaign, which helps American awareness of HIV/AIDS and world poverty, said the melting pot metaphor doesn't work since there is one dominant culture and a number of minority cultures.
"As white people we don't often realize that we have a culture," she said.
Boyce said some Americans have resisted becoming a melting pot.
"African-Americans are the only group that didn't want to be here. They were kidnapped and brought here, but you're supposed to forget about that," he said as the audience of several hundred laughed.
Gonzalez likes the melting pot image.
"We need things to unite us, not divide us," he said, adding that he believes English should be the official language of the U.S. and that money should not be spent on bilingual education.
"English is the closest thing we have to an international language," he said.

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