Spring project: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Michigan State students: Please sign up now to help us bust biases about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That will be the spring project for our 1-credit course, JRN 492, Section 001. It will meet 4:10-5 p.m. Mondays.

Church members, whom you probably have heard referred to as Mormons, are subject to all kinds of questions, guesses and stereotypes. We will talk to church members, get their take on what they wish people understood about them, and publish a print and digital book for sale on Amazon and other online booksellers. It’s pretty cool to have your name in a book and to do some good.

The course description is under Journalism courses for the spring of 2020.

Here is how students in one class described working on Bias Busters:

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Cultural competence series of Bias Busters guides is growing

All Bias Busters guides are available in print or digital formats by clicking on the covers. We also customize guides for organizations and offer volume discounts. With guides about Chaldean Americans, Gen X and Millennials new in 2019, we have 17 guides. Thank you for visiting.

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Toronto Raptors announce team-branded hijabs

Women in hijab play basketball
The Toronto Raptors took to Twitter to announce a hijab, co-branded by the basketball team and Nike.

The tweet, with a video showing women playing basketball, said:

Inspired by those brave enough to change the game.

The Toronto Raptors Nike Pro Hijab is available now.

Within three days, the tweet had more than 1.4 million views and about 10,000 comments, both for and against.

Negative comments reflected both anti-Islam views and the trolling of women in sports.

“100 Questions and Answers About Muslim Americans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Study calls police a top cause of death for young Black men

A University of Michigan study concludes that use of force by police is the sixth leading cause of death for young African-American men.

Study co-author Michael Esposito, a postdoctoral researcher in the Survey Research Center at the U-M Institute for Social Research, said, “This study shows us that police killings are deeply systematic, with race, gender and age patterning this excess cause of death.”

The study’s conclusions are based on an analysis of a database reported journalistically in a project called Fatal Encounters.

Causes of death that went into the analysis include gunshots, Tasers, asphyxiation, beatings, chemical agents and medical emergencies, but not cars chases or accidents.

Lead author Frank Edwards, assistant professor at Rutgers’ School of Criminal Justice, said, “What motivated this study was a big gap in what was available in terms of basic estimates of how likely people are to be killed by police.”

The lack of comprehensive federal data on the issue was one of the issues the Michigan State University School of Journalism encountered in putting together “100 Questions and Answers About Police Officers.”

The guide includes a section on use of force. Here is one question and answer:

What is “excessive force?”
Let’s distinguish between excessive force and deadly force. Law enforcement officers are trained to apply the force necessary to protect the public and themselves. The International Association of Chiefs of Police defines force as pressure used to control a situation or compel compliance. This can range from persuasion to firearm use, often called “lethal force.” Excessive force is using more than is necessary. When there is a lethal threat, police may use lethal force. Force does not have to be life-threatening to be excessive.

“100 Questions and Answers About Police Officers” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Birthright citizenship in the U.S. goes back 150 years

A threat this week by President Donald Trump to end “birthright citizenship” would seem destined for the courts.

Book coverTrump’s widely cited hot-button declaration from outside the White House on Aug. 21 was “We’re looking at that very seriously—birthright citizenship, where you have a baby on our land. You walk over the border, have a baby. Congratulations, the baby is now a U.S. citizen … It’s frankly ridiculous.”

He reaffirmed his position the next day.

Where does the U.S. concept of birthright citizenship come from?

It was codified in the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War, not because of immigration, although the courts have also applied it that way for well more than a century.

Birthright citizenship is part of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, adopted by Congress on July 9, 1868. It was intended to define as citizens U.S.-born Black Americans, whose rights were being denied. The amendment was part of a package of changes, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which also declared Blacks full citizens, and the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, that gave Black males the right to vote. Women did not win the right to vote until the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920.

Suppression of minority voting rights led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The difficulties continue.

The first section of the 14th Amendment says: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

About 30 countries have provisions that confer citizenship based on where people were born, although Trump says the U.S. is the only country that does that. Some opponents of birthright citizenship question what “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” means. A court fight would be in keeping with the amendment’s reputation as one of the most controversial ever adopted.

“100 Questions and Answers About Immigrants to the U.S.” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Questioning American Jews’ loyalty raises dangerous old trope

Twice this week, President Donald Trump said American Jews who vote for Democrats are disloyal to Jewish people and to Israel.

Jewish people protested.

The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, was one of many to object to what has long been used as a stereotype about Jews.

An Aug. 21 tweet by ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

Greenblatt wrote that, for centuries, detractors have accused Jews of being disloyal or having dual loyalties to Israel and their own countries. Trump’s remarks struck two blind spots about Jews.

This is how “100 Questions and Answers About American Jews,” available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore, addresses the loyalty trope:

Are many American Jews also citizens of Israel?
No. One way to undermine people is to question their loyalty. This is behind statements that some Jews are citizens of both the United States and Israel. According to Pew Research almost 90 percent of American Jews surveyed were born in the United States. Others became U.S. citizens. Very few have dual citizenship, and the United States recognizes such arrangements with many countries.

Trump raised a second stereotype and that is that American Jews vote together. They do not. Although they tend to favor Democrats, Jews support both major parties in the U.S. This is what the guide says about that:

Which major political party do Jewish voters support?
In 2014, about 61 percent of people who identified as Jews also identified as Democrats or leaned that way. About 29 percent identified as or leaned toward being Republican. The study, by Gallup, showed that the Democratic preference had declined from 71 percent in 2008. The Democratic preference was higher among women, non-religious Jews and Jews with higher educations.

The American Jews guide was the first Bias Buster to address myths and stereotypes directly in their own section. It was a step forward for us because we had always been cautious about giving currency or credibility to biases by repeating them. In this guide, we felt the confidence to debunk stereotypes in a way that did not bolster them.

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Millennial news will dominate our feeds

Are you ready for lots and lots of news about Millennials?

It has already started and is bound to continue as this bigger-than-Gen-X cohort continues assuming a dominant role in society.

In just the past 24 hours, we have seen:

How to buy a home, Millennial style, USA Today

Millennials are actually having better sex than you, New York Post

Business Has ‘No Choice’ But to Adapt to Millennials, Fortune

Get the best from Millennials, CEO Magazine blog

Why targeting Millennial consumers might not be such a hot idea after all, AdWeek

Morgan-Stanley: Millennials, Gen Z set to boost the economy, Yahoo Finance

The reasons for all the coverage—and why we should all settle in for a long bout of it, are explained in our newest guide, a double. “100 Questions and Answers About Gen X and 100 Questions About Millennials” is available in one double guide from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement rounded up Chaldean Americans 2 years ago

It has been two years since a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sweep put hundreds of Iraqi nationals into jail to await deportation to Iraq.

Many are still in jail—and limbo.

Why did the United States detain several hundred Chaldeans in 2017?The situation is especially dire for Christian and Chaldean Iraqis, who fear persecution by the government, non Christian-Iraqis and extremists if they are returned. Most of those detained have been in the United States for a long time and some were picked up having served their time on minor crimes.

The arrests, and Michigan State University’s proximity to the center of the Chaldean American community prompted us to publish a guide that answers questions including:

In 2017, President Donald Trump called for a travel ban on seven Muslim countries. One was Iraq. Iraq was exempted from the ban after it agreed to accept 1,400 deportees. The United States then began detaining Iraqis who had committed crimes in the country. Hundreds of Chaldeans were detained. There have been appeals from the Chaldean community and others to free detainees and not deport them to a land that many fled because of hostilities against them.

What awaits Chaldeans who are deported to Iraq?

Chaldeans said they were worried for their quality of life if they must return to Iraq. Most recent immigrants fled Iraq to escape discrimination and persecution by the government, militias and extremists. Chaldean Americans said deportations would break up families and become “death sentences” for those sent away.

“100 Questions and Answers About Chaldean Americans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Ramadan ends on June 4

The Muslim month of Ramadan ends at sunset today. For Muslims who have been fasting every day since May 5, as well as their families and friends, this will mean great celebration and the end of a long long period of reflection and fasting.

Here are a couple explanations non-Muslims have about Ramadan. They are in “100 Questions and Answers About Muslim Americans.”

Ramadan is one of the five pillars or essential practices of Islam. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, chewing gum, smoking and intimate relations from dawn until nightfall. Those who are ill and are unable to fast for health reasons or age are exempt, as are women who are pregnant, menstruating or nursing.

The end of Ramadan is called Eid ul-Fitr, the Feast of the Breaking of the Fast, and it is one of the high points in the Islamic calendar.

The way to greet a Muslim friend or neighbor at the end of Ramadan is by saying, “Blessed Eid!” If you feel like trying that in Arabic, say “Eid mubarak!”

“100 Questions and Answers About Muslim Americans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Transgender killings alarm LGBTQ+ communities

A spate of killings of Black transgender women in recent weeks has LGBTQ+ people on edge.

As in years past, Black trans women seem to be especially vulnerable to  violence.

Cover of 100 Questions and Answers About Gender IdentityThe women killed recently are:

  • Claire Legato, 21, who was shot in Cleveland on April 15 and who died May 14.
  • Muhlaysia Booker, 23,  who was fatally shot on May 18 in Dallas. She had recently spoken out against a group of men who had attacked her while yelling transphobic slurs.
  • Michelle “Tamika” Washington was fatally shot in Philadelphia on May 19.
  • A Black trans woman was one of three people killed in Detroit on May 25.

The Human Rights Campaign has counted at least 136  transgender people killed by violence since 2013. They are disproportionately Black women, and it is believed that the true total is not fully represented.

With June bringing Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that led to Pride month, people are talking about what can be done to protect transgender people, whose life at the intersection of race and gender identity makes them especially vulnerable.

Part of the solution comes with education. Answers to everyday question about gender identity, vulnerability, intersectionality and Stonewall are answered in  “100 Questions and Answers About Gender Identity,” available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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No, baby! Millennial birth rate is down and that could mean trouble

The nation’s birth rate fell by 2 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to provisional data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This was the third annual decline in a year and reflected the country’s lowest birth rate in 30 years.

The declining birth rate reflects several trends outlined in our newest Bias Busters guide, a double issue, the covers both Millennials and Generation X. The Millennials half notes later ages for marriage, later pregnancies and smaller families. Multiply this across a large generation of 73 million people in the age at which families are started and you see the problem. The last time the birth rate was so low, 1987, it was mostly the smaller Generation X.

The birth rate for women in their 20s in particular, according to the report, fell 4 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the CDC report.

Why should we care?

A MarketWatch article forecasts a ripple effect through the economy with slumps in demand for consumer goods and housing, and fewer people paying taxes and into the already worrisome Social Security system. MarketWatch reports, “University of Notre Dame researchers said conceptions dropped ahead of the last three recessions, starting with the recessions of the early 1990s, the early 2000s and the Great Recession from 2008 to 2009.”

Why is this happening?

Before anyone starts blaming Millennials for messing up the economy, consider the economy they were born into. Here are two telling excerpts from the Money section of “100 Questions and Answers About Millennials,” also published this month:

* The 2007-2009 Great Recession and the years after hit millions of Millennials at a critical time in their financial lives. It hurt more than just their income. It caused debt and delayed home ownership, which limited wealth accumulation. A 2018 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis said some Millennials might never recover. People in their late 20s to early 30s continued to lose ground after the Great Recession, from 2010 to 2016. As other generations recovered, the wealth gap between young and old grew. According to the St. Louis study “A Lost Generation,” the net worth of families headed by early Millennials was 34 percent below what had been expected.

* Wages for a household headed by a Millennial male in 2014 were more than 10 percent less in real dollars than for a Boomer household in the comparable year of 1978.

* The Fed report said the average real net worth of Millennial households in 2016 was 20 percent less than Baby Boomers had in the comparable year of 1989. Millennials were 40 percent behind where Gen X households had been in 2001. The gap was caused by lower earnings and higher education costs.

100 Questions and Answers About Gen X and 100 Questions About Millennials” is available in one double guide from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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