The Blue Wall of Silence and the police killing of George Floyd

The Blue Wall of Silence, also called the Blue Code or the Blue Shield, is a protective silence by police about officers who commit crimes, including police brutality.

The murder trial of Derek Chauvin, charged with killing George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 has been cited in the press as a case where that silence crumbled, collapsed, was dented or cracked.

Prosecutors called the Minneapolis police chief and officers about the arrest, in which Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

The code of silence in other cases has included officers declining to testify or turning off their body cameras.

In the #BiasBusters guide “100 Questions and Answers About Police Officers,” there is an entry on the blue Wall of Silence. It says, “Police and deputies swear to protect the community and civilians, and they also back up and help each other. When an officer is in trouble, the first person to help is almost always another officer. This contributes to the idea that a code of silence keeps officers from reporting each other’s wrongdoing. This idea is behind a 1988 movie, “The Thin Blue Line,” about a wrongful conviction. It is also true that many officers want to see bad cops brought to justice and that they initiate or lead investigations into corruption.”

NPR reported that Minneapolis activist and civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong said she hopes “officers will be more willing to intervene when they see their fellow officers engaged in misconduct or abusing someone out on the streets.” However, NPR reported, “she remains skeptical of the trial’s outcome, given the history of juries often failing to convict police officers around the country.”

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





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COVID protocols for Muslims during Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan, now being celebrated by Muslims around the world, is having some COVID-related adjustments.

CNN answers questions about what is different about this, the second Ramadan to fall under the shadow of the pandemic. The answers give an insight into Muslim practices.

A lone man reads the Koran

Photo by Rachid Oucharia on Unsplash

Here is some of the advice:

Does getting a COVID vaccine violate daily fasts?

No. Several authorities have said that the vaccine does not violate the fast. Furthermore, they have said the shots are halal, that is, permissible, as they do not contain pork or alcohol. Observant Muslims who feel a vaccine violates the fast can take advantage of the rule that says missed days of fasting may be made up at the end of the month

Should I pray at the mosque this Ramadan?

Given the hazards of being indoors with groups if people, religious authorities advise against it. Some mosques are making adjustments to provide greater social distancing. Other precautions include staying away if sick, making ablution, called wudu, at home, praying outside and bringing your own prayer rug.

May Muslims gather for Ramadan’s special daily meals?

Suhoor, the first meal of the day, and iftar, the first meal after sunset, may still be shared with family or friends if gatherings are small. This could help ensure that everyone will be able to gather for this communal meals in post-pandemic times.

“100 Questions and Answers About Muslim Americans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore. Photo credit to Rachid Oucharia on Unsplash.


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What is Vaisakhi?

This colorful holiday, celebrated on April 13 or 14, is recognized by Sikhs and Hindus. It marks the beginning of the Sikh and Hindu new year, which follows a solar calendar.

Vaishaki parade in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Photo by British Columbia NDP, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

For Sikhs Vaisakhi, also called Baisakhi, has historical and religious significance.

The holiday was chosen in 1699 by Sikh leader Guru Gobind Singh chose to create the Khalsa, the association of initiated Sikhs. The story is dramatic.

Sikhs believe Guru Gobind Singh, bearing a sword, invited Sikhs who were prepared to die for their faith should come into a tent with him. Five entered and the Guru emerged with the bloodied sword. Apprehension turned into exultation as the five emerged uninjured and wearing turbans. The five became known as the Panj Piare, the “Beloved Five” first members of the Khalsa.

The Guru sprinkled them with blessed water, called Amrit, and said prayers. The custom is followed today. That is what makes Vaisakhi more that s spring festival to Sikhs.

Students at Michigan State University are just completing a Bias Busters guide, “100 Questions and Answers About Sikh Americans.” We will announce when it becomes available.



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Images that bred racism now used to fight it

By Dina Kaur

“It’s not going to do any good for us to pretend that hatred does not exist,” said Ruth Ann Jones during a Michigan State University Libraries special collections Zoom session: Unpacking Racist Stereotypes.

Book cover

“Understanding Jim Crow” uses images and memorabilia designed to perpetuate racism to buster biases and promote social justice.

The April 1 session consisted of a presentation with images that came from several areas of the MSU libraries.  

Jones is MSU’s Special Collections education and outreach librarian. She focused on “the brute,” “the mammy” and “the pickaninny” stereotypes.  

“These stereotypes were everywhere in popular culture before the 1960s, absolutely everywhere,” Jones said. “There was nowhere that a Black person could look in mainstream culture that didn’t have a demeaning portrayal of Black people.

She said the stereotypes still still turn up in mainstream culture today but perhaps a little bit weakened and not presented with such lack of shame, but they do still exist. She brought up an example of how Michelle Obama was often characterized as an angry Black woman.

Jones said myths about slavery are not based on truth and their purpose was to justify the existence of slavery and hide the truth.

Slaveholders often claimed that Black people had to be enslaved because they weren’t able to take care of themselves, Jones said.

Another myth about slavery was that people were treated well and slaves were happy. An image from the food history collection showed a trading card and the woman is presented as she’s dancing through her work of picking cotton.

The next myth is that slaves were completely content. A postcard set said “Greetings from the Happy South” all the images showed different reasons or assertions that slaves were happy. 

Another myth was that slaves wanted to please their masters, not out of fear of punishment but because they were devoted to them. 

Disobedience was tolerated was another myth Jones brought up. The truth is that disobedience could violent punishment. 

The final myth was just no other way to handle the agricultural needs of the South. Someone had to pick the cotton, someone had to plant the corn, and so on.

The mammy stereotype was revisited in 2020 when Quaker Oats announced it was dropping the Aunt Jemima caricature, an image very clearly meant to be a mammy cook during. 

“The mammy stereotype, first of all its sheer repetition, implies that a Black woman is only capable of domestic work, or domestic work plus field work: picking cotton or planting cotton,” Jones said.

Jones said this stereotype  tied in with White women who freely appropriated Black women’s recipes, published them in cookbooks, then got paid for writing them.

The mammy stereotype often portrayed Black women with a very large body to desexualize her, as she was in the house and not in the fields. The truth, Jones said, was that hundreds of thousands of Black women were raped by White slaveholders.

Black children were stereotyped as pickaninnies. They were often shown as  eating watermelon or being eaten by alligators. They were portrayed in ragged clothes with coarse, curly hair and were speaking in dialect.

“The Black man as a brute or savage beast is still operative today,” Jones said. “If you read the comments by White police officers that have shot unarmed Black men, very often they say something like ‘I was afraid for my life, he was so violent, and aggressive and scary’ even though the black suspect was unarmed and the police officer had a weapon.” 

Jones said George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin said something similar about feeling threatened.

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Ramadan greetings in Arabic and English

What do you say to a Muslim at Ramadan?

You may greet the person in their everyday language or in Arabic, the language of Islam. Most Muslims in the world are not Arabs, but they use the language in their prayers, given Islam’s founding in the Arab world.

A popular greeting is “Ramadan mubarak.” In English, that means “Happy Ramadan.” A good response is “Khair Mubarak” which returns the good wishes or, “And the same  to you.”

Another popular greeting is “Ramadan kareem.” It means “Have a generous Ramadan.” A good response is “Allahu Akram” or, God is much more generous.”

In 2021, Ramadan runs April 12 to May 12.

In 2022, it will be April 2 to May 1.

And in 2023, Ramadan is March 22 to April 20.

Ramadan is the ninth month of Islam’s lunar calendar, and lasts 29-30 days, depending on the local sighting of the moon. Although daytimes are marked by fasting, it is a celebratory time of year with festive meals after sunset.

At other times of the year, a non-holiday greeting in Arabic is “As-salaam-alaikum.” It means “Peace be unto you.” It may be returned with he similar “Wa-alaikum-salaam,” meaning, “and unto you peace.”

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Marking International Transgender Day of Visibility

Today, President Joe Biden marked International Transgender Day of Visibility  by issuing the first presidential proclamation recognizing the day the day.

Cover of 100 Questions and Answers About Gender IdentityMarch 31 was designated in 2009 as International Transgender Day of Visibility by Rachel Crandall Crocker, executive director of Transgender Michigan. It has caught on as a time to  celebrate the successes of transgender and gender-nonconforming people.

Last week, the U.S. Senate confirmed Biden’s choice, Rachel Levine, as assistant health secretary. Making her the highest ranking openly transgender official in the country.

On Jan. 2o, Biden’s furst day on office, he issued an executive order preventing and combating discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Several state legislatures opposed this and responded with acts barring athletes from participating in sports with gender identities other than the one assigned at birth.

CNN offers three ways to be an ally to trans and non-binary people: Seek authentic stories created by people within the trans community, offer to help LGBTQ centers and educate yourself.

Education is why the Michigan State University Bias Busters project made “100 Questions and Answers About Gender Identity.” It is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.






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Anti-Asian violence fueled by model minority myth

Sad girl reaches toward car window

Photo by Nuno Alberto, courtesy of Unsplash/Getty Images

The model minority myth plays a role in today’s violence against Asians.

Its damages have several dimensions.

The myth is that Asians are universally successful.

You can learn about where the myth came from and why it is not true in an online exhibition, Debunking the Model Minority Myth. That is by the University of Southern California Pacific Asia Museum and the university’s Asian Pacific American Student Assembly.

The harms are many, and they reach all of us.

First, the myth hurts Asians with the falsehood that success is automatic for them. A Time magazine article explains how it discredits individual effort. For those who struggle, the myth eats away at their very identity and can shame them. Myths dehumanize.

The myth divides Black and Asian communities. It screams that if one group can achieve automatic success, why can’t they other? A few years ago, a National Public Radio piece on Code Switch explained how the myth drives a wedge between Black and Asian communities, holding both back. The myth inaccurately elevates and separates Asians from other groups, too.

Of course, the myth hurts the global Asian community and cloaks some of its harsher realities. In the wake of the March, 2021 killings in Atlanta, two professors at Canada’s Carleton University described on The Conversation how the myth “hides racist and sexist violence against Asian women.”

and wrote that stereotypes wrapped up in the myth “hide many issues, including anti-Asian racism, poverty, labour abuse and psychological needs. It disappears the realities of working-class Asian women’s lives.”

Learn more by getting the Bias Busters guide, “100 Questions and Answers About East Asian Cultures.” It is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.


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Is Holi religious, cultural or just colorful fun?

Holi has elements of culture, religion, and some enjoy it just for the color runs or to post on Instagram photo of people throwing — or wearing — handfuls of colorful powder. It is photogenic, to be sure.

People celebrate Holi with colorful dyes

Shubham Bochiwal photo via Unsplash

Hindus and members of several other religions celebrate Holi, and it has grown far beyond its South Asian origins.

Holi’s real significance is that it marks the new life of spring. It is an ancient, joyfully exuberant time when generational and social boundaries are broken. Often, Indians throw their Holi celebrations open to the wider community.

While many celebrate Holi as a colorful rite of spring, recognizing its roots, its significance to people and the brotherhood it promotes makes the holiday more meaningful .

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Vietnam memorial honors warriors, not war

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden paid an unscheduled visit today to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. As they traced names of fallen soldiers etched into the monument, the Bidens marked National Vietnam Veterans Day. It has been 48 years since U.S. troops were withdrawn from Vietnam.

Cover of the Bias Busters guide, "100 Questions and Answers About Veterans: A Guide for Civilians"

Cover of the Bias Busters guide, “100 Questions and Answers About Veterans: A Guide for Civilians”

The memorial was the wining design in a contest that attracted more than 1,400 entries. Winner Maya Lin, a 21-year-old student at Yale, proposed a massive slash in the he ground that would hold a black granite wall. It was carved with the names of more than 58,000 U.S. men and women who lost their lives in the war. Her idea was to make a memorial that would focus on warriors rather than the war. More names have been added to the wall. Viewers walk next to the wall, which starts low but grows to tower over them as more and more names are added.

The war was very unpopular and the monument’s design was, too. One reason was the fact that its designer is Chinese American.

In a U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs post, Army veteran Jan Scruggs, who campaigned for a memorial, made an observation. He said, “This Wall means many things to many people as it records the names of the past and reflects on our hopes for the future,” Hagel said. “It also offers a reminder, a message that carries across generations. The Wall reminds us to honor those who defend our country for making sure they’re treated with the dignity and respect and appreciation they deserve.”

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

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LGBTQ+ identification rises in Gallup polling

Gallup pollsters report that the proportion of people in the U.S. who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender rose from 4.5% in 2017 to 5.6% in 2020.

People hold large rainbow flag

Gallup pollsters found the largest increase of LGBTQ+ people among Generation Z. Unsplash/Toni Reed

The polling company surveyed 15,000 people over 18 and 86.7% identified as heterosexual or straight, while 7.6% did not answer the question.

In 2020, Gallup asked people to be more specific about their gender identity and sexual orientation. They could specify lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight and could say whether they are transgender.

Almost 55% of the respondents identified as bisexual. Another 24.5% identified as gay with 11.7% identifying as lesbian and 11.3% as transgender.

The survey extended a trend of younger generations identifying as other than heterosexual. The highest proportion was among Generation Z, whose oldest members were 18-23 in 2020. One in six said they were not heterosexual.

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

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