Asian American street hero hits back twice

Xiao Zhen Xie, the 75-year-old woman who sent her attacker to the hospital, has flipped the script again.

She has pledged a GoFundMe account started in her name, which seems likely to pass $1 million, to help fight discrimination.

Cover, "100 Questions and Answers About Asian Americans"Most contributions to the fund seemed to be $25 and below, evidence of widespread grass-roots rejection of anti-Asian discrimination. According to an update to the site, Xie said she is donating the money because the issue of anti-Asian hate crimes is bigger than her.

By defending herself against her much younger attacker, she showed strength. She showed another kind of strength in pledging the money. Her action gave people everywhere an avenue for objecting to anti-Asian hate crimes. One donor write that her defense had inspired him, but her generosity made him get off the sidelines and make a contribution.

It is despairing when hate crimes pop up seemingly everywhere. But when a selfless decision by one person motivates thousands to stand with her, we get a clearer picture of good in the country.

We can all be involved. The Boas Busters’ modest statement was made years ago when one of our first cultural competence guides was “100 Questions and Answers About East Asians.”

We support contributions as well as conversations that help us all understand each other a little better.

Learn more. “100 Questions and Answers About East Asian Cultures” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Why is Orthodox Christmas late?

Of course, this all depends on your perspective. To some Orthodox Christians, Jan. 7 will be right on time. As for the discrepancy, blame it on the moon and sun — and centuries of human disagreement.

Differences about when Christmas is celebrated grew out of disputes about the calendar that go back almost to the birth of Christ.

Calendars, which are meant to organize us, can be messy.

One of the first disagreements happened in 325 A.D. when Christian bishops met to standardize a date for Easter, the most important Christian holiday. They agreed on the Julian calendar, which had been adopted even earlier, 46 B.C., as Rome switched from a lunar calendar to a solar calendar. Caesar also brought us months with names like July (Julius) and August (Augustus). But the new calendar had an 11-minute miscalculation in the length of the solar year, which led the calendar to drift away from the Earth’s orbits around the sun.

The drift became such an issue that, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII called astronomers together and they created — ta-da — the Gregorian calendar.

This solution was not perfect, either. Passover and Easter occasionally overlapped. That was a big problem for Orthodox Christians, who had split from the Catholic Church in 1054 A.D. The Orthodox churches decided to stick with the Julian calendar while other Christians followed the pope’s. This meant two dates for Christmas.

The wobbly Julian calendar continued to drift and needed another adjustment: The revived Julian calendar. Some orthodox churches stayed with the Julian calendar, some came over to the Gregorian. Today, some Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 and others, such as Russian and Polish Orthodox churches, use the Julian date.

Calendars are frequently tied up in religions and you will find different ones for Jews, Muslims and several Asian religions.

There is less global agreement around calendars than there is around measures for length and volume.


Photo of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia, by Karson on Unsplash

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What is the meaning of Kwanzaa? It has 7

When the Bias Busters class that published “100 Questions and Answers About African Americans,” it encountered questions about Kwanzaa. Here is how that went in our guide:

What is Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa is a celebration of African heritage and principles. It occurs Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. It grew out of the Black Nationalist Movement in the mid 1960s. Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, chairman of Black Studies at California State University. From the Swahili phrase “first fruits of the harvest,” Kwanzaa celebrates seven principles Here they are, as identified in that East African language:

Man and daughter filling pitcher
umoja: unity
kujichagulia: self-determination
ujima: collective responsibility
ujamaa: cooperative economics
nia: purpose
kuumba: creativity
imani: faith

Although Kwanzaa has a different meaning or value each day, it is not a religious holiday.

Today, the fifth day of 2020’s Kwanzaa, connotes building community to restore people to their historic greatness. That starts in families where members use their time and talents to contribute to others.

In talking about helping others, people look for purposes that will elevate all.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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

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Bias Busters enjoys good allies

The Michigan State University School of Journalism is proud to have its Bias Busters series recognized by Read the Spirit, the online magazine arm of Front Edge Publishing, our publisher.

100 Questions and Answers About Latter-day SaintsThat team has supported Bias Busters since we started this series almost 20 guides ago. Our latest guide, “100 Questions and Answers About Latter-Day Saints,” came out in October.

The partnership is genuine as we share ideals. Front Edge tries to build healthier communities, and Bias Busters encourages conversations among acquaintances to increase cultural competence. We publish guides that are respectful, accurate, authoritative and accessible.

MSU is making plans for 2021, hoping we can produce several new titles in the year. Now, in late 2020, a guide on nonreligious Americans is being critiqued by some of our allies.

We are also working on a backlog we allowed to create two new projects in 2020. One was the Education Writers Association’s Reporter Guide for Inclusive Coverage. The other was a collaboration with the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit’s Religious Diversity Journeys program for middle school students.

Guides about Buddhism, evangelicals and Hindus need finishing work. In January, 20 students will begin work on a new guide about Sikhism. It’s a long list that will take some work and will take us well beyond 20 guides.

“100 Questions and Answers About Latter-Day Saints” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Faith, race and politics clash

Associated Press reporter Elana Schor reported on weekend violence at four Washington, D.C., churches: the attacks “raised questions among some clergy and churchgoers about why more fellow Christians were not speaking out against the incidents.”

Book cover for 100 Questions & Answers About African AmericansThe damage accompanied rallies by groups, including Proud Boys, disputing President Donald J. Trump’s election loss.

Among the houses of worship were two historically Black churches where people damaged Black Lives Matter banners and a nearby Methodist church where a banner supporting LGBTQ rights and rejecting “acts of hate or violence” was slashed. The pastor there said the slashing was, “incredibly minor compared with what happened to our neighbors” and redirected attention to the Black institutions.

The Rev. William H. Lamar IV, pastor at one of the Black churches, said he saw not a division within the Christian community but separate faiths. “Their faith is not my faith and is not the faith of my ancestors,” Lamar said. He said conservative evangelicals’ faith “clearly buttresses the status quo.”

Other remarked that some Christians who had been outspoken about damage caused to churches during violent protests over the killing of Black men were silent about the weekend’s incidents. They called for greater consistency and unity.

Biden transition official said Csmeron French issued a statement saying “acts that target these places because of their views are unacceptable and undermine our work to build a more perfect union.”

Learn more about the special significance of the church in Black communities. “100 Questions and Answers About African Americans” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Indian mascots, teaching moments

In July, the National Football League’s Washington, D.C., team said it would retire its mascot name, the Redskins. A new name will be announced at a later date.

This week, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team made a similar announcement about the Indians.

Cover to a 100-question guide about Native AmericansThis, despite the teams having said they would fight to keep them. But what seems to be missing in this heat of viral coverage is an explanation. A little transparency and education would help achieve what should be the goal. This should not be about appeasing sponsors or public pressure, but doing what the owners and leagues believe is right and then explaining.

Ostensibly, the pressure for these changes came from Indigenous people and others who were trying to act as allies. But little of the news coverage has had anything to do with the reasoning. Indigenous people are seldom quoted this week and, as they are on both sides of the issue, quoting one or a couple would not tell the full story. Let’s hear from the position that the mascot names should be dumped.

This is from the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), a 76-year-old association. It cannot speak for all, but it speaks for many.

The group supported the decision:

“Today’s announcement represents a monumental step forward in Indian Country’s decades-long effort to educate America about what respect for tribal nations, cultures, and communities entails, and how sports mascots like the ‘Indians’ prevent our fellow Americans from understanding and valuing who Native people are today, what makes us unique, and the many contributions we make to this country,’ said NCAI President Fawn Sharp. ‘The genuine commitment the team has made to listen to and learn from Indian Country over the past several months is to be applauded, and the process the team used should serve as a blueprint for sports teams and schools across the nation as this movement for racial justice and inclusion continues to grow.'”

Dr. Aaron Payment, the group’s vice president, wrote, “This decision and the team’s ensuing transition to a new name offer us an unprecedented teaching moment, as our work is far from done. We must continue to teach all who will listen the fact that Native people are still here, that we belong to sovereign tribal nations, and that a racially just society must center and celebrate Native people, welcome our perspectives, and value the rich cultural diversity we bring to America’s table.”

That is just how this should be treated: as a teaching moment.

So, make this a teachable moment by reading the Native American Journalists Association guide, updated and reissued with the Michigan State University School of Journalism.

“100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America” is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Blueberries and cherries

Red states, blue states, how did we get to this divide and at what cost?

Cultural strategist Philippa P.B. Hughes looked at who she was spending her time with and did not like what she saw. Or what she didn’t see. Most of her contacts were with people who were, like her, liberals. In the election, we would have called them blue-state people.

cherries and blueberries

Photo by Dilyara Garifullina via Unsplash

What could she learn, she wondered, if she spent time in a group that mixed red and blue — and could talk about their political views?

Hughes is founder of CuriosityConnects.us and, as a self-styled social sculptor, she has produced hundreds of activities since 2017 for people to engage with art and one another.

In that vein, she created Blueberries & Cherries, a dinner club that brings Democrats and Republicans to the table to talk about their beliefs in hopes of better understanding. In an opinion piece on CNN, Hughes wrote, “I began hosting dinners in my home, each one ending with a blueberry and cherry crisp that would dissolve into a symbolic purple goo.”

That led to Looking for America, which hosts art events and conversations about what it means to be American.

On Dec. 10, Hughes will take her strategy about turning our political divide into purple goo to the Freedom Forum’s YouTube channel at 2 p.m. See what you think.

Bring napkins.

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Hanukkah is light in a dark year

Hanukkah, a communal celebration of the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem, is getting a reboot in this year of the coronavirus.

The eight-day holiday, Dec. 10-18 on this year’s Gregorian calendar, is traditionally a time to be together, eat, play games and light candles, one each day.

Hanukkah menorah

By Daniel Dimitrov – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0


But COVID-19 is changing that for some families, just as it is changing other holidays.

My Jewish Learning offers ways to keep traditions alive while moving them online or outdoors. The candles in the menorah can be a centerpiece for outside activities, warmed up with a fire pit or bonfire. Of course, snacks will be individually wrapped and shared with socially distant spacing.

Zoom can be used for virtual games of spinning the dreidel and, yes, there are apps for that.

Of course, the idea behind the new ways of celebrating community are to keep everyone — and the traditions — going for next Hanukkah.

Photo by Daniel Dimitrov – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

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

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Bodhi day will enlighten you

It is not your imagination. The end of the Gregorian calendar that predominates in the United States really is crowded with religious holidays.
There is one December holiday, Bodhi Day, which consistently falls on Dec. 8 and might have escaped your attention.

Buddha, Thailand

Photo by Kristen Barrett on Unsplash

Bodhi means enlightenment, and Buddhists celebrate this as the day Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, achieved enlightenment through meditation.

For 2,500 years, the Buddha’s awakening has been the central theme and example of Buddhism.

This faith, founded in India and practiced throughout the world, has several guideposts. Buddhism’s four Noble Truths seem especially appropriate to think about in 2020, or 2563 in the Buddhist Era. The four truths are suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. Simply put, suffering exists; it has a cause; it has an end; and it has a cause to bring about its end.

The Bias Busters team has largely completed “100 Questions and Answers About American Buddhists,” and hopes to make it available this year, along with some others.

Until then, hear National Public Radio’s Scott Simon interview Takashi Miyaji of the Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church in Union City, California, about Bodhi Day.

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Books, like minds, work best when open

A big shoutout to Dr. Sook Wilkinson and the book she created with Victor Jew, “Asian Americans in Michigan: Voices from the Midwest.”

It is one of 15 featured in Bridge Michigan’s “15 anti-racist Michigan books to get you through the holidays and quarantine.”

Bridge’s Monica Williams wrote, “Michigan’s Asian Americans are often overlooked, even as their presence in the state has grown over time.

“This volume’s vibrant mix of the 41 contributors are both native born and immigrants. They trace their ancestry to East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan), South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan), and Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Hmong), and make clear their past and present contributions to the Great Lakes State in many fields — art, business, education, religion, medicine, and politics — while commenting on their hopes for the future.”

The idea behind the book was to have Asian Americans in the middle of the country describe how their experiences are the same or different from people on the coasts. Their observations are surprising and touching, at times funny, sad and angry.

Sook Wilkinson is part of the Bias Busters family, having written the introduction to our “100 Questions and Answers About East Asian Cultures.”

Books — and minds — work best when they are open.

So, get Wilkinson’s book and, while you are getting that, get “100 Questions and Answers About East Asian Cultures,” which has her introduction. The Bias Busters guide is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore. “Asians in Michigan” is available from publisher Wayne State University Press or Amazon.

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