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 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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Could you pass new citizenship test?

It just got harder to become a U.S. citizen.

On Dec. 1, the testing requirement went from 12 correct answers to 20 questions from the previous six out of 10 in a 128-item questu=ion bank.

There are also some tricky new questions. How tricky? See how you do:

How tricky? Try these, from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Different questions are fill in the blank

Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?

John Roberts/ John G. Roberts, Jr.

What is the capital of your state?

The U.S. Constitution starts with the words “We the People.” What does “We the People” mean?


Popular sovereignty

Consent of the governed

People should govern themselves

(Example of) social contract

Why does each state have two senators?

Equal representation (for small states)

The Great Compromise (Connecticut Compromise)

What does the Bill of Rights protect?

(The basic) rights of Americans

(The basic) rights of people living in the United States

Why is the Electoral College important?

It decides who is elected president.

It provides a compromise between the popular election of the president and congressional selection.

Supreme Court justices serve for life. Why?

To be independent (of politics)

To limit outside (political) influence

What is the purpose of the 10th Amendment?

(It states that the) powers not given to the federal government belong to the states or to the people.

What group of people was taken and sold as slaves?


People from Africa

Name one example of American innovation.

Light bulb

Automobile (cars, internal combustion engine)



Assembly line

Landing on the moon

Integrated circuit (IC)

Brandon Mowinkel photo via Unsplash

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

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New international student enrollment drops 43%

Enrollment of international students at U.S. colleges and universities, which has been declining since 2016, fell off a cliff in 2020.

According to an Institute of International Education report, the number of new international students fell 43% as thousands deferred enrollment because of the COVID crisis. International student enrollment overall was down 16% from the fall of 2019 to the fall of 2020.

Enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities, which are respected around the world, has been declinng since 2016.

A National Public Radio cited new U.S. policies that discouraged enrollment as one cause, accompanied by outreach at universities in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Those counties experienced enrollment surges as the United States declined.

Because international students usually pay more than U.S. residents, including those who attend college out of state, the drop heightens universities’ fiscal challenges amid the pandemic. The loss of international students also costs U.S. students the chance to interact and learn with peers from around the world.

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

We created “100 Questions and Answers About Americans” specifically to help international students navigate life in their new country-for-college. The guide is available from Amazon or the Front Edge Publishing bookstore.

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Asian American, Pacific Islander voting up

Efforts to mobilize Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders voters succeeded in 2020.

APIA Vote logoNBC News reports that “In the 13 most contested presidential battleground states, AAPI early and absentee voting rose nearly 300 percent from 2016 — the fastest growth rate among all racial groups — according to the data firm Catalist.”

The effort was led in part by APIAVote, a group founded in 2007 to increase Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ civic engagement.

What made the difference?

According to NBC News, experts cited intergenerational organizing, local census operations and efforts to combat misinformation.

In Michigan, work on the Census created an infrastructure to register low-propensity voters, study language needs and recruit bilingual phone-bankers.

In Georgia, groups fact checked misinformation circulated on Asian messaging apps such as WeChat and KakaoTalk,

And, in North Carolina, having Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on the Democratic ticket is credited with bringing out South Asian Americans, who comprise one-quarter of a rapidly growing Asian population

Christine Chen, executive director of APIAVote, told NBC Asian America, “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in AAPIs engaging in different issues, participating in rallies and running for office.”

Anti-Asian rhetoric by President Donald Trump and the pandemic are also credited with motivating AAPI voters.

The challenge will be to see whether the increase is sustainable.

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

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Church, synagogue win COVID Supreme Court case

That didn’t take long. The month after a new Supreme Court justice was sped onto the bench, the new court began to show its new conservative lean.

Book cover for 100 Questions and Answers About American JewsIn a decision announced Nov. 25, the night before Thanksgiving, the court ruled that COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings violate the First Amendment’s establishment clause. The case involved the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America. New York had limited crowds at services in areas hard hit by the he pandemic.

The court split 5-4 with conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the bench in October, in the majority. It was her first public vote as a justice. The court’s three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.

Earlier in 2020 with the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom Barrett replaced, the court went 5-4 to sustain pandemic-related capacity limits on houses of worship in California and Nevada.

The Associated Press reported that Agudath Israel of America attorney Avo Schick wrote in an email, “This is an historic victory. This landmark decision will ensure that religious practices and religious institutions will be protected from government edicts that do not treat religion with the respect demanded by the Constitution.”

CNN quoted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as saying, “The basic point is you know why does the court rule on an issue that is moot unless — and which they had just decided several months before in other cases which presented the same argument — why rule on a case that is moot and come up with a different decision than you did several months ago on the same issue? You have a different court and I think that was the statement that the court was making.”

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

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