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Read what your classmates have written!!

Ethnicity and Culture

I have asked some students to share their exceptional essays with you.  Here are some of them.  You can also see some more of my A students' writings at:

http://lcccgeri.tripod.com/id17.html

Here's a great explanation of how Americans see equality and social class.

Gabe Guterres, Essay #2, June 14, 2010

The concept of “equality” in the United States is one that gets bandied about often as a defining and important idea.  It’s something that we claim to embrace and live out, yet the reality seems to be that we employ this ideology selectively.  In my experience, Americans will defend and prioritize the concept of equality until such a time that it is inconvenient for them to do so. 

Waiting in line to check in at the ticket counter at the airport, I don’t feel slighted when someone goes over to the special line for First Class passengers and is taken care of immediately, because I know that they paid extra to receive preferential treatment.  And I could have received the same preference if I had chosen to spend the same amount of money, even though I really couldn’t have because I didn’t have that much money to spend.  However, if someone tries to scoot past me in the line where I’ve been standing for 8 hours, then I’m going to be upset because the presumption is that they paid the same amount of money I did and consequently are equal to me in all relevant ways and so they need to wait their turn, dangit! 

You can see examples of “convenient equality” every time you get in a car, and driving is an excellent picture of our interaction because for many of us that is the most interaction we have with other people all day.  So someone who will verbally align themselves with the idea of equality may not have any problem driving past a long line of cars who are patiently waiting their turn to merge or turn or whatever, and then trying to cram in at the last minute.  Their actions say “I should not have to wait in line like the rest of these commoners, my time is more important than theirs.”  Or they might make you wait so they can get a parking place or make an illegal u-turn.  I suspect that this is not the result of conscious hypocrisy, but rather a prevalent disconnect between ideology and behavior.  We want to be considered equal to those we see as being “ahead” of us in some way, but often fail to think of those who are behind us, rarely noticing, let alone defending, their equality with ourselves.  I believe it’s a big reason you’ll often see middle-income people objecting to increases in taxation on those with very high incomes, because they hope to one day be one of those high income people.

In truth, we seem to believe more in a theoretical equality in opportunities.  Not that we all have the same opportunities for growth and success, but we like to think that every (American) life possesses the possibility of greatness and accomplishment.  We celebrate someone who works their way from mail room to board room, but cast disingenuous scornful looks at those who were born into a life of ease.  And I say “disingenuous” because I think deep down any scorn is born out of resentment and jealousy rather than a true disrespect of another’s effort.

Ultimately, we pay attention to and stand up for inequality most often when it directly affects us.  There are exceptions, both in people and in situations, but for the most part we want to make sure things are “fair” for ourselves.  Unless we know a guy who can get us to the front of the line.  Then screw equality, ‘cause waiting in line is for suckers.

 

Reparations Have Been Made

by Chantal Dean

          No freedom, little money, and horrific situations illustrate a tiny glimpse of what African American slaves had to go through while our nation was still in its earlier stages. The slave owners did everything they could to keep what they thought was theirs. Eventually, the U.S. Civil War broke out which led to African Americans being free (but not the Chinese and Native Americans), and the Thirteenth Amendment shortly after. Many years later, we still face the same old question: Should today’s African Americans be given reparations to make up for all that was done to their ancestors? From being beaten and abused to being denied human rights, should we make amends now? In current conditions, I say no for numerous reasons.

          America today is so much more different than what is was at the starting point. Today, we have opportunities for everyone. From the rich to the poor, and the homeless to those living in mansions, we all decide our fate by the actions that we take. With so many opportunities available now than ever before, why should America pay restitution? According to Luhman, “African Americans wanted to live just like European Americans.” This new lifestyle would include owning land, having an education, and wages sufficient enough to support a stay-at-home wife if work had to be done (p. 164). Clearly, just by looking around, we can see that we have more than accomplished giving African Americans this lifestyle. From EEO to Affirmative Action, African Americans have more opportunity now than many people do elsewhere.  I understand that these opportunities come at a much later time that doesn’t benefit those that were actual slaves (seeing as how they’re dead now) but in general, it does benefit the race which is most important. So what more do African Americans need to get over this “inherited guilt?”

          Some say an apology would be needed to right the wrongs of America’s past; but if we apologize, where do we go from there? As I see it now, many African Americans use the excuse of slavery to explain their current “oppression”. Is this why an apology would be no good? If we do apologize, we’re essentially taking away their excuse to not have to work hard like everyone else. You stated that about sixty percent of African Americans are “middle class.” Going from almost all African Americans having no rights then to today where the majority live comfortably, have had some sort of formal education, and have the same rights as everyone else is a huge step forward that can be seen as slow, gradual restitutions being made.  Slowly but surely, we’re righting the wrongs of America’s past. Beyond providing more opportunities now, what else could possibly be done? If being handed a check is the solution, what’s the most feasible and appropriate way of doling out the money without creating more tension among races?

          Yes, the Holocaust survivors and the Japanese internment survivors were given monetary restitution for their suffering, but that restitution was given directly to those who suffered. So how would financial restitution work? Who would get the money? How much? Ultimately, we’d end up moving backwards in terms of racial relations. If we’re going to pay a group of people for the suffering of their ancestors, why not go back and do it for all races?  Granted slavery lasted longer for African Americans, other races suffered during our nation’s starting period as well. For example, the text describes how the Chinese, Irish and the Indians were also mistreated. Both the Chinese and Native American races had no voting power while the African Americans did. Although they weren’t enslaved indefinitely, they still suffered a lot of grievance for being culturally different. Shouldn’t they get reparations as well?

           My point is that although money can be a temporary solution, it can’t take away what was already done. We’ve moved forward as a nation and in doing so, we’ve created so much more opportunity than what could have ever been imagined then. Money doesn’t last forever but an education does and looking around our classroom, I can clearly see that educational restitution has been made for African Americans. So why do we need to offer more reparations? The opportunity to: buy a house, own a piece of land,  get an education, land a good job, and live comfortable for the remainder of one’s life should be enough restitution for those who had ancestors that suffered, regardless of race. These are the opportunities that our ancestors once dreamed of that are now completely tangible today. It’s time to move forward and leave the past guilt and resentment behind.

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This one was done by Rositsa Stavreva, an immigrant to America.

Bilingual Education Did More Harm Than Good

          Bilingual education is an example of an experiment that was started with the best humanitarian intentions in the mid sixties but has turned out to be terribly wrong. It did not produce the desired results in the classrooms and it has had a sufficient trial period to be pronounced a failure. Its original mission was to teach English but it resulted in extended segregation of non-English-speaking students and although bilingual education programs were meant as transitional programs, students frequently lingered in such programs for most of their school years. Even some Latino parents rejected this program which was designed for their children’s benefit.

          Bilingual education was developed in the 1960’s and it was an effort to help immigrant children learn English so that they can do regular schoolwork with their English-speaking classmates and receive an equal educational opportunity. Bilingual programs were intended to allow students to progress in subjects such as math, science and social studies while they learned English in a separate class. It was expected that the transition would take a child three years. But in practice, many bilingual programs became more concerned with teaching in the native language and maintaining the ethnic culture of the family than with teaching children English in three years. So, after so many years of experimentation and billions of dollars spent on bilingual education, it has failed to do an acceptable job of teaching English which was its original intention. Moreover, students in bilingual education programs consistently score lower on standard achievement tests. Many of the students remain socially isolated and frequently drop out. Those who graduate are without any fundamental English skills and so, they are deprived of opportunity in an English-speaking country. Self-esteem is not higher among students who are taught in their native languages, and stress is not higher among children who are introduced to English from first day of school. So, teaching children in their native languages does not help them learn either English or other subjects and does not influence their self-esteem and stress level.

                 Much more successful programs for students who do not speak English are English immersion programs and ESL (English as a second language). In English immersion programs students spend one full school year intensively learning English. After that, they continue to improve their English skills by using them in English-language classrooms. In ESL students attend English-language classes in core subjects, such as Math and Social Studies. They also attend special classes in their native language, where they receive help in their English-language subjects and learn new English skills.

          Center for Equal Opportunity in Washington, D.C. published the results of a survey of 600 Latino parents of school-age children. Parents were surveyed in Spanish or English in five U.S. cities – Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Antonio. A strong majority favored learning English as the first order of business of their children, considering it more important than learning other subjects, and much more important than reading and writing in Spanish. It is obvious that most Mexican-American parents realize how important it is for their children to learn English because these children will live in an English-speaking society and speaking good English will give them the opportunities for success. As a recent immigrant I know how important it is to know English in order to adapt to American society. When we came here my daughter and I knew English but my husband had a hard time the first year because he did not speak any English.

          Keeping all this in mind, I do not understand why there are still schools that use bilingual education. Maybe some of them are afraid to replace bilingual education because they will lose much of its federal funding. Many educators promote bilingual education as a way of maintaining ethnic and cultural heritage. But bilingual education fails to provide students with the basic education (the language) they need to explore their new culture. As a result the students often are culturally illiterate of both of their cultures.

          Numerous objective analyses have shown that bilingual education was ineffective, very expensive, kept students too long in Spanish-only classes, and slowed the learning of English and assimilation into American society. The role of the public school teacher is not to maintain the immigrant’s cultural and ethnic heritage, but to teach students English and American culture, because English plays crucial role in cultural assimilation. Becoming proficient in the language of America is the price that all the immigrants and their children should be willing to pay in order to succeed.

         

        

This next one I am posting without the writer's name.

A Little Family History

            Usually when it comes to debates I am pretty neutral on the subject matter, however today’s debate about reimbursement for slavery really had me thinking.  I started to wonder how we as a people could make up for the wrong done in the past or even how the government would go about atoning for these brutal actions which occurred over  100+ years ago. After hearing both sides of the argument, not to mention a rather intense emotional argument from a particular classmate (not going to mention names), I came to the conclusion that the descendents of slaves should not be repaid for the suffering and hardship in which their ancestors had to endure.

             Understandably, there are many people who will argue against my claim simply because I am, admittedly, a white female from a pretty well off upper-middle class family. In the opposing people’s minds, I would appear to know absolutely nothing about being poor or undergoing any sort of hardship. They are correct, but only partially. While it is true that I myself have not had anything radical happen in my lifetime, my mother was not so fortunate.

My mother was born in Arvin, a small town somewhere in Southern California (not quite sure where). Back when she was growing up the town had a small population of approximately 2,000 people. Her family was very poor and her father was very abusive. I was not told much about my grandfather since my mother does not like to talk about her past, but I learned enough to know he was not a friendly man. My grandmother worked very hard to make ends-meet for the family, while mostly all the money my grandfather made went straight to alcohol or gambling. My mom has told me frightening stories of her past, but I won’t go into detail. The story that shocked me the most was when she told me how every day when she walked home from school as a child, she feared opening the front door of her house. “I feared coming home every day because I was afraid I would find my mom and two sisters murdered with my dad waiting in my room to kill me too,” she said.

            One of the things that make this story so shocking was the fact that my grandfather was a police officer, a supposedly trustworthy figure of the government. My mother was abused and beaten as a child by her drunken alcoholic father. One day however her father’s intentions became serious and my grandmother feared that her husband was really going to kill my mother. My grandmother shot my grandfather to protect my mother (she didn’t kill him). Luckily the court favored my grandmother and she was free of charges for murder based on her act of self defense. Even though all of this occurred in her childhood up to her high school years, my mother still managed to get a part time job, save up enough money for junior college, and eventually qualify for financial aid and transfer to the University of California Santa Barbara.

Now, here is where I make my point. I am the descendent of my mother and my mother had to undergo a childhood of hardship. If my grandfather asked me if I would like redemption for the things he had done to my mother (even assuming if she passed away), it would mean absolutely nothing to me. The damage had still been done and apologizing to me, to someone who wasn’t mistreated, means nothing. I personally wouldn’t see any point in how it would make me feel better if my grandfather offered me a large sum of money to make up for what he has done to my mother. This is remarkably similar to the American people asking slave descendents if they would like redemption for their ancestor’s mistreatment. I don’t see how slave descendents would feel any better about what has happened to their ancestors if the government offered them a large sum of cash. I understand there are drastic differences between the relationship of slaves and slave descendents vs. the relationship of me and my mother, but the basic point is still the same. The idea of giving reimbursement to someone who is a descendent of a mistreated ancestor is entirely pointless if the reimbursement is not going to the person who was mistreated.

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Here's an upbeat one from Chantal Dean:

Immigration Influences

        After having read chapter seven in our text about recent immigration, I couldn’t help but think about all the influences that drive people to want to cross oceans and borders to come to America. I know that there are several factors that both push and pull people ranging from the idea of freedom to economic turmoil in one’s country. I decided to re-read the Japanese tourist article to try and understand what someone from an outside country could possibly see in America. Don’t get me wrong, I think America is amazing and so few words can describe my gratitude for the numerous and uncountable opportunities I’ve had and will have. I just want to better understand the pull factor that America has on other countries. After realizing how unique we are as a country geographically, culturally and economically, I can understand the huge influx of immigrants that want to come here and make this “home.”

        Growing up, I’ve always been blessed to have space to run around and grow. My husband and I are currently looking for a house to buy with at least an acre of land. Finding these properties is a task that can be daunting at times seeing as how there are thousands of houses to look at. In Japan and other countries, this would not be possible. With houses stacked on top of each other and people being squished to confined spaces, it’s no wonder that a person would want to move here. The idea of having a yard to raise a family and to know that a person’s children are safe is an idea that we sometimes take for granted. A safe place for a family to live is crucial to a lot of people. Not only do we offer large open spaces, we also offer a culture that’s unrivaled by anything else.

        With the constant blend of cultures happening, our nation leaves room for the individual to express themselves in ways one could only dream of in other countries. Just going through Modesto, a person can literally taste another culture. From different restaurants to activities and groups, a person could easily taste a little bit of what the world can offer. A short drive to San Francisco and you could be in the throes of “Little China.” A new cultural experience is right at a person’s fingertips with no one really expressing concern for nonconformity. We have the “freedom” to create a culture that we can call our own. Where else in the world can a person find something similar to this? Because we have so much diversity, we’ve become more accepting (to an extent) of differences among individuals.

        Because of the diversity we have, it becomes so much easier to obtain a job. A person that’s fluent in English and another language can find themselves landing job opportunities that they may not have been able to obtain in their native country. Education (kindergarten through high school) is free and open to those willing to want to learn. College can be easily financed which allows for the opportunity to advance in our careers. Here, we have the ability to move from one class to another based on how hard we want to work.  The opportunities are endless and would drive anyone not living here to want to come here.

        With all the pull factors that we have, it comes as no surprise that we are faced with immigration problems. People want the best not only for themselves, but for their families. Being born in Puerto Rico and having come here at an early age, I’m glad my parents kept my family here. I’ve gone back recently and nothing, short of the beautiful beaches, could ever make me want to live anywhere else other than America. I plan on experiencing the world but America will forever be my home.

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Here's one from Sarah Jeppsen that taught ME something!

The “Bad” Jobs

                Today’s debate about immigration surprised me. While I knew immigrants took labor intensive jobs that Americans don’t want to do, I never realized that even desperate Americans looking for jobs would rather sit at home and collect unemployment then do what Californians call “Mexican work”. I found it interesting that the employers who needed workers for jobs like farming and construction were actually having a hard time finding Americans to fill the needed job positions. This becomes a no-win situation for the employer because he or she doesn’t want to take the risk hiring illegal immigrants, but at the same time the employer cannot find Americans willing to do the job.

            The main problem is that Americans of the new generation have been raised in a world where they have been told that it was important to get an education so that they wouldn’t end up digging ditches for minimum wage. These people view labor intensive work as if it were a bad thing. For example, I have been told all my life that if I want to get a good job and make a good living, then I need to go to school and get my degree. My father always used to say to me, “Do you want to end up like those people digging ditches or picking berries in the summer heat?” He would say these things in order to motivate me to work harder in school. As a result, I too had always viewed those jobs as the “bad” jobs.

            Today’s debate has changed my opinion. While I still wouldn’t want to pick berries in the summer heat, I no longer see these jobs as “bad” jobs. I now have a little more respect for the people who work in the fields or who work in construction because I understand that without them, these jobs would probably never get done. These are simply desperate people taking what they can get. I have a feeling that most Americans will always view certain jobs as immigrant’s work, but at least I have learned a little bit more about the situation.

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This is from Vanessa Ladson

Assimilation, Pluralism, and America’s Culture

          After the discussion in class I am still confused on whether America is a society based on assimilation or pluralism. First, I thought America was based on pluralism, where everybody bring their own things or culture to the table and everyone gets along. Then, I thought America’s society was based on assimilation, where everybody kind of melted on into one big old American culture. After and during that class I got a headache from thinking too much. Everybody had good points but the whole concept was confusing, I guess there’s no real on true answer.

          When you said America is based on assimilation, I disagreed, but as you began to explain why, I kind of understood the idea more. I forgot the word you used along with assimilation. America does seem to be assimilated and has become a big American culture. I still do not understand why Americans don’t see themselves as a culture. I hope by the end of this class I’ll have a clearer answer. I think sometimes Americans are still hooked on the idea that in order to have a culture, a country must have hundreds of years of tradition. It’s really weird to think that we are the only people of a country who refer to ourselves as being something plus American; like being American isn’t good enough. I never noticed that we were the only country that did that, and every you bring it up in class I’m still surprised at how ridiculous hyphenating ourselves is, especially since the United States is such a powerful and influential country. Why are Americans thinking that way? It makes us look weaker in the eyes of other countries who fully claim who they are: French, German , Italian. Maybe people are scared that America means nothing because it is such a big “melting pot” of everybody’s cultures and ideas from around the world. I think this makes America a much more powerful country because of the assimilation.

          If we didn’t have all of these cultures, ideas, and new ways of looking as things, we would be one of the countries on the back burner that nobody knows of. It is pretty cool to be able to take ideas from another country and tweak it a little and label it as American without a second look. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with borrowing and sharing ideas and labeling them as your own. Why would you as a country want to stop from bettering yourselves just because you don’t want to throw your name on something another country came up with, that is what makes some countries weaker than others. If something can benefit your country why not look at it as a new tradition, not always old tradition. I think this is what makes America special, we aren’t afraid to create new traditions in our country. In America, we will take an idea from somewhere else and if it is beneficial to our country, we keep it. I think there is a beneficial side to this but also a negative side to this. Making new traditions and assimilation of all the cultures into on big America is good idea but I think it also makes people nervous. This is probably the reason for hyphenation in America; since America is still “new” people are scared that having no old traditions will not work out. Well, obviously it is working so people need to get over themselves and recognize that they are Americans, and not Americans plus something else. Obviously this is easier said then done, this will not happen soon because America’s economy sucks and everyone is holding on to the idea that they are from another country just in case they need to get out of America. Who really knows if people will ever stop hyphenating themselves, it will probably take a few more hundreds of years before Americans believe that America has a culture itself and people are dying to become one of us.

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Separation Between Church and State

by Jeff Perkins. 

 

Separation between church and state is a fundamental of the Constitution of the United States.  It goes as far back as Martin Luther who lived in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation.  Luther insisted, “The laws of worldly government extend no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth.”  Corrupt government officials stayed in office by being elected through the politics of the Church, and Luther helped reform it.  An advocate of Martin Luther was deemed our “Father of the Constitution.”  He was our fourth President, James Madison.  Madison was all for social reform from the Church of England to establish a new colony where people could practice their own religion freely.  “Congress should not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law.” As well as Martin Luther, our fore fathers were influenced by John Locke.  John Locke urged that the government lacked authority in the realm of individual conscience, and that individuality should be protected from any government authority.  Derived from the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, it reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ."  There are many different religions here in America.  We want to say that everyone can practice their own religion freely, but in doing so sometimes religious groups have to involve the government to assure that they can practice freely.  There are satanic cults who use sacrifice in their religious rituals. There are nativity scenes that are on display near Islamic mosques.  Discrimination and hatred towards certain religious practices still exists.  Today we still deal with controversy over the issue of separation between Church and State, so where do we cross the line?  

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State,"

-Thomas Jefferson, January 1, 1802.

It is important that we keep religious freedom sovereign to the people.  The American colonies were established by Protestant reformers.  Their religious practices created traditions that some still follow in the United States today.  Socially unaccepting of any other religion besides their own, white Protestants directed the way to how our country was formed.  Over time we have learned religious tolerance for almost all religions. We allow all religions to practice freely in America, but bias still exists, especially for Muslims, depending on current affairs we have with different countries.  It is confused that if one is to be a real Patriot of this country that they are followers of the Judea-Christian god.

Today the pledge of allegiance says, “One Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.”  The Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy who was a Christian Socialist and Baptist minister. Bellamy's original Pledge read, "I Pledge Allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."  In 1940 the Supreme Court ruled that students in public school could be forced to recite the Pledge.  This was enforced on all students, even Jehovah's Witnesses, who considered the flag salute to be idolatry.  Angry mobs became hostile and violent towards people of the Jehovah’s Witnesses not participating in the Pledge to do their religious beliefs. Three years later, the Supreme Court over ruled their previous decision saying that the Pledge violated the First Amendment.  During the 50’s, a Catholic fraternity called the Knights of Columbus thought that the Pledge needed to declare some sort of deity.  They wanted the nation to adopt their reference “one Nation under God” and approached Congress to change it for the whole nation.  After several failed attempts, a Presbyterian reverend at a church near the White House helped the cause in amending the Pledge.  Ironically, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness was influenced by the same reverend, Dr. Reverend Docherty, to be baptized twelve days after his inauguration.  As a Presbyterian for a little more than a year, President Eisenhower signed a bill into law on June 14, 1954 that would change the Pledge to what it is today.  The Presidents argument goes as follows: “These words will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble. They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded.” Although his speech was eloquent, it was absurd that the President would include ‘spiritual principles’ and say that we live on the foundation of Christian moral values.  Basically he believes that we are from “God” and so he is going to make future generations believe we are supported by a deity similar to his own by reciting a pledge that is more in common with his faith.  Not until I read the history of our Pledge did I believe there was anything wrong with our Pledge.  We do not have to take the words “under God” as a literal meaning towards the Judea-Christian god, but it would be better if we did not break that “wall between Church and State” as our forefathers intended.

Nativity scenes are a traditional display during Christmas time in America.  There are public plays about the birth of Jesus Christ, translated from the Bible.  Christmas represents a lot of meaning to different religious sects around the world, but not everyone celebrates it.  I find that it is unethical to have Nativity scenes on display in common places that are government owned.  On the other hand, there should be no restrictions for churches to display Nativity scenes on their own property.  There should not be any law restricting the free exercise for these churches to put their beliefs and traditions on the front lawn of their property. 

As Americans it is important for us to abide by the Constitution.  The Constitution is the backbone of our country.  We need to stay individualized and be allowed to practice what we want to believe in as individuals.  Through the First Amendment we are allowed to express ourselves freely, may it be protesting abortion, saluting a flag, or praying daily on a rug for everyone to see.  To hold an opinion without governmental intervention is a powerful thing and a right for all Americans.  Let us not go against the First Amendment,  and preserve the separation between Church and State.

 

This first one is from Felisha Serpa, Fall 2010.

          I thought I knew where I stood on the class debate as to whether Muslims should be permitted to build a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City. But after last week’s class I felt as if I was completely wrong about my opinion. My first reaction when I heard that a group of Muslims wanted to build a mosque near ground zero, was that I couldn’t believe such a thing would even be considered. I can’t say that I lost anyone in the horrible events of the September 11th attacks, but just like any other American I feel strongly against terrorism and was outraged to see what they did to our nation.

          I already had made my decision as to which side of the debate was going to win before it even began. When the group that was for allowing the mosque to be built started with their statements, it definitely touched a nerve in me. I was so upset to hear about the First Amendment and how if the Muslims couldn’t build the mosque it would go against their Constitutional rights. No matter what facts these students would state in their argument, I wasn’t going to agree with them.

          When the group that was against the idea stated that it’s been shown in the history of the locations of mosques that where Muslims decide to build them is on the land of victory. As soon as I heard this I was outraged. I mean there was the answer to all of this chaos that Feisal Abdul Rauf, the person who is behind this project, was trying to obviously prove with the building of the mosque. The only thing that kept going through my mind was how dare these people laugh in our faces with showing us that they had been victorious over Americans when they bombed our buildings and killed thousands of innocent victims.    

          Once both sides were done trying to prove which one of them was right, I was very confused. I didn’t know what I should think or how I should feel towards this major debate that’s currently going on in our country. When the teacher had her final discussion that’s when I started to realize what is happening to all of us Americans. I noticed that we are letting our emotions and our opinions of this horrible day in our country’s history overrule the fact that there are laws that must be obeyed in the US. This country is the land of the free and gives the opportunity to all of its citizens to have freedom to choose what they do within the law. If that’s the case, when did our emotions give us all the right to make a decision and disregard any Amendments that otherwise would have allowed it?

          What was definitely an eye opener for me was that as Americans we love the idea of being free to choose religion, sexual orientation, where we can live, work, etc., but with that we seem to always believe that what we feel is right should always be considered the right way. Who says that we aren’t being judgmental and racist against the Muslims and what they want to freely choose to do? Many believe that every Muslim wants to kill all Americans and that they want to take over this country, but the truth is there’s no truth to that at all. I had a friend in elementary school who was Muslim and she was one of the nicest girls in my class. I also deal with a lot of Muslim customers, and they are probably some of the nicest and have the most patience of any other culture. People hate to be judged and hate not being able to get a job based on their beliefs, yet it’s ok to have so much hatred toward the Muslims? The best example that I can come up with for how I see Americans treating Muslims after 9-11, is of Hitler. Hitler was Austrian and killed millions of Jewish people during World War II and was a hated and horrible person. So does that mean every single Austrian in the world today has the same plans and thoughts as Hitler did?

I don’t know what is going through Feisal Abdul Rauf’s mind and what his true intentions are, but who are we to stop someone’s actions who is not doing anything against the law? If America is a strong country and all it’s citizens feel strongly about our country and what it stands for, then why is this situation any different from another decision someone has made about building a church or any other building? We all believe that any individual or country can not take our dignity away from us, so if that’s the case who cares if the mosque is built? We are stronger than a building and if we let this debate separate our nation, then technically we are showing that the terrorists are winning. We must stick by our Constitution and what our country stands for to continue to be a strong nation.

This is from the summer of 2011, Stephen Moore:

 

Throughout my life I have been looked upon as the “Token Asian” within my community. I have always given myself the label of Asian because of the label society has given me which had become my reality. Not knowing what Race really meant I was always confused in what category or group I belonged to in my everyday life. I was sandwiched between two groups that have not really accepted me fully due to the life I choose to live and the traditions I choose to follow. Recently my eyes have been opened and have only one side to claim regardless if that group accepts me or not.  It is a label I will be proud to claim and I will be more than happy to explain how I have come to this conclusion.

            I come from a mixed demographic family of a mother that is first generation Filipina and my father who is first generation American. Even though the Philippines was a colony of United States for many years after WWII; it still holds its different traditions and values. My mother’s side of the family who would come to visit from the Philippines would make fun of me that I was a “white washed” Filipino who had forgotten the traditions of my so called “native land”. How do I forget something that I had not fully grasped in the first place? Even though my Mother worked hard to instill certain traditions and values to me as a child I had a hard time fully grasping these concepts due to the facts that the people around me outside my family did not follow them. Things were important in my household such as continuing to speak Tagalog (One of the many languages of the Philippines) to my mom and eating the same food she had eaten when she lived in the province of Tacloban.  She would also refer to her close Filipino/Filipina friends as Aunt or Uncle as signs of respect and continue to dress us children in traditional Filipino garments on special holidays and birthdays. The problem with this push of tradition was when my father would get involved and would naturally talk to us in English, feed our love of “Julienned fries”, let us stay overnight at friends houses that did not share the same traditions as us, and told us of  stories of the wild west and American History. Even though I happily accepted my mother’s “Philippine traditions”; she was outmatched with the traditions and culture that the United States immersed us with just by living here. Now it makes so much sense that I can now call myself American!

            Growing up most of my life in Pampa, Texas and Turlock, California I was absorbed into a community which was predominately white Americans. Growing up I was made fun of because I looked different. Even though my father was 6’4 and blonde hair with blue eyes; my mother had dominant genes which gave me black hair, 5’8 height, and slanty dark brown eyes. For some reason with having these features I am automatically put in the same category of Chinese immigrants who own laundry mats, donut shops, computer repair shops, and Chinese restaurants. I automatically become the brunt of jokes involving driving, Japanese tourists, Jackie Chan, and my favorite William Hung. My name disappears and it becomes replaced with “Asian” in everyone’s phone lists. Being born in America and knowing the ins and outs of American culture do not matter to people. The fact that I look different and I don’t fit the American “look” is the deciding factor of their response. The fact that I accepted the label of Asian and I too would make jokes about myself might not have helped either. I wonder now that I have finally accepted the fact that I’m an American that this outlook by others will change. Yes I have kept some of the traditions that my mother has instilled upon me at an early age but I still was born here in the United States and I have still grown within the walls of its culture. My father grew up in this great nation and I continue to live here. I served 5 years in the United States Navy as an American who just wanted to be accepted as an American. I plan to get an education here in the United States and eventually be a successful contributing member of society.

            Regardless of how each side looks upon me I will always be American. I hope that later in my life that my closer friends and family will look upon me as an insider within their community and see me as American as they are. The sandwich between traditions and cultures really confused me but I’m happy to finally come to grips that I’m not Filipino-American but just American.

 


This first one is from Felisha Serpa, Fall 2010.

          I thought I knew where I stood on the class debate as to whether Muslims should be permitted to build a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City. But after last week’s class I felt as if I was completely wrong about my opinion. My first reaction when I heard that a group of Muslims wanted to build a mosque near ground zero, was that I couldn’t believe such a thing would even be considered. I can’t say that I lost anyone in the horrible events of the September 11th attacks, but just like any other American I feel strongly against terrorism and was outraged to see what they did to our nation.

          I already had made my decision as to which side of the debate was going to win before it even began. When the group that was for allowing the mosque to be built started with their statements, it definitely touched a nerve in me. I was so upset to hear about the First Amendment and how if the Muslims couldn’t build the mosque it would go against their Constitutional rights. No matter what facts these students would state in their argument, I wasn’t going to agree with them.

          When the group that was against the idea stated that it’s been shown in the history of the locations of mosques that where Muslims decide to build them is on the land of victory. As soon as I heard this I was outraged. I mean there was the answer to all of this chaos that Feisal Abdul Rauf, the person who is behind this project, was trying to obviously prove with the building of the mosque. The only thing that kept going through my mind was how dare these people laugh in our faces with showing us that they had been victorious over Americans when they bombed our buildings and killed thousands of innocent victims.    

          Once both sides were done trying to prove which one of them was right, I was very confused. I didn’t know what I should think or how I should feel towards this major debate that’s currently going on in our country. When the teacher had her final discussion that’s when I started to realize what is happening to all of us Americans. I noticed that we are letting our emotions and our opinions of this horrible day in our country’s history overrule the fact that there are laws that must be obeyed in the US. This country is the land of the free and gives the opportunity to all of its citizens to have freedom to choose what they do within the law. If that’s the case, when did our emotions give us all the right to make a decision and disregard any Amendments that otherwise would have allowed it?

          What was definitely an eye opener for me was that as Americans we love the idea of being free to choose religion, sexual orientation, where we can live, work, etc., but with that we seem to always believe that what we feel is right should always be considered the right way. Who says that we aren’t being judgmental and racist against the Muslims and what they want to freely choose to do? Many believe that every Muslim wants to kill all Americans and that they want to take over this country, but the truth is there’s no truth to that at all. I had a friend in elementary school who was Muslim and she was one of the nicest girls in my class. I also deal with a lot of Muslim customers, and they are probably some of the nicest and have the most patience of any other culture. People hate to be judged and hate not being able to get a job based on their beliefs, yet it’s ok to have so much hatred toward the Muslims? The best example that I can come up with for how I see Americans treating Muslims after 9-11, is of Hitler. Hitler was Austrian and killed millions of Jewish people during World War II and was a hated and horrible person. So does that mean every single Austrian in the world today has the same plans and thoughts as Hitler did?

I don’t know what is going through Feisal Abdul Rauf’s mind and what his true intentions are, but who are we to stop someone’s actions who is not doing anything against the law? If America is a strong country and all it’s citizens feel strongly about our country and what it stands for, then why is this situation any different from another decision someone has made about building a church or any other building? We all believe that any individual or country can not take our dignity away from us, so if that’s the case who cares if the mosque is built? We are stronger than a building and if we let this debate separate our nation, then technically we are showing that the terrorists are winning. We must stick by our Constitution and what our country stands for to continue to be a strong nation.

This is from the summer of 2011, Stephen Moore:

 

Throughout my life I have been looked upon as the “Token Asian” within my community. I have always given myself the label of Asian because of the label society has given me which had become my reality. Not knowing what Race really meant I was always confused in what category or group I belonged to in my everyday life. I was sandwiched between two groups that have not really accepted me fully due to the life I choose to live and the traditions I choose to follow. Recently my eyes have been opened and have only one side to claim regardless if that group accepts me or not.  It is a label I will be proud to claim and I will be more than happy to explain how I have come to this conclusion.

            I come from a mixed demographic family of a mother that is first generation Filipina and my father who is first generation American. Even though the Philippines was a colony of United States for many years after WWII; it still holds its different traditions and values. My mother’s side of the family who would come to visit from the Philippines would make fun of me that I was a “white washed” Filipino who had forgotten the traditions of my so called “native land”. How do I forget something that I had not fully grasped in the first place? Even though my Mother worked hard to instill certain traditions and values to me as a child I had a hard time fully grasping these concepts due to the facts that the people around me outside my family did not follow them. Things were important in my household such as continuing to speak Tagalog (One of the many languages of the Philippines) to my mom and eating the same food she had eaten when she lived in the province of Tacloban.  She would also refer to her close Filipino/Filipina friends as Aunt or Uncle as signs of respect and continue to dress us children in traditional Filipino garments on special holidays and birthdays. The problem with this push of tradition was when my father would get involved and would naturally talk to us in English, feed our love of “Julienned fries”, let us stay overnight at friends houses that did not share the same traditions as us, and told us of  stories of the wild west and American History. Even though I happily accepted my mother’s “Philippine traditions”; she was outmatched with the traditions and culture that the United States immersed us with just by living here. Now it makes so much sense that I can now call myself American!

            Growing up most of my life in Pampa, Texas and Turlock, California I was absorbed into a community which was predominately white Americans. Growing up I was made fun of because I looked different. Even though my father was 6’4 and blonde hair with blue eyes; my mother had dominant genes which gave me black hair, 5’8 height, and slanty dark brown eyes. For some reason with having these features I am automatically put in the same category of Chinese immigrants who own laundry mats, donut shops, computer repair shops, and Chinese restaurants. I automatically become the brunt of jokes involving driving, Japanese tourists, Jackie Chan, and my favorite William Hung. My name disappears and it becomes replaced with “Asian” in everyone’s phone lists. Being born in America and knowing the ins and outs of American culture do not matter to people. The fact that I look different and I don’t fit the American “look” is the deciding factor of their response. The fact that I accepted the label of Asian and I too would make jokes about myself might not have helped either. I wonder now that I have finally accepted the fact that I’m an American that this outlook by others will change. Yes I have kept some of the traditions that my mother has instilled upon me at an early age but I still was born here in the United States and I have still grown within the walls of its culture. My father grew up in this great nation and I continue to live here. I served 5 years in the United States Navy as an American who just wanted to be accepted as an American. I plan to get an education here in the United States and eventually be a successful contributing member of society.

            Regardless of how each side looks upon me I will always be American. I hope that later in my life that my closer friends and family will look upon me as an insider within their community and see me as American as they are. The sandwich between traditions and cultures really confused me but I’m happy to finally come to grips that I’m not Filipino-American but just American.




If you can write lilke the students above have done, you'll probably find it easy to get an A in this class!