Jared Taylor, American Renaissance, Spring 2010
Editor’s Note: This is adapted from chapter three of Jared Taylor’s book White Identity, available for purchase here.
Diversity now touches Americans in virtually every part of the country, but its effect is greatest where there have been high levels of immigration. In parts of southern California, diversity has brought school- and prison-type violence into the streets. Black/Hispanic hostility is chronic, but even what amounts to ethnic cleansing does not get national attention.
By 2004, an unincorporated area just north of Watts between Florence and Firestone Avenues had become the scene of what the Los Angeles Times called a “deadly racial gang war.” From just January 2004 through June of 2005, a black gang, the Eastside Crips, battled a Hispanic gang called Florencia 13, producing combined casualties of 44 killed and 200 wounded in an area of just 3½ square miles. Police were shocked to find that only about half the victims were gang members. “Violence took a certain turn and became racial war,” explained Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca. “People were killed only because they were black or they were brown.” The department put together a 57-man task force to saturate the area.
By the next year, federal officials had enough evidence to prosecute four Hispanics for trying to cleanse blacks from the Highland Park area (about 15 miles away from Florence/Firestone) in a series of attacks carried out between 1995 and 2001. During the trial, one witness testified that an order had come from the Mexican Mafia prison gang to “kill any blacks … on sight.” Others stated that cliques within the Hispanic gang known as “the Avenues” vied with each other to see who could drive the most blacks out of Highland Park. In 2006, four Hispanics were convicted, and three were sentenced to life in prison for, as acting US Attorney George S. Cardona put it, “the despicable act of trying to rid their neighborhood of African Americans.”
Later that year, violence returned to the nearby town of Harbor Gateway. An informal boundary line had been established at 206th Street: Hispanics to the north; blacks to the south. There had been inflammatory graffiti and racially motivated killings on both sides of the line, but the death of 14- year-old Cheryl Green seemed especially odious. The middle-school student was on the black side of the line talking to friends when a Hispanic walked up and started shooting. Sheriff Baca warned that the almost random nature of the killings made them hard to prevent. Florencia 13 leaders continued to give orders to kill black rivals but that if a particular black could not be found, then it was, “Well, shoot any black you see.”
“They just see a young man of the opposite race and they shoot,” said Olivia Rosales, a former hate-crimes specialist who prosecuted many Florencia 13 murders from 2005 to 2007. Of the 20 cases she handled, said Miss Rosales, “most of the victims have not been members of the rival gang.”
Timothy Slack, who is black, grew up in the contested Florence/Firestone area when it was mostly black. He said he no longer let his children go to the store or walk through alleys. One former black gang member still lived in Florence/Firestone because he owned property there but warned, “It’s going to come a time when everybody’s going to have to leave.”
In 2007, blacks publicly protested what they claimed was insufficient police protection. In November, a noisy group showed up at City Hall to rail against Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and members of the city council. A black woman complained that “you have one race of people exterminating another race of people.”
From the summer of 2006 to the summer of 2007, Hispanics shot blacks on 12 different occasions in the Canoga Park area, and Lieutenant Tom Smart of the Los Angeles Police warned blacks that they were being targeted strictly because of race. Ironically, two years earlier, Canoga Park had received the prestigious All-America City designation, largely because of its unusually diverse population.
In early 2008, race killing moved to the town of Monrovia in Los Angeles County, when two blacks entered the territory of a rival Hispanic gang and killed one teenage Hispanic girl and wounded another. Police said there had been many shootouts in what they called a “racially charged gang war” in Monrovia and neighboring cities.
In June 2008, Sheriff Lee Baca went public in the Los Angeles Times with an article called “In L.A., Race Kills.” He wrote:
We have a serious interracial violence problem in this county involving blacks and Latinos. Some people deny it. They say that race is not a factor in L.A.’s gang crisis . . . . But they’re wrong. The truth is that, in many cases, race is at the heart of the problem. Latino gang members shoot blacks not because they’re members of a rival gang but because of their skin color. Likewise, black gang members shoot Latinos because they are brown. . . .
I would even take this a step further and suggest that some of L.A.’s so-called gangs are really no more than loose-knit bands of blacks or Latinos roaming the streets looking for people of the other color to shoot.
The killings continued into 2009. In January, three Hispanic gang members were charged with racially motivated murder for shooting a black in Canoga Park as he was taking out the garbage. Detective David Peteque explained that the men killed him “for no reason at all other than the color of his skin.”
In May 2009, federal officials charged no fewer than 147 members of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang, which took pride in its anti-black violence and called itself a “hate gang.” The indictment noted that “VHG [Varrio Hawaiian Gardens] gang members have expressed a desire to rid the city of Hawaiian Gardens of all African-Americans and have engaged in a systematic effort to achieve that result by perpetrating crimes against African-Americans.” US Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien called the arrests “the largest gang takedown in United States history.” This shocking example of racial conflict received virtually no national attention.
It is hard to imagine the terror of people who are targets. Thirty-one-year-old Channise Davy thought she had found her dream home in Duarte, California, on a largely Hispanic block where she and her four children were the only blacks. On May 8, 2009, shortly after she moved in, she came home to find that vandals had broken in and spray-painted virtually every available surface—floors, walls, furniture, even television screens—with the word “nigger.” After a single trip back to pick up clothes, she never set foot in the house again.
Southern California no doubt has the worst black-Hispanic tension because of its demographic mix, but other areas also suffer. In 2006, Philip Herrera was watching a movie in a theater in the San Francisco Bay-area town of Richmond with his mother and girlfriend. Blacks were shouting, and Mr. Herrera stood up to ask them to stop. Several then dragged him from his seat and beat him badly enough to give him a concussion. Dozens of other blacks kicked him as he crawled up the aisle to the exit. Outside the theater, blacks attacked at least two other Hispanics while black theater employees looked on and laughed
In Las Vegas, in November 2001, Damon Campbell was sentenced to life in prison for killing Carlos Villanueva. Mr. Campbell shot Mr. Villanueva after saying he did not want any more Hispanics in his black neighborhood. In 2008, Police Chief William Matthews of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, warned that the city’s blacks were targeting Hispanics for rape, robbery, and assault, and warned that “black-on-brown crime” could provoke the formation of violent Hispanic gangs for self-defense.
In 2006, the Pew Hispanic Center found that the closer blacks lived to Hispanics and the more contact they had with them, the more they favored cutting immigration. Likewise, in a study of racial attitudes in Durham, North Carolina, 59 percent of Latino immigrants said that few or no blacks were hardworking, and 57 percent said that few or no blacks could be trusted. Only 9 percent of whites said that blacks were not hardworking and only 10 percent said they could not be trusted. According to another study, Hispanic passengers tipped white taxi drivers 150 percent more than they tipped black drivers.
The city of Lynwood in Los Angeles County used to be black-dominated, but by 2007 it was more than 80 percent Hispanic. Blacks still had considerable power, however, because 40 percent of residents were foreign-born and many could not vote. On the city council, disputes broke down along racial lines. “It’s all about race,” said City Councilwoman Leticia Vasquez.
Blacks and Hispanics were at such loggerheads on the board of the Roosevelt School District in Phoenix, Arizona, that the only solution seemed to be to appoint a white man to fill a vacancy. William Weiss said he hoped to bring “calm.”
A black man wrote about his decision to take his son out of a Washington, DC, primary school where half the students and most of the staff were Hispanic. He said black students came home crying because Hispanics teased them about their skin color and hair. “Diversity can be messier than most of us want to acknowledge,” he wrote. His conclusion? “[T]o all the friends—most but not all of them white—whom I’ve chastised over the years for abandoning the District once their children reached school age: I’m sorry. You were right. I was wrong.”
The South, where racial conflict traditionally pitted blacks against whites, has found a new fault line. When Hispanics in Georgia sought designation as “minority suppliers” so they could get preferential contracts, it was black legislators who stopped them. As Bob Holmes of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus explained, “There is growing competition between blacks and Hispanics, and in the South, it is going to get worse.”
The booming economy of the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina drew many Hispanics in the 1990s, but soon there was tension with blacks. Ana Cabello-Bumpass, who handled apartment rentals, said that when Hispanics looked for housing, “the first thing they ask me is if there are a lot of blacks around, because they do not want to live in a place where there are a lot of AfricanAmericans.” Blacks also wanted to avoid Hispanics.
Once Hispanics arrived in large numbers in an apartment complex, blacks moved out. “We have nothing in common,” said a black who was leaving. Hispanic immigrant Aura Ventura said that when she and her family moved into an apartment in a black area, neighbors threw eggs at the building. Jim Johnson, who used to live and teach in Los Angeles, was a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in minority conflicts. He said the situation was like South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s.
Mixing of any kind can bring conflict. In South Boston in 2004, a feud between white and Southeast Asian teenagers was supposed to be settled with a one-on-one fistfight between single combatants from each group. The result was a brawl, leaving 16-year-old Bang Mai fatally stabbed.
In 2002 in Brooklyn, young Dominicans ventured into a Bangladeshi neighborhood hoping to steal a bicycle, but a group of Bangladeshis ran them out. The Dominicans returned with reinforcements and began attacking anyone who looked Bangladeshi. Mizinor Rahman saw the attacks and dialed 911 from his cell phone. The Dominicans then beat the Bangladeshi immigrant to death.
Hispanics and Vietnamese have been living side by side in Orange County, California, for 20 years but the result has been constant, low-level violence. As a 25-year-old Hispanic who grew up with Vietnamese in Orange County explained, “Lots of Vietnamese and Latino immigrants just resent being next to each other.”
In Columbus, Ohio, there is violence between American blacks and Somali Bantus. A 1998 brawl in one apartment complex prompted the managers to give tenants cultural sensitivity classes. That didn’t work. In 2004, there was another fight between Somalis and blacks at the complex that involved 60 people smashing each other with bats and ransacking apartments. Five Bantus went to the hospital. This time, the solution was segregation; all 15 Somali families moved out.
That same year, a fight at Mifflin High School in Columbus between American blacks and Somalis left a 16-year-old Somali boy unconscious. Three Somali girls left the school, saying they could not get along with American blacks. “It will only get more complicated as the community becomes more ethnically diverse,” said Hassan Omar, president of the Somali Community Association of Ohio.
Early in 2009, residents of Paris, Texas, gathered to discuss sources of racial tension. They hoped that the inauguration of Barack Obama, just ten days previously, would inspire them to reach agreement. Despite the presence of mediation specialists from the US Department of Justice, the tense, four-hour session ended with blacks and whites screaming at each other.
Blacks have had well-publicized friction with Asians, especially with Korean grocers who set up small markets in black neighborhoods. In the 1980s, blacks picketed, burned out, or even murdered Korean grocers in New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Chicago. There were many campaigns to urge blacks not to buy from “people who don’t look like us.”
In New York City, there was so much black-Korean hostility that from 1981 to 1995, blacks launched 15 separate boycotts of Korean-owned groceries. Six lasted for at least a month, and one went on for 17 months. Sociologist Pyong Gap Min notes that black-Korean conflict has finally subsided, however. Why? Because new zoning laws led to the establishment of big-box stores that crowd out small grocers, gentrification brought many non-blacks to Harlem and Brooklyn, and the second generation of Korean immigrants went on to white-collar careers—not because blacks and Koreans learned to live with each other.
After the 1992 verdicts in the first trial of the Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King, black rioters singled out Korean-owned stores for arson. After the riots, the Los Angeles BlackKorean Alliance, created in 1986 to reduce tensions, fell apart in mutual recrimination and accusations. Outreach efforts had accomplished so little that no one had the will to keep going. Many Korean businesses that were burned down never rebuilt and others continued to leave. “The black-Korean controversy has dissipated because the fuel has been removed,” explained Ronald Wakabayashi, executive director of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations.
Black-Asian tension came to a head in San Francisco in early 2010, after young blacks beat several Asians to death and brutalized others. In March, hundreds of Asians marched on city hall waving signs that said “Asians Are Not Punching Bags.” Activist Carol Mo reported that a 2008 survey of 300 strong-arm robberies in the city found that 85 percent involved black perpetrators and Asian victims. “It is San Francisco’s dirty little secret,” she said, noting that the police were reluctant to talk about the numbers.
Likewise in 2010, in Manhattan, police arrested a group of black teenagers who specialized in beating up Asian women in their fifties to seventies. The boys acted as lookouts; it was the girls who attacked.
American corporations work very hard to promote diversity, but what are the results? As we will see in the next chapter, not much in terms of actual advantage, but a great deal in terms of racial conflict. In fiscal year 2007, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 30,510 formal complaints of racial discrimination, 9,369 cases of national origins discrimination, and 2,880 cases of religious discrimination, for a total of 42,759 cases of job discrimination—170 every workday—that arose because of diversity. All three categories were up at least 12 percent over the previous year, and it is safe to assume that for every case filed, many cases of perceived discrimination were not formally pursued.
In addition to EEOC filings, states, counties, municipalities, corporations, and universities have their own grievance procedures. Employees can also file directly in federal court; in 2001, blacks alone filed 21,000 racial discrimination cases. All branches of the armed services have grievance procedures. The US Civil Rights Commission, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and the state and local equivalents of these offices all exist because of conflicts that arise from diversity.
Immigrants are bringing a new kind of discrimination: “colorism,” or complaints about skin-tone differences among people of the same race. Blacks of different skin tones have long discriminated against each other, but in 2004, Vice-Chair Naomi Earp of the EEOC reported that the greatest increase in disputes had been among immigrants from India, Pakistan, and South America, who are extremely color-conscious. She warned that as the country became more diverse the problem of “colorism” would get worse.
If it were possible to count every case filed in every possible venue, it could well come to hundreds of thousands of diversity-related grievances every year. There are probably tens of thousands of Americans whose job it is to enforce, adjust, promote, and regulate racial diversity. In addition to the emotional trauma for the parties, the costs of diversity management and the grievance mechanisms it requires probably run into the billions. This is entirely aside from the billions spent to settle discrimination suits.
Because there are so many suits with potentially high damages, specialized insurers have arisen to offer protection. “Sooner or later, virtually every medium- to large-sized company is likely to find itself the defendant in a discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuit,” said Robert P. Hartwig, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute. He estimated that in any given five-year period, 60 percent of large companies are named in such cases. Why? “The 21st century’s racially and ethnically diverse workforce is a potential powder keg.” In 1990, there were just a handful of companies that sold discrimination insurance. By 2000, there were more than 60.
Such lawsuits have traditionally been black grievances against white employers, but accusations can now go in any direction. As the Wall Street Journal noted in 2006, “A new wave of race- discrimination cases is appearing in the workplace: African-Americans who feel that they are being passed over for Hispanics.” As Anna Park, an EEOC regional attorney explained, “There used to be a reluctance to bring cases against other minorities. . . . This is a new trend.”
Discrimination runs the other way, too. In October 2005, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin voiced a common complaint among blacks when he asked: “How do I ensure that New Orleans is not overrun by Mexican workers?” This attitude can be costly. In 2007, a federal jury awarded $254,000 in damages to Thomas Diaz of the Inkster, Michigan, police department because the city had “promulgated and continued a policy of discriminating in employment against non-AfricanAmericans.” In 2008, a Los Angeles jury found that black supervisors in the sheriff’s department had discriminated against a 19-year Hispanic veteran, Angel Jaimes, and awarded him $432,000.
The pursuit of racial diversity can mean discrimination against whites. In 2008, the city of San Francisco agreed to pay $1.6 million to 12 white police officers who had sued in federal court, claiming they had been passed over for promotion because the city wanted black supervisors.
In 2009, after more than 20 years of legal wrangling, 75 white Chicago firefighters shared a $6 million discrimination award. They had scored higher than blacks on a 1986 lieutenants’ exam but the city cooked the scores and promoted blacks. The city fought the case all the way to the US Supreme Court.
In June 2009, the US Supreme Court ruled on the high-profile case of Ricci v. DeStefano, finding that the city of New Haven had discriminated against white firemen when it threw out the results of a promotion test only because blacks and Hispanics had scored poorly. The city had tried very hard to eliminate any source of racial bias from the test, but still decided that promoting only white men would anger diversity advocates and invite lawsuits.
A combination of factors—pressure on employers to achieve a diverse workforce, together with an increasing numbers of non-white managers who favor their own group—led to a remarkable 45 percent climb in race-based discrimination filings by whites from 1998 to 2008. A typical result: In 2010, Officer Paul Waymire of the Los Angeles Police Department sued his Hispanic supervisor for discrimination and was awarded $125,000 in damages.
Problems with diversity may be found where they are least expected. In Canada, it is the job of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to fight prejudice, discrimination, and insensitivity, but its highly diverse employees suffered greatly from these scourges themselves. An internal report on the commission’s 230 employees found many complaints about spiteful managers, sexual discrimination, and a “poisoned work environment.” Forty percent of the staff had quit in the previous 12 months, and 37 percent of those who were still there hoped to leave soon.
Denver’s Human Services Department handles child abuse, welfare, child support, etc. In 2001, many of its 1,300 employees and eight of ten department heads were non-white, as were many of its clients. The city hired the Gallup organization to see how diversity was working, and was shocked. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said employees suffered discrimination because of race, sex, age, etc. Sixty-nine percent said they did not trust management. Gallup assured the city that people in the helping professions are particularly sensitive to discrimination and vocal about it. Social worker Shanna Ritts, a union representative, said that even different groups of Hispanics did not get along. “We have a large group of minority people working, but they clash,” she explained.
Diversity can endanger the public. On August 26, 1997, white and black air traffic controllers in the tower at La Guardia Airport got into a fistfight when the white used the word “boy” in the hearing of the black controller and the black was insulted. The tower was out of contact with planes for about a minute, a hazardous condition that is strictly forbidden by federal regulations.
The armed forces are often said to be a model of good race relations, but this is not always so. Although the study is now more than a decade old, in 1997, the military carried out a huge, congressionally mandated race-relations survey that covered more than 40,000 soldiers. Many reported that relations were “not at all” good or good only to a “small/moderate extent:” 51 percent of blacks, 37 percent of Hispanics, 35 percent of Asians, 36 percent of American Indians, and 25 percent of whites.
A striking two-thirds of the soldiers said they had suffered anything from “insensitive language” to racial threats or violence: 63 percent of whites, 76 percent of blacks, 79 percent of Hispanics, 70 percent of Asians, and 76 percent of American Indians. When asked if opportunities for their race have gotten better or worse over the last five years, only 16 percent of whites thought things had improved. This compared with 39 percent of blacks, 47 percent of Hispanics, 50 percent of Asians and 41 percent of Indians. The Pentagon was so embarrassed by the findings it delayed their release for two years.
Serving officers dare not criticize diversity for fear it will kill their careers. Only after he retired did Army Green Beret Major Andy Messing say that Special Forces units should be homogeneous because this promotes cohesion. He said differences of race or religion add to the tensions of a grinding training regimen and perilous combat missions.
A recent book-length study of cohesion in Civil War units found that soldiers were less likely to desert if they were fighting alongside men who resembled them in ethnicity, religion, and occupation, and who came from the same part of the country. Authors Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn concluded that men were most likely to risk their lives for men who were most like themselves. They also found that Union veterans’ health was worse in old age if they had seen a lot of combat but were surprised to discover that this effect disappeared for soldiers who had fought in very homogeneous units. Fighting alongside close comrades immunized them against battle trauma.
The more intimate the setting, the greater the challenges of diversity. Adopted children, for example, often report they never felt they fit in. In a British study of adults who were adopted as children, 46 percent of whites adopted by whites said they felt a sense of not belonging. For nonwhites adopted by whites, the figure rose to close to 75 percent. Researchers reported that their constant refrain was, “Love is not enough.”
There can be worse: The authors of a 2005 study on domestic violence in the United States reached the sobering conclusion that “the incidence of spousal homicide is 7.7 times higher in interracial marriages compared to intraracial marriages.”
One study for the period 1979 to 1981 found that white men who married black women were 21.4 times more likely to be killed by their spouses than white men who married white women. A white woman increased her risk of being killed 12.4 times by marrying a black man. Marrying a white did not appreciably change a black person’s risk of being killed by his or her spouse.
One result of today’s immigration-driven diversity is that millions of Americans cannot talk to each other. Los Angeles, which is often said to point the way to America’s future, is home to people who speak some 130 languages. As the Los Angeles Times points out, this profusion of languages does not unite:
The Filipino never hears the Persian radio program . . . . The Persian speaker never enters the Lithuanian church. The Lithuanian and the Hindi speakers take different freeway ramps into cultures divided by tracts and commercial strips and, most of all, how they speak
As immigrants cluster together, language islands arise: Russian in West Hollywood, Farsi in Beverly Hills, Mission Viejo, and Laguna Niguel; Chinese in the San Gabriel Valley, Khmer in Long Beach, Armenian in Glendale. Some islands are tiny. Cecilia Miguel, originally from Guatemala, spoke only her native Indian language, Q’anjob’al, and lived a sharply isolated life. Authorities took her children from her and put them into foster care because she could not explain how one got a black eye
Other Angelenos become part of islands as immigrants move in. The city of Monterey Park became famous in the 1980s because of a sudden influx of Chinese-speakers who infuriated whites by putting up signs only in Chinese. Months of tension and debate led to an ordinance that required English in addition to Chinese. Whites kept moving out and dropped to about 12 percent of Monterey Park’s 60,000 people, making it the first mainland American city to have an Asian majority. A large number of Chinese now live from year to year without speaking English.
Bridging the gap between Angelenos who do not have a common language is a constant challenge. Although naturalized citizens are supposed to be able to speak English, Los Angeles County prints ballots in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Tagalog, and Korean. The California Department of Motor Vehicles translates documents into 30 languages, including Arabic, Greek, Hindi, Polish, and Tongan.
Witnesses in trials need interpreters for more than 100 languages, at a huge cost to the state. In fiscal 1998-99 there were 193,909 man-days of interpreter work in California trial courts and 91,600 days in Los Angeles Superior and Municipal courts. Hospitals often depend on a system of over-the-telephone interpreting that no one finds satisfactory. People have ended up stranded in mental hospitals because no one could understand what they were saying. Inner-city blacks must sometimes have their speech interpreted for doctors from India or China—or even Iowa.
There are more than 100 languages spoken by students in the Los Angeles public schools, and by 2000 the district was spending $3 million a year on translations into just a few of them: Armenian, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, and Vietnamese. The translation unit always had a backlog and dared not advertise itself within the district for fear of being swamped.
Similar problems are moving East. For the 2001-2002 school year, Clark County, Nevada, (which includes the city of Las Vegas) was spending so much money teaching English to Spanish-speaking students that other programs had to be “cut down to the bone,” according to superintendent Carlos Garcia. The county had reduced high-school transportation, eliminated all middle school sports, and was seeking $77 million more from the state for the year’s English Language Learners instruction. Hispanic students were still dropping out at an alarming rate.
Although it is frequently assumed that children quickly pick up English, a study by the state of California found exceptions. “We’re suggesting that there are kids who can go all the way through kindergarten to 12th grade and still be considered English language learners,” said Rob Manwaring, who worked on the report.
A survey of five suburban counties surrounding Washington, DC, found that as many as 75 percent of the grade school students who were taking English as a second language were born in the United States. “Even more worrisome,” added Michael Fix of the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, “is that over half of the English-as-a-second-language learners in high school were native born.” (emphasis added)
Language conflicts are now everywhere. In Albertville, Alabama, a town of 20,000, there were so many businesses with signs in Spanish that in 2009 Mayor Lindsey Lyons tried to require that signs be in English as well so that police and firefighters could read them. Aylene Sepulveda led opposition to the proposal, arguing that if Mexican businesses had to have bilingual signs, so should everyone else.
Spanish-speakers do not always understand each other. In 2010, Carlos Garcia, a New York City public school teacher, sued the school district after it fired him and fined him $15,000 for using the word coño in class. In most Spanish-speaking countries it is an obscene word for vagina, but Mr. Garcia claimed that it is a harmless expression in his homeland, the Dominican Republic.
In 2000, the Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled that people must not be excluded from jury duty just because they do not speak English. Since then, courts have been required to provide simultaneous interpreters, at anywhere from $30 an hour for common languages like Spanish to $180 an hour plus expenses for exotic languages. Interpreters accompany the non-English-speakers into the jury room, but must declare that they served only as interpreters and did not take part in deliberations, which are supposed to be inviolate. So far, New Mexico is the only state to rule that an inability to understand English is not a bar to jury service.
Language complicates police work. Los Angeles police once picked up an elderly Korean who was lost and could not explain where he lived. They dropped him off far from home in the middle of the night. He was robbed and beaten and soon died.
In Pennsylvania, when officers pulled Miqueas Acosta over for driving with an expired safety sticker, they read him his rights in Spanish, but then spoke to him in English before searching his car. They found a kilo of cocaine worth $100,000, but Bucks County prosecutors could not use it as evidence because a Superior Court judge ruled police should have waited for an interpreter before proceeding with the search.
Charges also had to be dropped against Mahamu Kanneh, accused of repeatedly raping a sevenyear-old girl, because the courts took too long to find an interpreter for Mr. Kanneh’s tribal language, Vai, which is spoken only in Liberia and Sierra Leone. A Maryland judge found that Mr. Kanneh’s right to a speedy trial had been violated. Mr. Kanneh had arrived in the United States as a refugee and attended high school and community college, but claimed he still needed an interpreter.
In Arizona, a judge threatened to drop charges against human smugglers because the prosecution could not find Mayan interpreters. Authorities in Arkansas were nearly unable to prosecute accused murderers from the Marshall Islands for lack of an interpreter, and prosecutors in Louisville, Kentucky, struggled to find a Bantu interpreter for a Somali charged with killing his children. Really exotic languages require two interpreters. Hardly anyone speaks both English and Mixtec, Triqui, or Zapotec, for examples—these are Mexican indigenous languages—so testimony usually goes from Triqui to Spanish and then Spanish to English.
An extended family of Oaxacan Indians managed to run a $2 million-a-month East Los Angeles heroin smuggling ring for two decades, in part because they communicated in an impenetrable code: Mixteco Bajo, which is spoken only in southern Mexico. “The language, that stalled us,” said Larry Zimmerman, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s lead detective on the case. In 2010, the US Drug Enforcement Administration was advertising for speakers of “Ebonics,” or black dialect, to listen to bugged conversations between American drug dealers. Agents who spoke Standard English could not understand what the dealers were saying.
Mutual incomprehension can be deadly. In 2005, a busload of nursing home residents was being evacuated from the Texas coast in the face of Hurricane Rita. The bus caught fire and 23 people died. Sgt. Kevin Feinglas of Dallas explained that the Mexican bus driver, Juan Robles Gutierrez, did not speak enough English to carry out safety duties: “He was unable to communicate with passengers regarding emergency exits prior to the trip, and he could not give them adequate warning that there were problems when the bus caught fire,” he wrote, in preparation for charges of negligent homicide.
RACE AND POLITICS
One of the least desirable consequences of diversity is racial bloc voting. When candidates of different races run against each other, an election can become a racial headcount rather than a choice of policies.
Tom Fiedler, a long-time editor of the Miami Herald, pointed out that tribal politics is near universal. He cited a Herald poll that found more than half of ethnic Cubans, and nearly three-fifths of blacks said race or ethnicity was either very or somewhat important when they chose candidates. Only a third of the whites said race was important, but Mr. Fiedler thought many of the rest were lying.
Mr. Obama’s victory in 2008 was hailed as proof that the relevance of race is receding, but it was hardly that. Ninety-five percent of blacks voted for him and only 4 percent for his white opponent, Senator John McCain. Whites, on the other hand, voted 55 percent for Mr. McCain and only 43 percent for Mr. Obama. For Mr. McCain to have received as many white votes as he did despite unprecedented economic insecurity and record opposition to the Republican incumbent, George W. Bush, suggests that some whites, too, were voting as a racial bloc.
Blacks and Hispanics are present in the United States in numbers large enough to elect candidates of their own race, and virtually every other ethnic group is trying to increase influence by voting as a bloc. The theory is that in close elections, even a small minority can change the outcome if its members vote together.
Filipinos have established the National Federation of Filipino American Associations to lobby government and influence elections. According to Jon Amores, a Democrat in the West Virginia House of Delegates, Filipinos have the potential to be among “the most economically and politically powerful” ethnic groups in the country.
In 2007, Vietnamese candidates for the powerful board of supervisors scored major upsets in Orange County, California, by appealing to fellow Vietnamese. “All candidates should know by now they can’t win an election around here without the support of the Vietnamese community,” said Lan Nguyen, a trustee of the Garden Grove school district.
The Islamic Society of North America holds seminars to help the 1.8 million registered voters who are Muslim put pressure on politicians. In 2004, it organized a conference of 30,000 people that drew three presidential candidates. “For the first time, Muslims may be able to vote as a bloc,” said Sayyid Syeed, the society’s secretary general. Neveen Salem of the American Muslim Council in Washington emphasized that “we can be the swing vote.”
Immigrants from India have been working for years to tilt American foreign policy toward India and away from Pakistan. The Washington Post marveled at “the rise of Indian Americans as a powerful and effective domestic lobby—one that aspires to the level of influence that American Jews have exerted on behalf of Israel.”
Asian Americans, who are a 5 percent minority of the US population, have an assertive and sophisticated pressure group known as the 80-20 Initiative. It has tried to organize the Asian vote to the point that it can promise a candidate 80 percent of it if he promises to push Asian interests.
The influence of Asians is growing. As Prof. Jane Junn of the University of Southern California explains, “It’s a risk for the Democrats if they don’t mobilize them. It’s a risk for Republicans [also] because if they don’t get Asians on their side, they’re gone in California.” Asians will demand policies that suit their racial/ethnic interests.
Most white Americans believe elections should be a choice of policies rather than expressions of racial identity. If Americans vote for a candidate because of his racial agenda, representative government is crippled. Democratic systems operate well only when politicians recognize that even if their opponents’ approaches may be different, all parties are trying to work for the good of the country as a whole. When politics fracture along racial lines, it becomes easy to assume that elected officials work for narrow, ethnic interests, and political contests become very bitter.
The ultimate logic of politics in a racially fractured electorate is a system of quotas in which seats in elective bodies are set aside in proportion to the racial composition of the population. This is the formula hopelessly divided countries such as Lebanon and immediate post-white-rule Zimbabwe and South Africa hit upon. It could be the solution for other divided countries such as Iraq, Sudan, Fiji, Malaysia, or Sri Lanka, where politics is a perpetual squabble over ethnic interests.
There is already implied support for proportional racial representation in the federal approach to voter districts. The US Department of Justice has long required that congressional districts be gerrymandered to create black and Hispanic majorities that are expected to vote along racial lines and send one of their own to Congress. The department also routinely sues cities that choose their governing bodies in at-large elections. If, for example, a city is 30 percent black but has no blacks on the city council because all candidates must appeal to the entire city, voting must be switched to a ward system, with wards drawn so that blacks—by voting for people like themselves—have approximately 30 percent of the council seats. In 2006, the Justice Department used precisely this argument to threaten Euclid, Ohio, with litigation if it did not replace its at-large elections with a system of eight separate wards. In 2010, Hispanics made the same argument when they sued the city of Compton: They claimed that an at-large voting system shut them out and kept the city council all black.
Another way to get proportional representation is through cumulative voting. Let us assume that 10 candidates are running for five at-large seats on a city council. Non-whites may be 10 percent of the voting population but may never get a city councilman who looks like them because even if they vote as a bloc, the top five winners are likely to be white. Cumulative voting gives five votes—the number of seats—to each voter. Non-whites routinely give all five of their votes to the candidate of their race, while whites spread their votes among several white candidates.
In 2010, under a federal court order, the village of Port Chester, New York, instituted such a system. Hispanics voted as predicted and got their first Hispanic city trustee. Cumulative voting, which violates the American tradition of one-man-one-vote, has been used to elect minorities in Alabama, Illinois, South Dakota, and Texas.
Although political representation by racial quota is the effect of government policy, it is not yet respectable to call for it explicitly. When President Bill Clinton tried to appoint Lani Guinier as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights her appointment failed, in part because of Miss Guinier’s advocacy of representation by race. In her view, if blacks were 13 percent of the US population, 13 percent of seats in Congress should be set aside for them.
It does not cause much comment, however, when the Democratic Party applies this thinking to its selection of delegates to presidential conventions. Each state party files an affirmative-action plan with the national party, and many states set quotas. For the 2008 Democratic Convention, California mandated an over-representation of non-white delegates. Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics were only 4.6, 5.2, and 21.1 percent, respectively, of the Democratic electorate, but had to be 16, 9, and 26 percent of the delegates. Other states had similar quotas. Procedures of this kind do lead to diversity of delegates but suggest that race is more important than policy.
Perhaps it is. In Cincinnati, where blacks are 40 to 45 percent of the population, Mayor Charlie Luken complained that the interests of blacks and whites seemed so permanently in conflict that “race gets injected into every discussion as a result.”
In other words, any issue can become racial. In 2004, the Georgia legislature passed a bill to stop fraud by requiring voters to show a state-issued ID at the polls. People without drivers’ licenses could apply for an ID for a nominal fee. Black legislators felt so strongly that this was an attempt to limit the black vote that they did not merely vote against the law; practically the entire black delegation stormed out of the Capitol when the measure passed over their objections.
In 2009, when Congress voted a stimulus bill to get the economy out of recession, some governors considered refusing some federal funds because there were too many strings attached. Jim Clyburn, a black South Carolina congressman and House Majority Whip, complained that rejecting any funding would be a “slap in the face of African-Americans.”
Race divides Cook County, Illinois, which contains Chicago. In 2007, when the black president of the county board, Todd Stroger, could not get his budget passed, his floor leader William Beavers— also black—complained that it was “because he’s black.” He said there was only one real question: “Who’s gonna control the county—white or black—that’s all this is.”
Juries can be swayed by race. In San Diego County Court, Judge John Einhorn was probably right to ask prospective jurors to examine their consciences in the case of three black men charged with the particularly brutal rape of two white women. Judge Einhorn invited all those who could not ignore race to remove themselves. Race is such a volatile issue that in the 2010 hate-crime trial of a white teenager who stabbed a Hispanic immigrant to death in upstate New York, Judge Robert W. Doyle spent the better part of two weeks going through literally hundreds of candidates before finding 12 jurors and four alternatives who thought they would not be swayed by race.
Such precautions are necessary. In 2010, Sam Riddle of Detroit escaped a murder conviction because the sole black on the jury refused to consider the evidence. “If you tried to say anything, she would lash out at you,” said juror Margaret Elyakin. “If you can’t find this man guilty, you can’t find anyone guilty. Unfortunately, it came down to race.”
This chapter referred earlier to Thomas Diaz, the Inkster police lieutenant who won damages because blacks in the police department discriminated against him. After the verdict, the city appealed to the US District Court in Detroit, asking that the judgment be thrown out because Inkster was 75 to 80 percent black but the jury was all white. The city argued that whites could not fairly judge the decisions of blacks.
The legal profession recognizes that diversity makes justice more difficult. By 2004, California, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia all required practicing lawyers to take courses on diversity and the elimination of bias in the legal system.
Race can complicate anything. As the Oscar candidates began to come into focus for movies made during 2010, Hollywood got a bad scare: It appeared that for the first time in 10 years there were not likely to be any black nominees in any of the major categories.
In an effort to relieve congestion on Interstate 395 that runs through Virginia just south of Washington, DC, transportation authorities proposed a system of tolls to let single drivers use the carpool lanes. Arlington County, Virginia, filed suit, claiming such a system would discriminate against minorities because they were less able than whites to pay the toll. When the Atlanta subway authority named one of its lines the Yellow Line, Asians protested because it ran through a large Asian community. At an undisclosed cost to the taxpayer, the authority changed the name to the Gold Line.
Every year, the Chicago area splits about one billion dollars in tax money between city and suburban transit services. Most of the money goes to the city, but according to a suit filed in 2010 it is not enough. Civil-rights lawyers argued that urban service, disproportionately used by blacks and Hispanics, was being starved of funds because of “chronic racism.”
Diversity leads to what appears to be an infinite variety of ways to give offense, intentionally or not. Racial etiquette therefore becomes so complex it is impossible to know what is taboo and what is permitted. For example, Joseph Smith of East Lyme, Connecticut, wanted to scare away geese that were eating his corn crop. He made scarecrows out of discarded environmental suits farmers use for spraying crops. The suits were white and had hoods, and blacks complained that they looked like Ku Klux Klan robes. Mr. Smith had to take down his scarecrows.
In 2004, the Tennessee Department of Health ran a radio ad that was supposed to promote good diet by encouraging listeners to “try baking your chicken, eating a fresh tossed salad on the side, and scrumptious watermelon for dessert.” Listeners complained that watermelon and chicken evoked racial stereotypes, so the department pulled the ad.
In 2010, the public school system of Denver, Colorado, celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King with a meal of “southern-style” fried chicken and collard greens. Lecia Brooks of the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama, complained that “if that is the message young people are receiving, then why have a holiday?” School authorities apologized.
In Chandler, Arizona, when police described a rape suspect over the radio as “Hispanic,” Mayra Nieves, vice president of programming for KMYL Radio near Phoenix, called it “racial profiling,” and said the police should have described the suspect as “dark-skinned.”
For years, the Veterans Administration hospital in Indianapolis had a display of war memorabilia, including the front page from the August 14, 1945 Indianapolis Times with a large headline, “Japs Surrender.” In 2009, the hospital took down the newspaper when an employee complained that the word “Jap” was offensive.
In 2002, volunteers for the Fort McHenry Military Museum in San Pedro, California, decided to raise money through a December 7 showing of the film Tora Tora Tora about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. There were to be ushers in World War II uniforms, vintage cars, and Pearl Harbor survivors at a gala evening at the 1930s-era Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro. The Department of Cultural Affairs of Los Angeles canceled the program, explaining that an event on Pearl Harbor Day would insult Japanese-Americans.
In many theaters it has become impossible to show D.W. Griffith’s innovative classic, Birth of a Nation, because of its portrayal of blacks. Charles Lustman, owner of the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles, planned to launch a series with the 1915 epic, and to put it in context with commentary by a film scholar. He received so many threats he canceled the showing.
When one computer controls the operations of another the two machines are called “master” and “slave.” A black employee in the Los Angeles Probation Department took offense at this language, so the director of affirmative action for the county ordered all outside vendors to start calling them “primary” and “secondary” computers.
At Hillsborough High School in Hillsborough, Florida, the editor of the school newspaper wrote an article about the racial gap in standardized test scores at the school. Principal William Orr ordered the article removed from the paper, explaining that he could not permit an article that could hurt students’ self esteem, even if it were factually correct.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC, the Society of Professional Journalists issued guidelines on how not to offend Muslims. Writers were to avoid terms such as “Islamic terrorist” or “Muslim extremist,” and to make an extra effort to include positive depictions of Arabs and Muslims. They were to follow the American Muslim Council’s rules in spelling such words as “Quran” (not Koran) and “Makkah” (not Mecca).
Diversity etiquette can change. In 1953, scientists at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) began giving female names to Atlantic hurricanes. Women’s groups said this was insulting, so in 1979 the WMO added men’s names. Since women were insulted by hurricanes with girls’ names, blacks might have been glad no hurricanes had African-American names like Jamal or Latonya, but no. Black Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) complained that the names were “lily white” and that “all racial groups should be represented.”
A single race-related mistake can end a career. Dan Issel used to make $2.5 million a year as the coach of the Denver Nuggets basketball team, but in 2001 he got into a shouting match with a fan and shouted, “Go drink another beer you Mexican piece of (expletive).” It was “Mexican,” not the expletive, that got him in trouble. Mr. Issel made a tearful public apology, but the team suspended him for four games and fined him $112,000. This did not satisfy Hispanics, so the Nuggets fired him.
David Lenihan used to be a talk show host at a Saint Louis radio station, but one word ended his career. He was telling his audience how excited he was at rumors that black Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might become commissioner of the National Football League when he said the following: “She’s African-American, which would kind of be a big coon. A big coon. Oh my God. I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that.” Everyone knew he meant to say coup rather than coon, but the station fired him on the spot.
Tom Burlington used to be a weekend anchor for Fox News. In 2007 he was discussing plans for the evening’s news broadcast, which was to include the NAACP youth council’s decision to “bury ‘the N-word’. ” Mr. Burlington pronounced the word, saying that in a discussion of that kind refusing to use it gave it power it did not deserve. A black woman who was present was offended, and he was suspended and later fired.
E.D. Hill used to be the anchor of the Fox News program “America’s Pulse.” After Barack Obama secured the Democratic nomination for president he bumped fists with his wife. On the air, Miss Hill said, “A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? The gesture everyone seems to interpret differently.” She apologized for using the word “terrorist” but lost her show anyway.
In 2008, Prof. Donald Hindley, who had taught at Brandeis University for 47 years, told a class that “wetbacks” is a pejorative term for Mexican immigrants. Simply for uttering this word, he was sent to sensitivity training and had a monitor stationed to observe him until Provost Marty Krauss was satisfied that Prof. Hindley was “able to conduct (himself) appropriately in the classroom.”
In 2005, Oregon state Senator Neil Bryant was nominated to the board of Oregon Health & Science University. As part of the vetting process, Mr. Bryant filled out a three-page form from the governor’s office on “gender and ethnicity.” In answer to a question about “disabilities,” Mr. Bryant wrote “white/male” as a joke. Despite an apology, Mr. Bryant was removed from consideration.
On January 15, 2005, a police officer in Columbus, Georgia, was helping patrol the route of a march to celebrate the Martin Luther King holiday. The city sent a snack van for hungry officers, and he chose a banana and ate it. A black woman insisted that the officer—who expressed amazement at the charge—was thereby comparing black people to apes. Mayor Bob Poydasheff of Columbus wrote the woman a letter of apology.
Kelly Tilghman was a reporter on the Golf Channel who was friends with the black golfer Tiger Woods. During a broadcast, her on-air partner joked that Mr. Woods was so dominant that the only way to stop him would be for young players to “gang up” on him. “Lynch him in a back alley,” replied Miss Tilghman, with a laugh. Mr. Woods called the controversy a “non-issue,” but black activist Al Sharpton immediately demanded that Miss Tilghman be fired. The Golf Channel suspended her for two weeks without pay. When Golfweek magazine wrote an article about Miss Tilghman and put a picture of a noose on the cover, editor Dave Seanor was fired immediately because the image was considered insensitive to blacks.
It is dangerous just to talk about nooses. Travis Grigsby was a drummer in the marching band at Lee’s Summit High School in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. He was discussing the best knots for tying up drum equipment and a fellow drummer asked if he knew how to tie a hangman’s noose. Mr. Grigsby, an Eagle Scout, said he did. A black who overheard the conversation was offended, and the school suspended Mr. Grigsby from the band for two weeks.
Speedy Gonzales is a cartoon-character mouse who was a Warner Brothers favorite for nearly 50 years. He wore a sombrero, spoke with a Mexican accent, and outwitted foes like Sylvester, “the Greengo Pussygato.” In 1999, when the Cartoon Network got exclusive control of Speedy, it permanently banned him from American television because of “ethnic stereotypes.” A spokesman nevertheless conceded that the mouse was “hugely popular” on the Cartoon Network Latin America.
Promises can be broken in order to punish violations of etiquette. In 2001, officials at Montachusett Regional Vocational School in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, conducted a survey about race relations at the school. They told students the survey was confidential, and some whites said minority students got preferential treatment and were starting fights. School administrators identified five white students who gave these answers and suspended them for three days for “behavior causing a dangerous condition” and making “racist comments.”
At a 2008 meeting of Dallas County, Texas, commissioners, Kenneth Mayfield, who is white, complained about the number of traffic tickets that seemed to be lost in the central collections office, comparing it to a black hole. Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, interrupted with a loud “Excuse me!” and insisted that the office was a “white hole.” Another black demanded an apology. Mr. Price did not get an apology, but did not back down. He said other expressions whites should not use include “angel food cake” and “devil’s food cake.”
Janet Clark, chair of the school board of Pinellas County, Florida, got in trouble when she referred to chronically disruptive students as “hoodlums.” Black groups accused her of racism, and Ray Tampa of the St. Petersburg NAACP said he was “disgusted” when she refused to apologize.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City got the same treatment when he said that heads of the transit union had “thuggishly turned their backs on New York City” by calling a strike. A black City Council member and other black leaders complained that since the transit unions were majority nonwhite, the word “thuggish” was racist.
In 2003, Grace Fuller and Louise Sawyer, both black, were boarding a Southwest Airlines fight, when a white attendant, Jennifer Cundiff, urged passengers to take their seats, saying, “Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go.” The second line is usually “catch a tiger by the toe,” but Miss Fuller and Miss Sawyer said the rhyme was directed at them, since a much older version is “catch a nigger by the toe.” The flight attendant, who was 22 at the time she recited the lines, said she had never heard the “nigger” version, and was simply encouraging passengers to sit down. The US District Court in Kansas City allowed a suit for damages against Southwest but a jury found the airline not guilty.
Because they are aware of incidents like these, many whites police their language to a remarkable degree. One woman wrote about paying for food at a Wendy’s drive-through and grabbing madly at a dollar bill that a gust of wind blew out of her car. “Oh, boy; that was interesting” she said, when she managed to pin the bill to the side of her car. “I beat myself up as I drove away,” she added. Why? Because the person she handed the bill to was a young black man and she had used the word “boy.”
Whites impose these rules on themselves because they know blacks, in particular, are so quick to take offense. Radio host Dennis Prager was surprised to learn that a firm that runs focus groups on radio talk shows excludes blacks from such groups. It had discovered that almost no whites are willing to disagree with a black. As soon as a black person voiced an opinion, whites agreed, whatever they really thought. When Mr. Prager asked his listening audience about this, whites called in from around the country to say they were afraid to disagree with a black person for fear of being thought racist.
Attempts at sensitivity can go wrong. In 2009, there were complaints from minority staff in the Delaware Department of Transportation about insensitive language, so the department head, Carolann Wicks, distributed a newsletter describing behavior and language she considered unacceptable. Minorities were so offended that the newsletter spelled out the words whites were not supposed to use that the department had to recall and destroy the newsletter.
The effort whites put into observing racial etiquette has been demonstrated in the laboratory. In experiments at Tufts University and Harvard Business School, a white subject was paired with a partner, and each was given 30 photographs of faces that varied by race, sex, and background color. They were then supposed to identify one of the 30 faces by asking as few yes-or-no questions as possible. Asking about race was clearly a good way to narrow down the possibilities—whites did not hesitate to use that strategy when their partner was white—but only 10 percent could bring themselves to mention race if their partner was black. They were afraid to admit that they even noticed race
When the same experiment was done with children, even white 10- and 11-year olds avoided mentioning race, though younger children were less inhibited. Because they were afraid to identify people by race if the partner was black, older children performed worse on the test than younger children. “This result is fascinating because it shows that children as young as 10 feel the need to try to avoid appearing prejudiced, even if doing so leads them to perform poorly on a basic cognitive test,” said Kristin Pauker, a PhD candidate at Tufts who co-authored the study.
During Barack Obama’s campaign for President, Duke University sociologist Eduardo BonillaSilva asked the white students in his class to raise their hands if they had a black friend on campus. All did so. At the time, blacks were about 10 percent of the student body, so for every white to have a black friend, every black must have had an average of eight or nine white friends. However, when Prof. Bonilla-Silva asked the blacks in the class if they had white friends none raised his hand. One hesitates to say the whites were lying, but there would be deep disapproval of any who admitted to having no black friends, whereas there was no pressure on blacks to claim they had white friends.
Nor is there the same pressure on blacks when they talk insultingly about whites. Claire Mack is a former mayor and city council member of San Mateo, California. In a 2006 newspaper interview, she complained that too many guests on television talk shows were “wrinkled-ass white men.” No one asked her to apologize.
Daisy Lynum, a black commissioner of the city of Orlando, Florida, angered the city’s police when she complained that a “white boy” officer had pulled her son over for a traffic stop. She refused to apologize, saying, “That is how I talk and I don’t plan to change.”
During his 2002 reelection campaign, Sharpe James, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, referred to his light-skinned black opponent as “the faggot white boy.” This caused no ripples, and a majority-black electorate returned him to office.
Names of sports teams are subject to diversity etiquette, but the rules are confusing. A team named the “Rebels” is unacceptable because it glorifies slave-owning Confederates, but “Indians” is unacceptable because it insults Native Americans. It is hard to believe the Army was trying to insult Indians when it named an attack helicopter the Apache or that the Atlanta Braves or Washington Redskins are names that demean Indians. In any case, rebels have been largely wiped out, and activists are hard at work on the few Indians who survive. In 2009 the 17-year suit against the Redskins finally came to an end only because the US Supreme Court refused to hear the case. In California, activists persuaded the legislature to forbid the use of any Indian-related team name by any public school, except for those near reservations.
The Lehigh Valley Triple-A baseball team, the IronPigs has a large, furry pig mascot. Two days after naming it “PorkChop,” the team had to change it because Hispanics said it was insulting to them. Team owners said they had never heard of the word being used as an ethnic slur but obligingly renamed the pig “Ferrous.”
Houston wanted to name its soccer team the Houston 1836 after the year the city was founded, but Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia led other Hispanics in arguing that this was unacceptable because it was the year Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna’s army at San Jacinto, securing Texas independence. For most Americans, that could hardly be a reason to reject the name, but the team owner switched to the Houston Dynamo.
History is a delicate matter in a diverse country. Shortly after the fall of the Alamo—likewise in 1836—Mexican troops defeated the Texans at the Battle of Coleto Creek near Goliad, Texas. The Texans surrendered, believing they would be treated as prisoners of war. Instead, the Mexicans marched the 300 or so survivors to Goliad and shot them in what became known as the Goliad Massacre. Mexicans resent the term “massacre.” With the city of Goliad now half Hispanic, they insist on “execution.” Many Anglos, said Benny Martinez of the Goliad chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), “still hate Mexicans and using ‘massacre’ is a subtle way for them to express it.”
Watertown, Massachusetts, had a different disagreement about history. In 2007, the town’s more than 8,000 Armenian-Americans were so angry at the Anti-Defamation League’s refusal to recognize the World War I Turkish massacres of Armenians as genocide that they persuaded the city council to cut ties with the ADL’s “No Place For Hate” program designed to fight discrimination. Other towns with a strong Armenian presence—Newton, Belmont, Somerville, and Arlington—were considering breaking with the ADL.
Filmmaker Ken Burns has learned that diversity complicates history. When he made a documentary on the Second World War, Latino groups complained it did not include enough Hispanics—even though none had seen it. Mr. Burns bristled at the idea of changing his film, but Hispanics put enough pressure on the Public Broadcasting Service to force him to.
Even prehistory is divisive. In 1996, two men walking along the Columbia River in Washington State discovered a skeleton that was found to be 9,200 years old. “Kennewick Man,” as the bones came to be called, was one of the oldest nearly complete human skeletons ever uncovered in North America and was of great interest to scientists because his features were more Caucasian than American Indian. Local Indians claimed he was an ancestor and insisted on reburying him. It took more than eight years of legal battles before scientists got full access to the remains.
Holidays are a touchy matter. The Democrat-controlled California legislature commemorates certain holidays on the floor of the assembly. One legislator complained that there were regular celebrations of Cinco de Mayo and Chinese New Year, but when he made a formal request to celebrate the Fourth of July the Democratic leadership turned him down.
There was a flap in Fremont, California, about how to celebrate the Fourth. The city put up American flags, to be sure, but vice mayor Steven Cho thought this was not inclusive enough, so the American flag shared honors with flags from 25 other countries, including Qatar and Mongolia.
San Francisco celebrates diversity with cash. In 1999, the Cinco de Mayo Carnival and Parade got $162,500, the Japanese Cherry Blossom Parade got $40,000, the American Indian Festival got $27,000, Martin Luther King Day got $21,000, Juneteenth got $13,000, Samoan Flag Day got $12,000, and the Min Sok Korean Festival got $7,500. Veterans were angry to be fobbed off with only $1,000 for Veterans Day.
Columbus used to be a hero to Americans, and in 1907, Denver, Colorado was the first city to inaugurate an annual Columbus Day parade. Hispanics and American Indians now say Columbus was a genocidal conqueror, and started protesting the Denver parade in 1991. Police called off the 1992 parade at the last minute because of violence threats. Parades resumed the next year—with massive police protection—and the event has since become a lightning rod for anti-Columbus forces. In 2006, the American Indian Movement planned to pitch camp in downtown Denver without a permit, claiming it did not need permission from “an occupying power.” South Dakota still celebrates the second Monday in October, but calls it Native American Day instead. Alabama celebrates what it calls Columbus Day and American Indian Heritage Day.
In 2007, the Seattle School District sent staff a letter reminding them that many American Indians see Thanksgiving as a “time of mourning,” and asked teachers to bear in mind that the holiday can be a “reminder of 500 years of betrayal.”
The push for diversity can lead to absurd results. Bone marrow donations almost never work unless donor and recipient are the same race, so non-white patients suffer because almost all the people who register as donors are white. In 2008, the National Marrow Donor Program announced that all marrow registries would be required to meet quotas for minority donors. Officials at St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise, Idaho said they would have to shut down their donor registry because the demographics of the region made it impossible to find more than a handful of non-white donors.
Likewise, the largely white Amity Regional School District that serves the eastern suburbs of New Haven, Connecticut, stood to lose tens of thousands of dollars in federal money because it did not have enough non-white autistic students. The district had no control over who was diagnosed with the condition, but federal officials said a ratio of 38 whites, one black, and one Asian was “significantly disproportionate,” and threatened to withhold $67,000.
Some people consider autism itself a form of diversity that deserves celebration. Ari Ne’eman, appointed by President Obama to the National Council on Disability, is a leader in the movement to embrace autism rather than cure it. He calls it a form of “neurodiversity” and considers it an important part of his identity.
ISLAM IN AMERICA
The United States has traditionally been a Christian nation with a long history of Judaism in certain areas. Because of immigration since the 1960s, things are no longer so simple, and public authorities are under pressure to recognize new religious holidays. In Hillsborough County, Florida, for example, public schools traditionally closed on Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Yom Kippur. In 2005, Muslims demanded a holiday on Eid al Fatr, which marks the end of the month-long, daylight-hours Ramadan fast, and the county decided that the only fair thing to do was to scrap all religious holidays. Christians and Jews flooded the school board with outraged e-mail, and the board went back to the traditional holidays.
Every year, Muslims in Baltimore ask the public schools to close for two major Muslim holidays. When, in 2007, the district again announced that schools would stay open, the Baltimore chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee issued a press release denouncing the district’s “racial and religious profiling of Muslim students and teachers.”
The Sycamore Community School District in Ohio decided to accommodate Jewish students by closing on High Holy Days, but Muslim and Hindu parents complained they had been left out, and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the district. The High Holy Days went back to being school days.
In areas of heavy Muslim concentration in Michigan and New Jersey, schools do close for Muslim holidays. This encourages Muslims in other areas to seek the same treatment, but this stimulates competition from other “non-traditional” religions. When Muslims in the Tampa Bay area of Florida started asking for a day off on Eid al Fatr, Hindus started pushing for their holidays, and neither group got what it wanted. In many areas, it is common to keep schools open on non-traditional holidays but to give students excused absences if their parents send a note. New Jersey now recognizes 76 such excused religious holidays.
Fordson High School is in heavily Arab Dearborn, Michigan. When the 2010 Ramadan fast came during pre-season football practice, head coach Fouad Zaban decided to hold practices at night between sunset and dawn, so Muslim players could eat and drink during workouts and still fast during the day.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the University of Albany decided to support Muslims by canceling class on Islamic holidays. This continued for four years until Hindus and Buddhists began to demand equal treatment. In 2005 the university dropped the Islamic holidays.
In 2007, the University of Michigan announced it would spend $25,000 to build footbaths for Muslim students who clean their feet before they pray. Worshippers complained they had to strain to wash their feet in sinks. The George Mason University student center in northern Virginia has also installed footbaths and a prayer room. In 2008, Harvard decided to set aside workout periods in an athletic center only for women so Muslims could be sheltered from the gaze of men. One campus— Zaytuna College—has no difficulty making these choices. Founded in Berkeley in 2009, Zaytuna is America’s first Muslim college.
Islamic modesty conflicts with swimming-pool rules. Many pools require that parents wear bathing suits when they watch their children. This is so they can more easily jump in and rescue a child if necessary, and because shoes track in dirt. Chicago-area Muslims launched a formal protest against this rule, and in Lincoln, Nebraska, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a similar suit on behalf of Muslims. Sports leagues, schools, and athletic facilities all over the country are deciding whether they will let Muslim girls take part in basketball, swimming, and track events dressed in long sleeves, pants, and head scarves.
Americans may have to get used to polygamy. Theoretically, it is still illegal, but according to some estimates, there are thousands of Muslim polygamous unions in New York City alone. “Our mothers accepted it. Our grandmothers accepted it. Why not us?” asked Doussou Traoré of New York’s Association of Malian Women.
For several years there was a bitter debate at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport because many taxi drivers serving the airport—80 percent were Somalis—refused to accept passengers with dogs or who had alcohol with them. The dispute went into litigation and even to appeal. Finally, in 2008, the appellate court ruled that the airports commission had the right to suspend the licenses of drivers who refused to pick up certain passengers.
A sudden influx of Muslim workers can destroy workplace morale. In 2006, a meatpacking plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, owned by JBS U.S.A. Inc. replaced 200 illegal-immigrant workers with Somali refugees who were in the country legally. There was immediate tension with the remaining Hispanic workers, who complained they had to take up the slack when Somalis stopped to pray. Hispanics walked off the job in protest, and some of the Somalis filed religious discrimination suits when they were fired for leaving work to pray.
Two years later, the New York Times found “resentment, discomfort and mistrust everywhere” in the town, where the meatpacker was the largest employer. Every group—white natives, Hispanics, Somalis, and Sudanese refugees—resented each other. “Right now, this is a real kindling box,” said Daniel O. Hoppes, president of the local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers.
Somali workers caused discord at half a dozen other plants. In October 2008, about 220 Somali Muslims at a JBS packing plant in Greeley, Colorado, walked out in mid-shift, claiming the company would not let them pray, and the company fired about 100 of them. The same year, a Tysons Foods chicken plant in Tennessee bowed to Muslim pressure and agreed to close on Eid al-Fatr rather than on Labor Day. This made non-Muslim workers so angry the company had to reinstate Labor Day.
Religious discrimination suits are growing faster than any other kind of workplace grievance. At the federal, state, and local levels they doubled from 1992 to 2007 to 4,515 claims.
Muslims sometimes win. In 2009, a Minnesota-based poultry packer called Gold’n Plump agreed to pay $1.35 million to Muslim workers, mostly Somalis, because the company would not let them take prayer breaks during work hours and had refused to hire Muslims who would not sign a form agreeing to handle pork.
A small but growing number of Muslim employers set their own rules. Rising Star, a Central Florida telecommunications company, banned pork on company premises. In 2004, the company gave Lina Morales a warning for eating a sausage pizza on the job and later fired her when she ate a bacon sandwich.
In Hamtramck, Michigan, the Al-Islah Islamic Center successfully petitioned the city to change its noise ordinances to allow a loudspeaker version of the Muslim call to prayer to be sounded five times a day between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. This infuriated non-Muslim residents of what used to be a Polish neighborhood.
Some Muslim citizens have disturbing loyalties. Mohammad Juniad, the child of Pakistani immigrants, is a US citizen. His mother was in the World Trade Center at the time of the September 11 attack, but was led to safety by firemen. A week later, Mr. Juniad, 26, bought a one-way ticket to Pakistan, where he planned to volunteer to fight with the Taliban. “I may hold an American passport,” he said, “but I am not an American. I am a Muslim. . . . . I will kill every American that I see in Afghanistan.”
Shortly after the September 11 attacks, students at the Muslim Community School in Potomac, Maryland, explained their feelings. “What does it really mean to be an American?” asked seventh- grader Miriam. “Being American is just being born in this country.” “If I had to choose sides, I’d stay with being Muslim,” said eighth-grader Ibrahim. “Being an American means nothing to me.”
Some American Muslims act on these convictions. Dozens, US-born and naturalized alike, have been indicted for supporting Islamic terrorists and many have actively practiced jihad. Shirwa Ahmed, a Somali-born naturalized citizen who lived in Minneapolis, became the first known American suicide bomber when he blew himself up in an attack in Ethiopia in 2008 that killed 24 people. By February 2010, at least three other Somali-Americans had died fighting for the extremist Al-Shabaab organization in Somalia.
Somali-born naturalized citizen Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested in November 2010 for trying to set off what he thought was an enormous car bomb at a crowded Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. He said he wanted to kill as many Americans as possible, including children.
Animus can go both ways. In 2006, five Orthodox Jewish teenagers faced hate-crime charges for attacking 24-year-old Shahid Amber outside a donut store in New York City. “They all beat and kicked me,” he said. “They were screaming ‘Muslim m-f-r. You m-f-ing Muslim terrorists. Go back to your country.’ ”
Americans find some Muslim practices odd but none is so shocking as “honor killing,” or the belief that family members have the right to kill an unchaste woman. There have been honor killings in Europe for some time, but 2008 seems to be the year they came to the United States.
On New Year’s Day, police in Irving, Texas, found the bullet-ridden bodies of two teenage sisters, Sarah and Amina Said. Their father, Egyptian immigrant Yaser Abdel Said, worried that they might start having sex, and averted that possibility by killing them. In July, police in upstate New York charged Waheed Allah Mohammad, an immigrant from Afghanistan, with attempted murder after he repeatedly stabbed his 19-year-old sister. He said she was a “bad Muslim girl” who went to clubs and wore immodest clothing. Later that month, Chaudhry Rashid from Pakistan told Atlanta-area police he strangled his 25-year-old daughter because she wanted to divorce her arranged husband and was involved with another man. He said divorce and adultery were forbidden by Islam.
In 2009 in Peoria, Arizona, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, originally from Iraq, ran down his 20-year-old daughter with a vehicle because she was flouting her family’s traditional values and becoming too Westernized. The daughter went to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
DIVERSITY IN PERSPECTIVE
The conflicts described in this and the previous chapter—school and prison violence, racial power struggles, discrimination lawsuits, language barriers, religious differences, a complex and unforgiving racial etiquette—are direct consequences of diversity. Whatever their leaders may tell them, ordinary Americans have not failed to notice this. A 2007 poll asked non-whites whether “racial tension” in the United States is either a “very important problem,” “somewhat important,” or not a problem at all. No less than 93 percent of Hispanics thought it was very or somewhat important (79 percent said “very important”), 92 percent of blacks thought it was very or somewhat important (65 percent said “very important”), and 73 percent of Asians thought it was very or somewhat important (37 percent said “very important”). When asked to agree or disagree with the statement, “There is a lot of discrimination against my community in the United States,” 92 percent of blacks, 85 percent of Hispanics, and 57 percent of Asians agreed.
Many Americans do not expect things to get much better. A 2004 Gallup poll asked, “Do you think that relations between blacks and whites will always be a problem for the United States, or that a solution will eventually be worked out?” Fifty-seven percent of blacks, 44 percent of whites and 42 percent of Hispanics said black-white relations would always be a problem. In 2010, only 36 percent of voters thought relations were improving between blacks and whites; among blacks only 13 percent saw improvement.
Nor, as we have seen, are relations bad only between whites and non-whites. A 2007 survey found that 61 percent of Hispanics, 54 percent of Asians, and 47 percent of blacks would rather do business with whites than with members of the other two groups. According to a 2010 Rasmussen poll, 50 percent of voters thought relations were getting worse between whites and Hispanics; only 21 percent thought they were getting better. The same poll found that 34 percent of voters thought black-Hispanic relations were deteriorating while only 16 percent thought they were improving.
What, then, are the advantages of diversity that not only compensate for agonizing conflicts but justify considering it America’s “greatest strength?” If readers cannot immediately think of any besides ethnic restaurants, they are not alone. A 2007 study by the University of Minnesota found that Americans claim to be positive and even optimistic about the word “diversity” but are unable to explain its value or give examples of its benefits. The researchers found that even people who work in the field of race relations stumble when asked to list its benefits.
In 2009, a San Francisco radio host named Marty Nemko agreed to host an on-air debate on workplace diversity in which the author of this book was to argue that it was a weakness, not a strength. Mr. Nemko contacted a Georgia-based diversity consultant whose slogan was “Stronger Performance Through Diversity,” fully expecting that he would be happy to argue the other side. The consultant declined, admitting that he did not think diversity was a strength, only that it can be made to work better with “diversity management” of the kind he offers.
Just about the only serious argument anyone tries to make in favor of diversity echoes Jonathan Alger, a lawyer who has argued before the Supreme Court in favor of racial preferences: “Corporations have to compete internationally,” he says, and “cross-cultural competency is a key skill in the work force.”
This argument assumes that people get along best with people like themselves, that Koreans, for example, can do business most effectively with other Koreans. Presumably, if the United States has a large population of Koreans they will be a bridge between Korea and the United States. For that to work, however, Korean-Americans should not fully assimilate because if they do, they will lose the qualities that make them an asset. America should give up the ideal of Americanization that, in a few generations, made Englishmen, Dutchmen, Germans, Swedes, the Irish, and all other Europeans essentially indistinguishable. Do we really want to give up the idea of assimilation? Or should only racial minorities give up on assimilation?
More to the point, is a diverse population really an advantage in trade or international affairs? Japan is one of the most racially homogeneous nations. It would be hard to find a country that so clearly practices the opposite of American-style diversity, but it is one of the most successful trading nations on earth. If diversity were a key advantage, Brazil, Indonesia, Sudan, Malaysia, and Lebanon would be world leaders in trade.
Other great trading nations—Taiwan, Korea and China—are, if anything, even more closed and exclusionist than Japan. Germany is likewise a successful trading nation, but its trade surpluses cannot be attributed to cultural or racial diversity. Only since the 1960s has it had a large non-German minority of Turks who came as guest workers, and there is no evidence that Turks have helped Germany become more of a world presence or even a better trade partner with Turkey.
The world’s consumers care about price and quality, not the race or nationality of the factory worker. American corporations boast about workforces that “look like America,” but they are often beaten in their own market by companies whose workforces look like Yokohama or Shanghai.
If we really took seriously the idea that “cross-cultural competence” was crucially important, we would adjust the mix of immigrants accordingly. We might question the wisdom of Haitian immigration, for example, since Haiti is a small, poor country that is never likely to be an important trade partner. And do 32 million Mexican-Americans help our trade relations with the world—or even with Mexico? Canada is our number-one trading partner. Should we therefore encourage immigration from Canada? No one ever talks about immigration in these terms because at some level everyone understands that diversity has nothing to do with trade or influence in the world. The “cross-cultural competence” argument is artificial.
Does the presence of many races and nationalities give us better international relations? Our history suggests otherwise. In the 1950s, the United States had a population that was far less diverse than today, yet in no other period was American influence greater or our country better liked. It is since the 1970s, as we have grown more diverse, that our relative power has declined, and we have become more disliked. There are many reasons for this, of course, but there is no evidence that diversity makes us better diplomats.
Even if there is no connection between diversity and international influence, some people would argue that immigration brings cultural enrichment. This may seem to be an attractive argument, but the culture of Americans remains almost completely untouched by millions of Hispanic and Asian immigrants. They may have heard of Cinco de Mayo or Chinese New Year, but unless they have lived abroad or have studied foreign affairs, the white inhabitants of Los Angeles are likely to have only the most superficial knowledge of Mexico or China despite the presence of many foreigners.
Nor is it immigrants who introduce us to Cervantes, Puccini, Alexander Dumas, or Octavio Paz. Real high culture crosses borders by itself, not in the back pockets of tomato pickers, refugees, or even the most accomplished immigrants. What has Yo-Yo Ma taught Americans about China? What have we learned from Seiji Ozawa or Ichiro about Japan? Immigration and the transmission of culture are hardly the same thing. Nearly every good-sized American city has an opera company, but that does not require Italian immigrants.
Miami is now nearly 70 percent Hispanic, but what, in the way of authentic culture enrichment, has this brought the city? Are the art galleries, concerts, museums, and literature of Los Angeles improved by diversity? Has the culture of Detroit benefited from a majority-black population? If immigration and diversity bring cultural enrichment, why do whites move out of those very parts of the country that are being “enriched”?
It is true that Latin American immigration has inspired more American school children to study Spanish, but fewer now study French, German, or Latin. If anything, Hispanic immigration reduces what little linguistic diversity is to be found among native-born Americans. Many people study Spanish, not because they love Hispanic culture or Spanish literature but for fear they may not be able to work in America unless they speak the language of Mexico.
Another argument in favor of diversity is that it is good for people—especially young people—to come into contact with people unlike themselves because they will come to understand and appreciate each other. Stereotyped and uncomplimentary views about other races or cultures are supposed to crumble upon contact. This, of course, is just another version of the “contact theory” that was supposed to justify school integration. Do ex-cons and the graduates—and numerous dropouts—of Los Angeles high schools come away with a deep appreciation of people of other races? More than half a century ago, George Orwell noted that:
During the war of 1914-18 the English working class were in contact with foreigners to an extent that is rarely possible. The sole result was that they brought back a hatred of all Europeans, except the Germans, whose courage they admired.
Contact often has the effect of hardening hostilities, not dissolving barriers. This effect is common in politics. When Jesse Jackson was running for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, his percentage of the white vote was consistently highest in those states with the fewest blacks. Whites with the most actual contact with blacks were least likely to vote for him. The same was true in 2008 during Barack Obama’s Democratic primary campaigns. He won the highest percentages of the white vote in states such as Iowa, which has few blacks, and the lowest percentages in states with large black populations. Bernard N. Grofman of the University of California, Irvine has found a reliable political correlation: As the number of blacks rises, more whites vote Republican—and the less likely they are to vote for black candidates.
It is whites whose knowledge about blacks is filtered by the media rather than gained first-hand who have the most favorable impression of them. The alleged benefits of diversity seem illusory to the people who actually experience it.
Even what are considered the accomplishments of diversity are admissions of its failure. All across America, public organizations such as fire departments and police forces congratulate themselves when they manage to hire more than a token number of blacks or Hispanics. They promise that this will greatly improve service.
And yet, is this not an admission of how difficult the multi-racial enterprise really is? If all across America it has been shown that whites cannot provide effective police protection for blacks or Hispanics, it only proves that diversity is an insoluble problem. If blacks want black officers and Hispanics want Hispanic officers, they are certainly not expressing support for diversity. A mixed-race force—touted as an example of the benefits of diversity—becomes necessary only because of the tensions that arise between officers of one race and citizens of another. The diversity we celebrate is necessary only because of the intractable problems of diversity.
Likewise, if Hispanic judges and prosecutors must be recruited for the justice system, does this mean whites cannot dispense dispassionate justice? If non-white teachers are necessary role models for non-white children, does this mean inspiration cannot cross racial lines? If newspapers must hire non-white reporters in order to satisfy non-white readers, does this mean whites cannot write acceptable news for non-whites? If blacks demand black newscasters and weathermen on television, does it mean they prefer to get their information from people of their own race? If majority-minority voting districts must be established so that non-whites can elect representatives of their own race, does this mean democracy itself divides Americans along racial lines? All such efforts at diversity are not expressions of the strength of multi-racialism; they are desperate efforts to counteract its weaknesses. They do not bridge gaps; they institutionalize them.