On “Solutions Sunday”: “Step outside of your own comfort zone”: Does that capacity really start with families?

This Sunday morning, CNN referred today as a “Solutions Sunday”, where people were encouraged to have Sunday dinner in a home with people of another race besides your own.  Republican Senator James Lankford on Oklahoma was one of the hosts.  Lankford said “Step outside your comfort zone and invite someone into your circle”.  Maybe your inner sanctum.

Despite living in an “inherited” trust house, I really haven’t been in the “business” of having guests at home, because I’m so busy with personal projects.  Events these days are nearly always in facilities.  So there’s nothing unusual about great diversity in public spaces, but I have to admit that at home it sounds a bit novel.

When I lived in New York City, and sometimes before in New Jersey, I did sometimes have house parties or events, and I have had a few house guests over the years, mostly related in the past to college, chess clubs, or people in the LGBT community (not just “tricks”, although that happened a little in the 1970s).  I’ve stayed with people , but very little since probably the 1970s. The largest event I ever held in my own space was an “Understanding” meeting (I think it was Wednesday, May 19) with about 25 people crowded into my own little studio apartment in the Cast Iron Building on E 11th St.

But it is very hard to help people without openness to letting it be personal if it need be (countering the “mind your own business” society), and for older adults, that’s often frankly easier when “you” have had and raised “your” own kids first.

I get a lot of pressure from others these days to become more open to “gratuitous” socializing and even dating, in my own home court, partly so that I don’t (at 73) remain “an accident waiting to happen” (to quote Jonathan Rauch in his mid 1990s book “Gay Marriage”).  Yes, I prefer to remain individually productive and get recognized for my content (but not just with hyperbolic phrases like “esteemed author”).  But it seems people see a continuum bridging fixing inequality in an economic or politic sense, and the way people actually make social and intimate “choices”.

Maybe nowhere is that idea so stark as in the issue of assisting refugees and asylum seekers, all over the world, but most of all in Europe, and then Canada, with the most comprehensive private sponsorship program in the world.

The New York Times has a booklet-length story today by Jodi Kantor and Katrin Eimhorn, “Canadians Adopted Refugee Families for a Year;  Then Came Month 13”.  Refugee families were supposed to be cut loose from dependence on the private groups (usually of 5 people or 5 families, associated with various faith-based and sometimes secular groups) for rent and many other expenses.  (In the US, where there is no private sponsorship as such, refugee families get some benefits, but generally depend on congregational offerings for some of the rent, almost always in commercially run apartments;  in the US you have about 20 families in a congregation assisting one refugee family instead of just five as in Canada).  What’s interesting about the story is that in Canada, many of the refugees did not speak English and had few job skills, and needed intensive personal attention from sponsors.  In the US, generally, most of the refugees allowed in have male providers with considerable job skills and can speak English.  “Blame Canada”, as in “Southpark“?  The country seems to produce outstanding citizens.  Look how well they do in Hollywood.

The New York Times missive bares some comparison to how the Mariel boatlift was handled in 1980, where churches asked people to put up refugees (often LGBT) in their own homes, very suddenly, mainly in southern cities.  But it turned out that many refugees would need constant attention as many did not speak English and had no skills.  Very few found “sponsors” on the spur of the moment.

Asylum seekers, as I have covered here, face a different situation, as they (usually) have already been in the country legally because of school or job skills.  (That doesn’t include those put in detention and the border, and are generally released only if there are relatives who know them.)  Canada’s reputation of relative generosity (especially relative to Trump) has led to some US asylum seekers crossing into Canada, especially Manitoba.

I’ve covered more details on my own situation on another blog, here.

(Posted: Monday, March 27, 2017 at 12:15 AM EDT)

Schools are re-segregating, a trend difficult to reverse

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US schools are gradually resegregating themselves, despite two terms with its first African-American president. That’s the story in the Washington Post on Wednesday, May 18, 2016, “On the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, New data shows S.E. schools are resegregating” by Emma Brown.

Indeed, the famous case with the Topeka, KS public school system was settled May 17, 1954.   I would enter “junior high school” (seventh grade then) in Arlington VA that fall.  Our General Education teacher (English and social studies were combined then through ninth grade) taught us the facts relatively early in the school year starting in September of 1955, when I had turned 12.  We wrote little papers on it. We learned about the paradox of “separate but equal”.  But the courts allowed desgregation to proceed “With All Deliberate Speed“, as with a 2004 film by Peter Gilbert. We all remember the bitter battles over school integration in the South in the early to mid 60s.

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But in the Arlington school system (in the 50s), there were very few non-white students (and those could include a few Asians, Hispanics and native Americans  — in fact, a distant relative on my father’s side was half native, and I don’t know whether I have any of that heritage or not).  The high school, Washington-Lee, where I would graduate in June 1961, was one of the top ten public high schools in the United States at the time, shortly after Sputnik when President Kennedy was pushing aerospace education.  There was a vague, rarely spoken, fear, that forced integration could force the lowering of academic standards.

In the mid 1960s, when I went to George Washington University while “living at home” and worked a summer job in the Navy Department, there was a lot of talk about “forced bussing”.  My feeling was, as a student, I wouldn’t have time to be bussed around just to force an arbitrary balance in students according to membership in a class defined by a superficial biological characteristic of no functional importance or significance.  We all knew that then. (Actually, we are all “black” because the first modern humans came from Africa. When I got to the Army in 1968, I quickly saw racial progress;  many of the drill sergeants were black. (Truman had done something about that in 1948, as in the well-acted HBO film with Gary Sinese.)

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But just recently (a half-century later), there was a court order forcing two middle schools in Cleveland, MS to consolidate.

When I worked as a substitute teacher in Fairfax County and Arlington school systems (2004-2005; 2007), schools seem to have a population that followed the areas in which they were located.  There were more blacks and Hispanics in the southern parts of these counties.  Generally, it seemed as if Hispanic students had the most difficulty with school.  But on a couple of occasions, I ran into discipline issues, one of which conceivably could have been gang-related.  I give details here.

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It’s obvious that in many communities, normal funding of schools is not sufficient.  In Detroit, teachers were threatened with simply having pay cut off, and staged a sickout, until resolution, CNN story.

In “The Upshot” in the New York Times today, Kevin Carey explains “The uproar over trying to help poor schoolchildren“, with the narrative of John King, Jr., secretary of education.

(Published on Thursday, May 19, 2016, at 8:45 PM EDT)