Sunday, October 23, 2011

On minorities and a reality show about American-Muslims

by Salman Hameed

First, just a tip to a fascinating article in today's NYT about the tension in the US between being more inclusive of different groups but also being tolerant of economic disparities:
It's a puzzle: one dispossessed group after another — blacks, women, Hispanics and gays — has been gradually accepted in the United States, granted equal rights and brought into the mainstream.
At the same time, in economic terms, the United States has gone from being a comparatively egalitarian society to one of the most unequal democracies in the world.
The two shifts are each huge and hugely important: one shows a steady march toward democratic inclusion, the other toward a tolerance of economic stratification that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.
The United States prides itself on the belief that “anyone can be president,” and what better example than Barack Obama, son of a black Kenyan immigrant and a white American mother — neither of them rich.
And yet more than half the presidents over the past 110 years attended Harvard, Yale or Princeton and graduates of Harvard and Yale have had a lock on the White House for the last 23 years, across four presidencies. Thus we have become both more inclusive and more elitist.
It’s a surprising contradiction. Is the confluence of these two movements a mere historical accident? Or are the two trends related?
And here is the key comparison with European countries in balancing economic inequality versus inclusion of minorities:
Other nations seem to face the same challenge: either inclusive, or economically just. Europe has maintained much more economic equality but is struggling greatly with inclusiveness and discrimination, and is far less open to minorities than is the United States.
European countries have done a better job of protecting workers’ salaries and rights but have been reluctant to extend the benefits of their generous welfare state to new immigrants who look and act differently from them. Could America’s lost enthusiasm for income redistribution and progressive taxation be in part a reaction to sharing resources with traditionally excluded groups?
“I do think there is a trade-off between inclusion and equality,” said Gary Becker, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a Nobel laureate. “I think if you are a German worker you are better off than your American equivalent, but if you are an immigrant, you are better off in the U.S.”
Read this interesting analysis here.

While on the subject of minorities, TLC has an interesting reality about American Muslims coming up in November. It is called All-American Muslims and it will follow five American Muslim families for eight episodes. From the trailer it looks like they have an interesting mix of people and may help break some stereotypes. Here is the trailer:

Read more about the show here.


Kate said...

Still enjoying all the blog postings, Salman - wide-ranging and oftentimes beyond my comprehension as they may be (ex. "neutrinos", which I guess are neither a cereal nor a cracker) - but found this one really interesting in a way that gave me some hope. The show looks great - and as sad as it is, TV seems to be one of the most powerful influences on people's opinions and personal beliefs, so perhaps this will actually help shift some of the biased and prejudiced thinking in the U.S. It made me imagine that what we also need is a feature in one of those celebrity magazines titled: "Muslims: They're Just Like Us!" featuring pictures of Muslim Americans shopping at the mall, eating french fries, playing frisbee, etc.

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