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Immigration Gives Us 2 Options: One Is Fear, the Other Profoundly Saves Us from Fear

The politics of immigration continue to "mobilize racist, xenophobic, and nativist tropes," says author Junot Diaz, who credits his own artistic triumphs to being an immigrant himself.

Junot Diaz: Immigration in the 2016 election is playing out the way immigration seems to always play out during these battles. It’s being used as a fear, wedge issue. It’s profoundly been mobilizing racist xenophobic, and nativist tropes. The Latino communities particularly come under tremendous assault. We’re being demonized by many of the leading Republican candidates. We’re being sort of attacked and just the sort of odious and hateful rhetoric being directed at the community which I belong to has been incredible. It’s just been extraordinary. I’m a Dominican immigrant — Dominican immigrant who grew up in New Jersey. A Dominican immigrant who started in Spanish, then lost Spanish — spoke only black English and what we would call white people English. Then relearned Spanish. Someone who has lived with great intimacy in the complexity of bilingualism, of, you know, language acquisition and language loss. Who lives in a community that has often been deeply marginalized and deeply disfigured by kind of slanderous stereotypes versus Dominicans. And someone who grew up absolutely transformed by the practice of reading. Someone whose life was made beautiful by reading. Someone who was granted the world. I was given the world by books. I was given the past. I was given the future. I was given other countries. I was allowed to inhabit a multitude of people. In many ways, reading made me free and all of the things I’ve talked about being Dominican, growing up in New Jersey, being a poor immigrant kid, living in a society that didn’t value my community, didn’t value people of my skin color, didn’t value the kind of poor immigrants that we represented.

And then this practice of reading. These things all come together to inspire me to want to do what reading did for me for other people, but bringing my community and bringing my experiences with me. I wanted to create books and literatures that didn’t erase me, that didn’t kind of do symbolic violence on my community. That didn’t reduce us to stereotypical just gibberish. And my love of reading and my love of my community and my belief not only are we the people I grew up with. Not only are we deserving of great art, but we are the center of great art. All of these convictions, I think, helped to drive me towards becoming the artist I am. We’re in the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement and it’s sort of ironic that on the one hand we’re engaging with Black Lives Matter, but on the other hand this entire issue of the hatred of immigrants and the demonization of immigrants has gone almost unnoted, unchecked. You know you could say anything you want about Latino immigrants and get not only a ton of press but get a ton of support from way too many Americans. And I think that none of this is going to help us with the future. In fact, all of this is going to damage what we need to do, the courage and the unity that we’re going to need to create a fair, reasonable, humane immigration policy to confront the reality of immigration in this country. As a country, we have preferred to just wallow in the mud of xenophobia and fear rather than sort or clamber on to the hard, dry earth of our reality. Our reality is we’re an immigrant nation. Our reality is that these kind of nonsense legalistic frameworks aren’t going to help us and that we’ve got to deal with the facts on the ground and we’ve got to stop, stop trucking in this kind of racist nonsense. It helps no one.

Immigration has flourished in America despite herself. Nearly every time a wave of immigrants has sought the shores of opportunity in 20th and 21st century America, a fierce public debate has raged, fueled by the fear-stoking of opportunistic politicians. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz has personally experienced the fear and skepticism directed at immigrants. In his loneliness, Diaz turned to writing. Today, his work speaks to the soul of America: It is language that defines his own community and celebrates diversity.

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

Women who go to church have more kids—and more help

Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.

Pixabay
Culture & Religion
  • Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
  • A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
  • Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
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Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
Coronavirus
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
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Leonardo da Vinci could visually flip between dimensions, neuroscientist claims

A neuroscientist argues that da Vinci shared a disorder with Picasso and Rembrandt.

Christopher Tyler
Mind & Brain
  • A neuroscientist at the City University of London proposes that Leonardo da Vinci may have had exotropia, allowing him to see the world with impaired depth perception.
  • If true, it means that Da Vinci would have been able to see the images he wanted to paint as they would have appeared on a flat surface.
  • The finding reminds us that sometimes looking at the world in a different way can have fantastic results.
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Education vs. learning: How semantics can trigger a mind shift

The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.

Future of Learning
  • The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
  • Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
  • Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
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