nav bar syllabus calendar news 'n notes student pages CIED 5052 HOME MCI Web HOME
Class HOME

Majority, Minority, Unity:

An Encounter with a Racist in the Post Office
Inspires a Reflection on Our Changing National Mosaic.

By Dr. Freddie A. Bowles
Special to Planet Gnosis
Monday, February 24, 2014

To My M.A.T. Interns: 

The cold weeks of January and February have left many of us weary with uncertainty.  Will schools be in session or not?  Can I venture out by foot or vehicle?  Will I need all my winter outerwear to survive the sub-zero temps?  At least the whisper of spring these last few days gives us encouragement that warmer times shall soon arrive.

But February offers us something other than the discomforts of wintry weather to contemplate — it provides an opportunity to reflect on our nation’s history Rosa Parks from a different perspective.  February is Black History Month, an important time to remember our nation’s once-official policy and widespread societal practice of treating our fellow men and women as chattel — property to be bought, sold, traded, and mistreated for economic gain and social status.  African American history is not all about slavery, but to overlook our time as a slave nation and the legacy it imparts would be an act of historical folly.

Last month I shared here on Planet Gnosis a brief mention of my encounter with a belligerent loudmouth in the local post office — a federal office, mind you, where a patron standing next to me eyed the stamp display and proclaimed for all to hear, “Rosa Parks.  Rosa Parks!  Black History Month!  Now what I want to know is, when is White History Month?”  The incident sticks with me, so I return to it again today with some more detail.

Startled, I did something I rarely do in public:  I spoke out.  I told the man that every month is white history month in the United States — and that’s true when history is viewed from the perspective of cultural hegemony practiced by a majority “race.”  The man replied by claiming that “the minorities already outnumber the majority” — a convoluted twist of logic if I’ve ever heard one.

“That’s not true,” I said.  “Statistics show that whites will remain in the majority until sometime around 2050.”

“Well, you’re wrong,” the man said.  “You need to check your statistics, darling.”

Realizing the man was a lout, never to be moved by reasoned argument, I said nothing more.  It was obvious the man was convinced that the “others” were taking over “his” country and that his race was threatened by their presence.

The Inevitable Shift in the Demographic Hegemony
Will Eventually Lead to the End of White Majority Status.

My mention of “statistics” to counter his argument only increased the man’s ire on that cold January afternoon, but I must confess I was really upset and astounded that I had just encountered such blatant racism in a federal building.  Ironically enough, this encounter occurred in a small town with 94.01 percent of the population counted as “White” by the U.S. Census of 2000.

As for the racial balance in the United States, estimates by the Census Bureau released in 2012 showed that the nonwhite population stood at 116 million (37 percent).  There are 3,143 counties in the USA with only 11 percent categorized as “majority-minority.”  However, over half of children under the age of five are now listed Ralph Ellison as racial and ethnic minorities.  The statistics predict that by 2043 the white majority status will have come to an end.

“The new census estimates, a snapshot of the U.S. population as of July 2012, comes a year after the Census Bureau reported that whites had fallen to a minority among babies,” Hope Yen of the Associated Press wrote last summer in an article published by NBC News.  “Fueled by immigration and high rates of birth, particularly among Hispanics, racial and ethnic minorities are now growing more rapidly in numbers than whites.

“It’s the latest in a series of reports that have signaled a major, long-term shift in the demographics of the United States, as non-Hispanic white Americans are expected to become a minority group over the next three decades,” Ms. Yen continued.  “For years, Americans of Asian, black and Hispanic descent have stood poised to topple the demographic hegemony historically held by whites.”

So, as always, dynamic changes in the national mosaic are sweeping from sea to shining sea in the USA.

In our Multicultural Issues classes we’ve discussed the importance of ethnicity as one of the variables that make us who we are.  We’ve also discussed social and economic class, gender, sexual orientation, and language as four additional markers of identity.

Black History Month gives us the opportunity to learn more about how slavery affected the experiences of our ancestors and how all our identities have been shaped by an abhorrent policy of human bondage.  We must be ever vigilant as educators to remember the legacy of slavery and freedom and to teach our students to uphold the principles of democracy so that all citizens in the United States have access to life, liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness.

Dr. Bowles
Associate Professor of Foreign Language Education
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
312 Peabody Hall


To Be the Change-Maker

By Dr. Freddie A. Bowles
Special to Planet Gnosis
Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Greetings students, 

The second week of classes began on a lovely day of mild temperatures, bright sunshine, and high hopes of harmony as the campus and community came together on Monday to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Many students from campus and surrounding schools stood shoulder-to-shoulder and hand-in-hand for the NWA/UA annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march from Dickson Street to the Arkansas Union.  The line of chanting marchers extended the length of Maple Street at one point.  Marchers sang songs heard more than 50 years ago when other marchers were challenged, attacked, and harassed.  Indeed, the times they are a’changing.

Or have they?  When students at the local high school tweet racial slurs in response to a fight between two students, or when a local citizen loudly asks why there isn’t a white heritage month in the federal post office, I wonder just how much progress we have made since Dr. King described his dream at the foot of the Lincoln memorial on sweltering August day in 1963.

United States prisons are disproportionately full of young men of African-American and Latino heritage.  Barely half of the remaining Native American youth in our prosperous nation graduate high school.  About 60 percent of Arkansas children suffer food insecurity.  Is this “freedom and justice for all?”

The times have changed, but I’m not so sure they have changed with full equality for many citizens.  How democratic are we?

I believe that most of us in education are called to teach because we are moved by the possibility of making a difference in someone else’s life in a positive way.  You may be the one whose gesture, word, or act alters the destructive course of a student’s life, turning that course onto a path of success and accomplishment.

Be the change-maker.  Use the tools we teach to help all your students be successful.

And do your homework. (Emoticon not necessary.)

Dr. Bowles
Associate Professor of Foreign Language Education
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
312 Peabody Hall


To Live Harmoniously

By Dr. Mounir A. Farah
Special to Planet Gnosis
Friday, January 17, 2014

Welcome to the 2014 Multicultural Issues Seminar. You are about to embark on a challenging experience as you think critically and voice your views about topics that are both controversial and stimulating.  The question of how we can differ in racial, ethnic, religious, linguistic, life styles, and material backgrounds and live harmoniously despite our differences is at the core of multicultural education.

As a nation we have had rich experiences, at times tragic and sobering and in other times instructive and rewarding.  We still struggle in search of common denominators that bind us despite our differences.  This is not unique to the United States.  Other nations, since ancient times, had to deal with these challenges and at times suffered the consequences of failing to accept and live together despite differences within their own communities.

For decades in the 19th and 20th centuries we glorified the concept of a melting pot.  We often blamed “the others” within our communities for the ills that had befallen us.  We blamed these “others” and afflicted them with negative characteristics that they did not have.

We may not find the answers, agree, or find solutions.  But we promise a lively exploration of topics that divide us and challenge us to live together in peace and with justice for all.  Good luck and best wishes for the final semester of your MAT program.

Mounir A. Farah, Ph.D.
Professor of Social Studies Education
Curriculum and Instruction
301 Peabody Hall
Phone: 479-575-4771
FAX: 479-575-6676

Iskola is school in Hungarian