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February 7, 2014

Challenging Anti-Immigrant Bias with Education

Criticism of immigrant policy is not an excuse to undermine the humanity of others with the kind of vitriol that dominated the internet, especially Twitter, after the Atlanta-based Coca Cola Company aired a commercial with “America the Beautiful,” sung in different languages and featuring a diversity of people during the Super Bowl.

The term immigrant is a descriptor, not a slur. However, it is often used in a pejorative way. For those who are willing to denigrate others because of immigration status, perceived immigration status, or the misguided perception that spoken language relates to immigration status, we need to make one thing clear. Bias and hate have no place in civil society.

President John F. Kennedy reminded us in his 1963 acceptance speech for ADL’s America’s Democratic Legacy Award, “The contribution of immigrants can be seen in every aspect of our national life. We see it in religion, in politics, in business, in the arts, in education, and even in athletics, and entertainment. There is no part of our nation that has not been touched by our immigrant background.”

Prejudice is learned and counter speech is an important part of challenging prejudice and bias wherever we see it, including online and in our everyday lives.

Everyone can engage in counter speech by responding when they see bias and challenging misinformation. Unfortunately, instances of racism and xenophobia related to the topic of immigration are common. In addition, educators can play a unique role in addressing bias in society by using the classroom to challenge biased ideals, and in this case, challenging anti-immigrant bias among youth. The lesson plan  “Huddled Mass or Second Class: Challenging Anti-Immigrant Bias” for grades 3 to 12 can help educators move our nation closer to a more perfect, less biased nation. Don’t have the time to do a full anti-bias lesson? Familiarize yourself with some myths and facts on immigrants and immigration.

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February 5, 2014

ProEnglish Attacks Super Bowl Ad Promoting America’s Diversity

The anti-immigrant group ProEnglish is asking its activists to contact Coca-Cola about an ad the corporation aired during the Super Bowl depicting people of different ethnicities singing “America, the Beautiful” in a number of different languages.  ProEnglish claims the ad “directly undermined the spirit of national unity ‘America, the Beautiful’ was intended to foster.” The group went one step further, claiming Coke should “promote civic unity, not disunity.”pro-english-liberty-bell-adl

ProEnglish’s attacks on the Coca-Cola Corporation should be seen in light of its nativist agenda and xenophobic origins and ties. John Tanton, the racist architect of the modern-day anti-immigrant movement, founded ProEnglish in 1994. Tanton once wrote, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” Tanton remains on the ProEnglish board to this day and though the organization is based in DC, it remains a “self-governing project” of Tanton’s Michigan-based umbrella anti-immigrant organization, U.S., Inc.

The goals of ProEnglish are to pass English-only bills at the local and state level as well as to make English the official language of the United States. These laws are often divisive. They limit access to the full range of government rights and benefits for immigrants residing in the United States. These laws also do not include steps to establish programs where immigrants can learn English. ProEnglish’s agenda divides communities in the United States over the issue of immigration.

The organization’s staff and activities are also problematic.  ProEnglish’s executive director, Robert Vandervoort, is report­edly the for­mer head of the white suprema­cist group Chicagoland Friends of Amer­i­can Renais­sance, a local chap­ter of the white suprema­cist orga­ni­za­tion Amer­i­can Renais­sance. ProEnglish sponsored a panel at the 2012 CPAC conference in Washington, D.C., featuring a number of racist speakers including Peter Brimelow, founder of the racist anti-immigrant website VDARE and John Derbyshire, a racist former National Review contributor who spoke at the 2013 American Renaissance conference. Later in 2012, ProEnglish sent a letter to House and Senate leaders in opposition of the issue of Puerto Rican statehood. A number of racists signed the letter including John Vinson, a found­ing mem­ber of the League of the South (LOS), a racist neo-Confederate orga­ni­za­tion. Vin­son was cred­ited with draft­ing the “Kin­ism State­ment,” a set of guid­ing prin­ci­ples for a mod­ern white suprema­cist inter­pre­ta­tion of Chris­tian­ity called “Kin­ism.”

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