Immigrants Smarter Than Ever, Census Shows — Time To Revise Old Prejudices

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As someone who’s technically, after 21 years in the U.S., an immigrant, I’ve long known that thousands of people living here and born elsewhere are smart as hell: lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, entrepreneurs, professors and then people like me who only have a bachelor’s degree but are still doing fine, making our mark professionally, contributing skills to our communities.

We’re not all bedraggled day laborers with six kids!

Yet if you listen to (God help you) conservative talk shows and focus only on what the mass media show us are “typical” immigrants, we’re an undifferentiated mass of low-wage workers forced by useless foreign degrees or poor language skills, whether legally or not, into doing the nastiest of jobs, whether slitting cow’s throats in midwestern abbatoirs or delivering Chinese food in Manhattan for $2/hour.

From that depressing inaccurate snapshot, it’s a quick, simple, racist progression to conflate immigrant with poor/struggling/uneducated/send ’em back!

Now the Census is revealing a sharp spike in immigrants with doctorates, reports The New York Times:

For the first time, fully 1 in 10 adults had an education beyond a bachelor’s degree. Among adults in their late 20s, 35 percent of women and 27 percent of men had a bachelor’s degree, an eight percentage point gender gap, compared with three percentage points in 1999.

Many immigrants don’t fit the tidy — and politically useful — working-class stereotype, such as the professional Haitians, like doctors and nurses living in the U.S., who rushed back to help their countrymen, profiled here by the Times.

This is a sensitive topic for me for two reasons — it’s ignorant and it’s rude. I’d say simply racist, but there are plenty of pale-skinned immigrants underestimated along with those whose skin contains  more melanin.

The U.S. was built by, and continues to thrive thanks to, the skills, ideas, drive and creativity of millions of educated, ambitious workers who choose to come and stay here, not merely those whose lowest hourly wage in the U.S. equals a day’s — or week’s — wage in their homeland. I interviewed such a man yesterday for my book, the funny, forthright, passionate CEO of Reflexis, an IT company working with retail giants like Staples; he and most of his management team are from India.

My partner, who is of Hispanic origin but an American citizen, born and raised here, has been the object of such casual racism it has shocked me to my roots. One sunny fall afternoon, wearing clean, quality casual clothing, he was looking up at the fall foliage on our building’s property, admiring the colors and said “What a view!”

A resident of our co-op, assuming he must, of course, be a day laborer who worked on the building’s brick re-pointing, responded: “You guys did a great job!”

My sweetie, which is his blessedly gentle nature, said nothing to correct this insulting assumption. The man has a Pulitzer.

People with dark skin, an accent and/or a foreign passport aren’t always struggling to climb the social and professional ladder, no matter how comforting that belief.

Some are seriously kicking ass.

Men Won't Shut Up — Women Hesitate To Speak Up — Why Men Blog More

Causerie / something to talk about
Maybe we're just talking to one another? Image by prakhar via Flickr

Are women less likely to blog than men?

So says Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente — hardly someone known amongst her colleagues in Canada for faint-heartedness:

People often ask me why I don’t start a blog. After all, it seems almost everyone else has. Thousands of new blogs spring up in cyberspace every day. All the mainstream media have added bloggers to their websites. Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Daily Dish, can get 20 million hits a month, and has made him one of the most popular opinion-mongers in the world.

The answer is pretty much the same as why I don’t get a souped-up snowmobile and drive it straight up a mountain at 120 kilometres an hour into a well-known avalanche zone. It’s more of a guy thing.

Guys seek thrills and speed. They go for the adrenalin rush. They get pumped by going higher, faster, farther than anyone else. They want lots of action and instant gratification. That’s also why guys like blogging – instant opinions, and lots of them.

Wente thinks many/most women lack the confidence to speak out publicly — is this true? Really? Still?

There are many female bloggers. I don’t read many of them, because so many blog about mothering (I have no kids), marriage and/or relationships (not terribly interesting to me, compared to other topics), politics (not my thing.)

At True/Slant I have indeed noticed that the most frequent bloggers are always men, except, usually, me and Sara Libby. I can’t possibly keep up with the men’s verbal Niagara, and don’t even try; I do follow a few T/S men, and they tend, for whatever reason, to post infrequently. They’re more modest? Busier? More thoughtful?

I don’t think it’s because they lack confidence, at all.

Even my Dad (not a compliment, it’s OK) has noted my lack of fear about speaking my mind, and wonders where I get it. Three places.

The first, and — hello, Hillary! — not unsurprising, was attending single-sex schools, as she did in college. From Grade 4 to Grade 9, I was surrounded by smart, competitive girls and taught by smart women. Smart, verbal and articulate counted — n0t being skinny or pretty or popular. We all wore uniforms, so  clothing was comfortable camouflage.

I also attended, ages eight to 16, all-girl camps every summer all summer. Same thing: the leaders were women, the cool kids were female and no one worried about speaking up or out. The counselor who could get us across a wide, windy lake in a rainstorm, motivating weary teens to keep paddling hour after hour, had the right stuff. The girls who were fun and brave and led the rest of us won respect.

The second — smart, confident and  accomplished female relatives. One flies a Cessna. One imports Moroccan rugs after living there for years. One was leading a local environmental movement, and organizing protests, back in the 1960s. My granny was always up for a good rousing argument and my Mom, a journalist and film-maker, covered some tough and scary stories.

I also grew up the only child in a family of professional communicators: film-maker, television and radio stars, television writer, TV host, magazine editor and writer. We made our livelihoods, and good ones, by taking the risks to share our ideas with millions of people. Seemed fun and cool to me.

Our family is so verbally ferocious and competitive — high-volume, too — my quiet, modest sweetie, during his first Christmas dinner with us all (I have two younger step-brothers) 10 years ago, bamboozled by the table-pounding and chest-beating, shouted — “Quiet! Everyone speak in turn.”

Our jaws dropped open. It was like turning the hose on fighting dogs. Shock! It worked for….ten minutes.

So, you know, I’m fine being a mouthy broad. I’ve traveled widely, speak two other languages, consume a pile of other media (and ideas) daily, am fascinated by the world and how it works, or doesn’t.

Since January, 10,000+ unique visitors/month are stopping by this site, none of them related to me, so someone’s finding it worth their time. I’ve even been asked to write for a new Australian blog, plucked from amid the gazillions of bloggers out there to join a small group of 12, all of us without kids.

Women have plenty to say!

But, if you read the letters pages of most newspapers and magazines, let alone the comments boxes of most blogs — they’re staying quiet.

I don’t think they lack confidence. I think most of them are too damn busy.

What do you think?