Sunday, April 29, 2007

Living in a Service Society

I like to explore and do new this week while I'm on vacation, I decided to seek out some things right here in Dallas. As one of my little splurges, I decided to visit Sprinkles, a new cupcake place I had seen on the Food Network. I came across it in D Magazine so I thought I'd treat myself. Nice way to start off the vacation, right??

I drove to North Dallas and found the place with a line streaming out the front door and down the sidewalk. Since I rarely drive to North Dallas, I figured I might as well wait. So I stood in line and waited...for 30 minutes...and then bought 3 cupcakes...for $10.50!!!

Reading the ingredient panel, seeing the line, and listening to people talk, I figured these must be some pretty amazing cupcakes! As soon as I got home, I pulled out my glass plate and a silver fork (at that price, these aren't cupcakes you just stuff in your mouth...they must be savored!).

I was pretty disappointed after the first bite when I realized these cupcakes are no better than the homemade cakes we have at our family reunions...and really not much better than the $.99 Duncan Hines mix I could buy at the store (...which would make 12 cupcakes, by the way!).

I think some people would say they spend the money because they just don't have time these days. (yet it took me 30 minutes to drive there and back and 30 minutes to stand in the line!). I've decided we are a culture who likes to be served and we don't mind paying for it. We pay people to mow our lawn, paint our nails, make our food, and clean our house.

I'm not crazy enough to think that this will change; our society has already established this kind of service-expecting culture. Despite the talk about a depressed economy, we all seem to have a lot of disposable money. By catering to these extravagances, our "need" to be served has become the norm.

Although I think this "need to be served" has gotten a little bit out of hand, can we really expect people who have less money, in such an extravagant culture as the United States, to want any less than the rest of us?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Prayer Breakfast

I couldn't have said it better myself!...Wyshina, my friend and co-worker, a parent of two, and the coordinator of our After-School Academy, was the testimonial speaker at our Central Dallas Prayer Breakfast this morning. She did an absolutely amazing job. Read what she had to say:

My name is Wyshina Harris and I am a resident of South Dallas. I have two kids--a 10-year old daughter and a 5-year old son.

I want South Dallas to become a place where I don't have to worry about my kids' safety every day. We see violence and drug dealing all around us. We hear gunshots fired regularly. My kids still get scared when they hear the gunshots. I don't want my kids to get over being scared of that. Kids aren't supposed to get used to hearing gunfire outside their front door.

There are as many liquor stores as churches in South Dallas. I'd like to see that change. We need a decent grocery store, clothing store, and gas station. It's hard to travel all the way to North Dallas to buy a decent pair of sneakers for my kids.

My kids go to H.S. Thompson Elementary. When people outside of the neighborhood find out where my kids go to school, they say, "Oh my gosh. You let your kids go to school there?!" Well, what's my alternative?! That's the neighborhood school. I can't afford private school for my kids. Our school needs good teachers and counselors who will fight to get kids on par with their grade level rather than sticking them into slow learning classes. We need resources to enable our kids to learn technology and to explore the arts. We can't allow our schools to set our kids up to fail.

I will tell you that there are a lot of things that need fixing in our neighborhood. I will also tell you that there is a lot of hope and a lot of strength in our neighborhood.

I think sometimes people think that people in poverty are just too lazy to pull themselves out. That isn't true. My neighbors talk to me about desperately wanting to find work and wanting to go to school to change their lives. We want the same things for ourselves and our children that you want for yourselves and your children.

I'm not giving up on South Dallas. I ask that you not give up on South Dallas either. We don't need a handout. We need authentic, impactful partnerships to help us solve these issues.

I don't share this with you today because I want your pity. I share this because I want your partnership. I want to work with you, and with the future mayor of our great city, to make Dallas a better place for all of us.

Thank you for listening.

I am proud to know Wyshina and I am grateful for her friendship.

Wyshina (and others) are doing things in their community to make it a better place. But people like Wyshina can't do it alone. Wyshina asked for partnership..."I want to work with you..." is what she said. Wyshina is willing to work with. She did not ask for a group of 40 volunteers to come pick up trash out of her yard. She didn't ask for a youth group to come and play with her kids for the day. Wyshina mentioned much larger issues. Shootings. Leaving kids behind educationally. Lack of places to shop. Rampant liquor stores all around.

Help me partner with Wyshina. She knows what's needed and she has told us. Let's not ignore hers and others' requests because we have other ideas about the best ways to help people in the inner city. Wyshina lives there. She knows. Let's start paying attention.


On our table were notecards guiding us to pray for critical issues around our city. Below were the ones on our table. Please pray...and then act...

Today, we can choose to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors in Dallas. Pray for our City.

Tonight in Dallas, someone is needlessly suffering from the effects of diabetes due to a lack of insurance. Pray for our City.

Tonight in Dallas, men, women, and children will sleep on the stsreets or in a shelter. Pray for our City.

Tonight in Dallas, children will go to bed hungry because their families cannot afford food. Pray for our City.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Building walls internally and externally

"You have got to be kidding me!" was my first thought as I read the title of the New York Times article: U.S. Erects Baghdad Wall to Keep Sects Apart.

Is that our new solution to everything?? If we can't get along or if we don't want to deal with them, build a wall. Talking to and listening to people is too difficult, I suppose. It takes too much time, effort, understanding, and (God forbid!) possibly some compromise about what we have always thought is the "right" way to do things!!

Walls allow us to block people from our view...We don't have to see them. We don't have to deal with them.

Do walls work??

Creating walls and distance seems, to me, to have started in the 60s. People moved out of the city fleeing people who looked different than them without any desire to even try to get to know the people they were running from. People moved out and built large houses with alley garages and privacy fences. But the walls, gates, and backdoor entrances did not keep them from having problems...drugs, domestic violence, and homocide still exists in their homes, too.

Despite the failure of creating barriers from our fears, we still continue to create walls...only now they are bigger, more obvious, and very deliberate...We can't figure out how to deal with immigration, so we create a wall....We don't know how to handle the Shiite and Sunnis, so we create a wall. The way we're going, I wouldn't doubt if the next wall built separates inner city communities from suburbia. (I'm only being slightly sarcastic here. The rate we're going, it honestly wouldn't surprise me. It scares me to think we would do that, but wouldn't surprise me.)

What's worse than a physical wall, however, is that those physical walls help create and allow us to justify our emotional walls. We have created these walls in our own country, and now we are projecting our fears and our unwillingness to listen and compromise onto the global society. We avoid people we don't know and/or don't understand. We say that "they won't listen to reason," but the reality is we haven't taken the time to listen to them. We say that "they're taking over our country," but we haven't sat down with them to listen to their delimmas and asked them to help us create a solution. We say that "our inner cities are violent and uneducated," yet we want to be selfish and keep all of the resources for our own children and our own communities.

We ignore and refuse to believe the intelligence and capacity of people who are different than us.

Walls ostracize people. They create barriers between people. They create anger and resentment because people do not know each other.

For those of us who recognize this, we have to actively work against our own hearts, in our communication with our politicians, by our actions, and by our choices. Walls do not eliminate our problems; they exacerbate them.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The capacity of parents

Call me biased, but I think our After-School Academy (ASA) is nothing short of amazing. We have four parents who completely and totally run the program.

They have expounded on the fundraiser idea to the tune of figuring out activities that raise around $120 each month. They help other parents access school and community resources. They provide a support system for each other--pooling rides to the grocery store (whoever has a car at the time), watching each others' kids, encouraging/pestering each other to get in shape and join the "walking group" they've created, and so many other things that I keep randomly finding out.

Yet, I still sense a strong resistance to parents by teachers, schools, and organizations.

At a recent workshop I attended, the presenters explained the "National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement" according to the PTA (Parent Teachers Association):

  • Communication. Communication between home and school is regular, two-way, and meaningful.
  • Parenting. Parenting skills are promoted and supported.
  • Student learning. Parents play an integral role in student learning.
  • Volunteering. Parents are welcome in school and their assistance and support are sought.
  • Decision-Making & Advocacy. Parents are full partners into the decisions that affect children and families.
  • Community Collaboration. Community resources are used to strengthen schools, families, and student learning.
As I listened to the workshop participants, I heard things like,
"Parents aren't involved because they work."
"Parents don't try to get to know what's going on in their child's life."
"Parents are intimidated by the schools."
"Research tells us that engaged parents have the most successful kids."
"We need to educate parents."
Nearly every person in the room commented in frustration, "We don't have parental involvement!"

#1...I think there is a big difference in "parental involvement" and "parental engagement." #2...Having parents staff our program meets every one of the PTA standards.

Hiring parents as staff can take a lot of time and effort; the parents I know are not college graduate educators. However, hiring parents helps us (and could help others) meet the PTA standards with less time, money, and resources.

1) Parents are employed by the ASA so they don't have to spend 8 hours/day at another job and then come to the ASA for yet another hour-long parent meeting. (Most of our parents are single parents. Although several come, our parents are trying to get home after work and get their kids in bed.)
2) Parents engage with each they naturally spread the word about information.
3) Part of the staff's job is to get involved with the school, get to know the teachers, and gain an understanding of some of the school structures.
4) We bring in professional educators to train our staff...and thus pass along valuable information of how they can work with their children in effective ways--in academics, discipline, etc.
5) Parents go above and beyond. They work way more than their allotted hours because these are their kids!
6) Parents know what resources are available. Organizations don't always communicate well with each other. But because community residents are the target audience of every organization, they hear about all of the different programs that go on. With that information, parents can help us decide if we need to provide transportation, provide a new service, start a walking club, or whatever else they decide.

The parents I know want to know how to help their child! But time, "educationalese," and often the school's unwillingness to hear their voice, prevents them from knowing how to adequately work with their child.

Allow me to propose...Instead of recruiting from outside of the community to bring someone in to teach the kids and parents inside the community, why don't we use our natural resources and hire parents instead??

Thursday, April 19, 2007

One of my favorite websites is

I hate to shop, but I love good deals. Bestbookbuys allows me the best of both worlds. It puts everything at my fingertips. Once I tell bestbookbuys what I want, they tell me where I can get my book, starting with the cheapest place first. It doesn't just tell you the cheapest price of the tells you the cheapest price including shipping and taxes (i.e. the hidden fees that vary from something like $.97 to $3.95...which can really change the price of your book!).

Wouldn't it be nice to have a website like bestbookbuys to help break down college expenses?

I must admit, I'm ignorant in this area. As I help kids enroll in college, I encourage kids to choose based on my knowledge that private institutions are extremely expensive, 4-year universities are next on the list, and 2-year colleges are the cheapest option. I guess I kind of assume that within those 3 categories, cost is about the same in each.

However, all things are not created equal, as I'm quickly learning.

Truth of the matter is, all of the costs are never really revealed until after our unexperienced-with-life college students get the bill. Maybe their original sticker price is pretty much the same in each category. After that, though, each school varies on how much they'll offer in grants and loans. Without very intense comparison shopping tactics and lots of direct questioning, the true cost and all of the facts aren't revealed.

So, what happens to these unexpereinced-with-life young adults who decide college is a viable path they want to take?

Here's my assessment of what happens: They decide to go to college. They apply for their financial aid. The college says they've received their college and financial aid application. The exact amount of financial aid they will receive in comparison to what they will actually owe is not necessarily revealed...certainly not if you haven't completely decided on that college. The college offers them several different grants (only for their freshman year, but they don't see that part of the clause). These grants seem to pay for most of their college expenses...except for books...and rent...and food (minor glitches that young adults on their own don't think about...and don't want to consider once they've set their mind on something). What students also don't factor in is that many of their grants are connected with their GPA. (Maintaining a good GPA is sometimes difficult for students prepared in "good" schools, let alone some of our low-income schools where A's and B's don't even translate to them passing the "minimum standards" of TAKS.)

I haven't figured out how to understand all of this and, because I am not their parent, it becomes tricky in contacting the financial aid office and in getting the student to tell me everything about how they're using their money, when they're filling out their forms, etc. Though I can talk to them about different strategies I think will help, it is ultimately up to them.
It sure would come in handy if colleges would give us all of the facts, publicly available in a website like Students could enter their top choices and each college would pop up with their tuition, extra fees, food, rent, minus the grants the student has been offered over four years, and adding in the long-term cost of loans and interest rates...thus allowing students and their families (and those of us who guide and assist) to compare and make wise and educated decisions.

Anyone interested in dealing with some colleges and a lot of beauracracy to create that?? If so, let me know. I know some students who could really use the information!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tapping into talent

Being a member of Central Dallas Church keeps me connected to real people.

I've tried leaving Central Dallas and going elsewhere--mega churches, small, local congregations...It didn't work. I always went back to Central Dallas.

Central Dallas is not a church with money. Many of our members are poor.

In the beginning, another church supported our pastor and our work. Through the years, however, outside funding for many different things has dwindled. Though that was discouraging for a while, our church rebounded because of faithful (albeit, poor) members who believe in what Central Dallas is all about and are willing to work to ensure it continues.

Hazel Baker enjoys writing plays. She's been working for many months now, pulling people together and finding a venue for the play. Her intent was to raise money for the women's ministry and the choir. Through ticket sales of $10 each, she helped raise around $800 for these two groups.

However, not only did Hazel raise money for the church, she created community. She, the cast, and the music ministry put their time and effort into creating a quality play. They didn't go begging for money from a rich donor. They utilized their own talents to create something of value. And then they worked hard to publicize--to the tune of an audience of 80+ people.

Inner cities have talents that don't get noticed near like they should. Sunday night was proof of that talent. I wish people who want to do good things for people in the inner city would take the time to get to know and be a part of what is already going on in the inner city and then either encourage or invest in and value the talents that already exist.

I know why I stay.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Robinson and Stackhouse...#42

Jerry Stackhouse, on the Dallas Mavericks, is #42. I never knew why. Evidently, he's always worn #42 because it was Jackie Robinson's number. Stackhouse recognizes that Robinson paved the way for other people of color in all sports. So many people don't take time to know about our history and know why things are the way they are. Stackhouse wants to always remember.

Today, on Jackie Robinson Day (the 60 year anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier), Stackhouse asked the NBA if they would allow him to use "Robinson" in place of "Stackhouse" on his jersey. They denied him that opportunity. Not wanting to lose the opportunity to honor Robinson, Stackhouse wrote JACKIE ROBINSON on the outside of each of his sneakers.

Thank you, Jackie Robinson, for having the amazing courage to endure what you did.

Thank you, Jerry Stackhouse, for honoring that memory and reminding the rest of us.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

People not programs

"You have to say no to something!" my co-worker told me the other day as I had a mini-meltdown in her office.

Perhaps that is true. The problem is, when I have to decide what to say "no" to, the choice often becomes between people or programs.

I like building relationships with people. People and relationships are what I believe makes our programs as good as they are.

The world of outcomes, in combination with cutbacks that cause us to do the job of 2-3 people, takes away the time I have to spend with people. That frustrates me.

Helping kids edit research papers, giving random "you-can-do-it" encouragement talks to teenagers who express fears about taking their SAT, strategizing with seniors when their parent refuses to get tax forms so they can apply to college, chit-chatting with parents, participating in parent meetings, attending ballet recitals, watching step shows, and so many other things.......none of that is my "job" anymore. Yet, without those time consuming activities, I wouldn't be effective at what I do.

Maybe I do need to say no more often. But if I say no, I can't leave out the people.

Friday, April 13, 2007

College student gets evicted

Sounds pretty tragic and unfair, huh? ...putting a college student out on the street a month before school ends.

But it's a life lesson...and one I'd rather she learn now than once she gets out of college and has no cushion.

There are choices my friend made that got her in this situation. 1) She chose an expensive college. 2) She chose to "loan" LOTS of money (received from extra scholarship money) to friends and family that don't have that could be used to begin paying off student loans...or paying her rent. 3) She chose to work one job last summer (despite my urging and insistence that she get a second job to save for school and begin paying back her loans).

When I got the phone call, my first thought was to figure out a way to get the money...withdraw savings, call up friends who know and love her, etc. But I knew that would not help her. Too many times I have supported her through decisions that I knew were not the best choice for her. I couldn't do it again. It's not going to help her in the long run. But, frankly, it would have been easier and a lot less painful for me to somehow come up with the two months rent she needed than it was to tell her, "I can't help you."

I think back to the life lessons my parents taught me. One of my favorites to recall is my freshman year in college. My parents were giving me an "allowance" (something small like $20/mo, but they paid for my college so whatever they gave me was extra spending money). My mom informed me at the end of my freshman year I would need to find a job because they weren't going to provide that "allowance" any more. I remember thinking, "Yeah right. They'll still come through. They're my parents!" Boy was I surprised! ...and a little irritated. I couldn't believe they actually stuck to that! But they did. And I'm extremely grateful for that. I think that was the point where I realized that I was the one who determined my outcomes. I believe it was from that point on that I began getting 2-3 jobs in the summer so that I could have money to spend when school came along. How much or how little I made and saved was up to me. Though sometimes frustrating, it gave me a sense of freedom. I determined my own destiny!

Money is an easy solution. Just pay the bill and move on. It doesn't require any emotional investment. But does that really help the person?

Sometimes we have to experience the pain and face the consequences life deals us before the reality sets in that someone is not always going to rescue us. It's hard watching someone fall and hoping they understand the life-lesson so that they won't get themselves in that situation again.

My friend knows I'm here. She's not going to be on the street; she's a survivor. I've watched her grow up and I know how her mind works. The poverty she grew up in has given her survival instincts. She'll make it through the last month of school. It may be on someone's couch. But she'll be all right.

She does not like asking people for things. But what I don't think she realizes yet is that she doesn't have to...if she makes wise choices. My hope is that through this experience she will discover that freedom.

Second verse, same as the first

I really don't have any desire to give Don Imus any more air time. But, I keep thinking the racist comments Imus made put the latest wave of racism in a whole new category. Imus (despite his claims) wasn't trying to be funny, he wasn't provoked, and he wasn't drunk. He and the other guy (speaking of "the other guy"...who was he and why isn't there anything being raised about his comments???) were simply having a conversation.

Though I haven't listened to it in a while, the guys on The Ticket, a morning show on Sportsradio 1310 AM (Dallas) make comments that I would say compare to Imus. Why are we not addressing them???

I liked the comments Mr. Samad made in his column, written for The Black Commentator.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The book on the right

Is the blatant picture of the book I'm reading (to the right of this post) uncomfortable to you?

It is to me.

Every time I pull up my own blog, the book seems to shout at me. I keep wondering who is pulling up my blog for the first time and what are they thinking...especially if they don't read the sub-title: "The strange career of a troublesome word"...and especially if they don't know me.

I suppose Mr. Kennedy could have been a little less in your face if he would have called the book "The 'N' Word" but Jabari Asim just did that last month in his book. (I would like to read his as well.) In fact, Stephen Colbert made a good point when he questioned whether or not "the 'N' word" is now synonymous with the "N" word. Check out his humorous, yet thought-provoking interview with Jabari Asim:

I go back and forth on the word...not in whether or not I should use it myself, but for what I should be expecting from the vocabulary of the kids/teens around me. Is it ok for them to use it? Is it ok as long as they put an "a" at the end instead of an "er?" Is it ok when people use it only when they are talking about someone who has made stupid decisions? Some of my [Black] adult friends use it from time to time as well. Listening to them often leads me to wonder, "Who am I to tell a Black adult not to use that word?"

I haven't come to any great conclusions. Most of the time, the kids/teens/college students refrain from using the word in front of me. They know it's not acceptable around me just like "shut up," "can't," and cuss words.

Ultimately, all of us will have to make our own decisions about what words we use and what words we accept. I'm reading "nigger" and hope to read "The 'N' Word" so I can at least have the knowledge of how and when the word originated, how it has been used over time, and it's significance in many different settings. At the minimum, it will at least give me an educated opinion.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Keepin' it Real...our kids deserve it

A few years ago, one of the 11th grade students in my neighborhood came to my door beaming. He couldn't wait to show me the research paper he had written and the big 100% written on it. Actually, the front of the research paper had 100/100/100/80.

Skeptical, as usual (...come on! Who makes a 100% on a research paper??!!), I proceeded to flip through the paper. As I suspected, the paper was full of grammar and structural errors--incomplete sentences, misplaced punctuation, lack of capitalization, and many other mistakes. Yet he had received three 100's and one 80. I have no idea what any of those scores were for...there wasn't a single mark throughout the entire paper. There was no rubric for a guideline. Nothing.

Though I hated to burst his bubble, I felt the obligation to tell this teenager that his work wasn't 100% work. As I suspected, a year later as I walked him through the process of registering for El Centro, I had to break the news to him again. His scores on the Placement test determined that he needed all three developmental courses (Reading, Writing, and Math) before he could even enter college. I explained that he was going to have to work extremely hard to catch up. I explained that it wasn't impossible, but it would take a lot of effort.

Why don't people realize that these inflated compliments are hurting our urban, inner city kids???

In our After-School Academy we always make the kids correct their work--erasing the entire page if they wrote sloppy or didn't do it correctly. Way too often I hear them say, "It doesn't matter. My teacher doesn't care." I emphatically tell them, "Well, it matters to me. Correct it!" Sometimes I'm harsh. Sometimes we get tears. But I love seeing the pride of a kid who gets to the point of knowing they can do something...and knowing they did it well.

Our kids deserve so much better...and they are perfectly capable if we would stop giving them empty praise because we feel sorry for them. It's not fair to them. It sets them up for failure. Some of them have mentioned their confusion of why they make A's in class, but then can't pass the TAKS. We're not doing them any favors. (Read here for a recent study on praise.)

Do them a favor. Expect something out of them. Praise their effort, encourage them to keep working, and work with them to help them get to where they need to be...but don't feed them false praise.

We will all benefit in the long run.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Realities of life in the inner city

Over the past few weeks several things have caused me to reflect on my own neighborhood. I began to think about what my community says to those of us who live here. What follows are some of my reflections with pictures of my neighborhood:

No alleys. Though we have what would be considered to be an alley...and though the city expects us to clean up our alleys periodically (I've been given a citation after reporting junk in my neighbor's yard because the city said they couldn't get through my alley to look), it is really an overgrown dirt space between two back yards. Most of the time I don't even think about the fact that I have no alley. My neighbor, however, asked once, "Why is it that our trash has to be put out and picked up in front of our houses? Why can't we have alleys like the suburbs so that our trash isn't seen?" Instead, from what I've been told, our overgrown alleys have become convenient havens for hidden and illicit activity.

Cracked sidewalks. If you've driven in the inner city (Dallas) much, you've probably seen the motorized chairs wheeling around. As I looked at the sidewalks, it became apparent to me why people wheel down the middle of the road. People in wheelchairs or motorized chairs would have a very difficult time manipulating on the crumbling sidewalks we have.

No drainage. I love the city's recommendation on their website: DRAIN (all caps is theirs) standing water in your yard and neighborhood. Standing water can be found in swimming pools that are not kept clean, ponds, pet watering dishes, birdbaths, potted plants, old tires, empty containers, toys and clogged rain gutters. We hold up our end of the bargain so we figure it's only fair to ask the city to hold up to their end. A couple of years ago, my neighbors and I called the 3-1-1 number and I followed up with a letter to Leo Cheney. After several more phone calls to different departments, one man finally came out, took pictures, and told my neighbor our problem wasn't as bad as some places so the city probably wouldn't do anything...and they haven't. But what causes the standing water? Is it something our community caused? No. Over many years, the city has paved over our road until the road is now level with the curb (leaving no openings for drains). As new houses have been built, the builders have put in a few curbs and sidewalks; however, the new curbs are higher than the old curbs, creating a whole new problem of uneven sidewalks and streets *if* the city ever does try to re-do the street.

Bars on windows. Though I recognize this is not a city issue, I do believe that the "broken windows theory" plays a part in the need for bars and thick glass in our community. (You can see the bars on these two houses. You may not be as able to see the 1 1/2" thick glass that separates the customers from the store operators in this other picture.) What is really crazy is that I almost deleted the picture of the house with bars because the picture didn't seem significant to me. It wasn't until much later when it dawned on me that there were bars on the windows. I know many people would never even think of entering a community with bars on windows. How would you feel (as a kid or as an adult) if houses around you had bars and businesses dealt with you through thick paneled glass?

The sad part of this to me is that we get frustrated, but we begin accepting these atrocities. It's not that we haven't tried. We follow the channels, but ultimately give up when the city says our neighborhood "isn't bad enough" because they assure us that others are worse...despite the fact that some that are better off than ours are getting all kinds of repairs and renovations and look MUCH nicer than ours.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Where does all of the hate and fear come from??

In a January letter to the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Texas House Representative Leo Berman wrote that,
We have 22 million illegal aliens in our country. They have brought with them Tuberculosis, Polio, Leprosy, Dengue Fever, Chagas Disease and Malaria. ...As of last August, the Texas Prison System [sic] is housing 12,500 illegal aliens. That many more are incarcerated in county and municipal jails. Finally, according to a detailed report produced by the Lone Star Foundation in Austin, Texans are spending $3.5 billion each year to support 1.5 million illegal aliens in Texas.

The Texas Observer writes:

Maybe people have difficulty joining Berman in his fears because they are unfounded. Texas reported two cases of malaria in 2006, and none of polio in the last five years. Of malaria cases in the U.S., most occur among residents traveling abroad, not foreigners immigrating, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of reported cases in the U.S. of Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, has declined each year since 1988. Though more than half the reported cases are among immigrants, the rate of tuberculosis has been decreasing among both foreign- and U.S.-born residents for 10 years.

I never have quite understood how Americans (United States Americans, that is) can be so quick to attribute certain characteristics of people of color to ALL people of color. Because there are some immigrants who are criminals, we start making statements that ALL immigrants are criminals or disease carriers. Because some African-American teenage boys participate in illicit behavior, we attribute that behavior to ALL African-American teenage boys. Because Middle Eastern men organized the fall of the Twin Towers, ALL Middle Easterners must be suspect.

It's quite interesting to me that I, as a White person, have never been labeled or profiled because Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh organized the Oklahoma City bombing. ...and I even grew up in an area where anti-government groups took residence...I even heard that Nichols and McVeigh had tried to buy land there!

After watching De Nadie, the story of a Central American immigrant's difficult journey to the United States in search for a better life, I wish you could have heard the comments 10-year old Ricky, who came as an immigrant with his parents. As he raised his hand to speak, I expected a child-like comment. Instead, he was more articulate than many adults! Through tears he reflected on the film and spoke eloquently for probably 5 minutes on immigration, how people are treated, and how unfair and wrong it is. He spoke about Christian responsibility. He continued to wax eloquently as he compared our current immigration issues to the Civil War. Sheepishly, I must admit that can't remember all of his comments because his knowledge about these issues were so intelligent I had never thought about them before and was unable to soak in and remember all of his great points!

Ricky is who is coming into our country. A person with a name and a story. He is not diseased. He is not a criminal. His parents want a better life for him. They want to foster his amazing intelligence. If we destroy that, we are missing out on the greatness that Ricky has to offer.

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in. Matt. 25:35

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Exodus 22:21

The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:34