Magazine article The Christian Century

Century Marks

Magazine article The Christian Century

Century Marks

Article excerpt

BROWNING OF AMERICA: Hispanics are soon to become "America's largest minority"--an oxymoron, according to Richard Rodriguez (Brown: The Last Discovery of America, Viking). They are "destined to outnumber blacks." The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2040 one in three Americans will be Hispanic. Rodriguez, however, is cynical about some of the attention this fact is given: A "you can't stop them from coming" attitude quickly translates into an "ad-agency target audience, a market share."

Rodriguez is also ambivalent about Hispanics having "minority" status. It trivializes Latino contributions to American culture, and when it is used to indicate victim status it is an insult to African-Americans whose status is "one born of a distinct and terrible history of exclusion--the sin of slavery, later decades of every conceivable humiliation visited upon a people." Rodriguez thinks attempts to make English the official language of the U.S. are absurd, ignoring how fluid language is and that from the beginning Americans spoke a different English from the British, tinged with Indian words like succotash. Besides, America has become bilingual ("Punch 1 for English, 2 for Spanish"). The second language is that of cheap labor everywhere from fishing villages in Alaska to Chinese restaurants in Atlanta.

GOOD BUSINESS: Given all the bad news about corporate greed and sleaze, it's good to hear about companies that have a conscience. Shaklee Corporation, a nutritional supplement company, replaced school boilers in Portland, Oregon, "as part of its commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the environment." A yogurt company, Stonyfield Farms, gives 10 percent of its profits to "efforts that help protect and restore the environment." And Whole Foods, a large health food retail chain, "not only pays its employees to do volunteer work but donates 5 percent of its net profits to charity." Michael Stevenson of Boston College's Center for Corporate Good Citizenship thinks that "doing good" is good business. A good case is Maggie's Clean Clothes, an Ann Arbor marketer of organic cotton shirts and socks. Rather than depending upon Central American sweatshops, Maggie's helped fund and found a woman's cooperative in Nicaragua which built its own factory and obtained its own loan for sewing equipment. Maggie's president, Bena Berda, says that she now not only has a reliable source of clothing for her company, but the women producers "own their own company and their future looks bright" (Well Journal, August 1).

MOTHER OF ALL SINS: Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, recently testified before Congress that the culprit behind all the corporate scandals is "infectious greed." Phyllis Tickle, longtime religion editor of Publishers Weekly, says Greenspan has religious authorities on his side. She has collected sayings from the major religions that seem to agree that greed is the mother of all sin. The Tao Teh Ching, for instance, says, "There is no greater calamity than indulging in greed." Of course, we know what Jesus had to say about wealth and the desire for it, and the apostle Paul said that avarice is the root of all evil. Early Christians made an acrostic out of Paul's saying which was a reflection on Roman corruption: ROMA, from radix omnium malorum avaritia (the root of all evils is avarice). We might adapt this to our own USA, says Tickle: United in the Sin of Avarice (Beliefnet, July 24).

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