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Increasing diversity redefining America's Jewry
American Jews as a group are becoming more ethnically diverse due to intermarriage, immigration, adoption and conversion.
December 28th, 2011
07:00 AM ET

Increasing diversity redefining America's Jewry

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) – "But you don’t look Jewish," Jen Chau remembers being told often as a child.

But then again, what is a Jew supposed to look like? The usual implication in those words was that it was not supposed to look like Chau, who was raised Jewish by her European-American mother and Chinese father.

"I still think society's idea of a Jew is someone who looks like Jerry Seinfeld or Woody Allen," said Chau, 34. "They don’t look at someone like me and think, 'Oh, she could be Jewish.'"

But the face of Judaism in America is changing, as the community becomes more diverse through intermarriage, adoption, immigration and conversion.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Community • Discrimination • Ethnicity • History • How we live • How we look • Race • Relationships • Religion • Who we are
Same-sex spouses lose big on taxes
Kenneth Weissenberg and his spouse, Brian Sheerin, pay an extra $5,000 a year in taxes because they are unable to file jointly as a married couple.
December 27th, 2011
05:24 PM ET

Same-sex spouses lose big on taxes

By Blake Ellis, @CNNMoney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Same-sex spouses are paying as much as $6,000 a year in extra taxes because the federal government doesn't recognize gay marriage, according to an analysis conducted for CNNMoney by tax specialists.

While marriage provides tax benefits for many heterosexual couples, same-sex families don't enjoy the same perks because they are not allowed to file their federal returns jointly.

The imbalance persists despite increasing acceptance of gay marriage as a legal right. More than 12 states now grant full or partial marriage rights to same-sex couples, and a recent Gallup poll showed - for the first time - that a majority of Americans favor gay marriage.

But not the federal government, which is constrained by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Even as more same-sex couples are able to file jointly at the state level, they are still forced to file as single when submitting federal returns to the IRS.

Read the full story on CNNMoney

Engage: African-American unemployment remains stubbornly high
December 27th, 2011
11:15 AM ET

Engage: African-American unemployment remains stubbornly high

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

Poll: Distinct differences between blacks and whites struggling to find work - NPR

Activists cry foul on booming Ethiopian adoption business - The Atlantic

Opinion: Decisions by congress, courts hurt Native Americans in 2011 - Indian Country

Opinion: Occupy Wall Street movement is not devoid of diversity - Hyphen

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Filed under: Engage
Opinion: 'Chinglish' playwright: Overcome language barriers and laugh together
David Henry Hwang's parents grew up in China, but raised their kids "100% American."
December 27th, 2011
08:46 AM ET

Opinion: 'Chinglish' playwright: Overcome language barriers and laugh together

Editor's note:  David Henry Hwang’s plays include "M. Butterfly" (1988 Tony Award, 1989 Pulitzer Prize Finalist), "Golden Child" (1998 Tony Award nomination, 1997 OBIE Award), "Yellow Face" (2008 OBIE Award, 2008 Pulitzer Prize Finalist), FOB (1981 OBIE Award), "The Dance and the Railroad" (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination), "Family Devotions" (1982 Drama Desk Award nomination) and "Bondage." "Chinglish" is a comedy about miscommunication.

By David Henry Hwang

As a kid,  China was almost as mysterious to me as to my non-Asian friends. I’m a first-generation Chinese-American baby boomer born and raised in Los Angeles. My immigrant parents chose to raise their children as 100% American. We didn’t practice Chinese customs; I never even knew the date of Chinese New Year. Because they spoke different Chinese dialects, it was easier for my parents to communicate in English, so my sisters and I grew up as typical monolingual Americans.

I thought of my ethnicity as nothing more than an interesting detail - like having red hair. Still, if I knew a particular movie or TV program was going to feature Asian characters, I would go out of my way not to watch it. I somehow knew the portrayal would be demeaning, embarrassing, and leave me feeling “icky.”

I started writing plays in college with no intention of telling Chinese or Asian-American stories. As I learned to create more from my unconscious, however, they started appearing on my page. Clearly, some part of me was extremely interested in my ethnicity, but my conscious mind hadn’t figured that out yet. Even when I turned to writing Asian-American plays, however, my emphasis remained on being American. We were tired of being perpetual foreigners; one’s forbears might have arrived in this country two or three generations ago, but people would still say to us, “Oh, you speak such good English!” FULL POST

After years-long legal battle, transgender woman returns to work
Vandy Beth Glenn was fired from her job with the state of Georgia after transitioning from male to female.
December 26th, 2011
02:41 PM ET

After years-long legal battle, transgender woman returns to work

By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN Radio

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) - Four years on, Vandy Beth Glenn still gets choked up thinking about the day she was fired from her perfect job.

The petite brunette recalls exactly what her boss said that October day, how the reasons behind the termination sparked a lawsuit that could have far-reaching implications about how transgender people are treated at work.

Vandy Beth Glenn was born Glenn Morrison. At a young age, she says, she knew she wasn’t a man.

“It’s like a constant voice in the back of your head telling you ‘This is wrong. This isn’t the life you are supposed to be living,’” she said.

The voice grew louder as the years went on, but the Georgia native moved through life, earning a journalism degree from the University of Georgia and serving as an officer in the U.S. Navy. She’s fascinated by language, she says, loves to see how government works. In 2005, she landed her perfect job as a legislative editor at the Georgia General Assembly.

Around that time, Glenn’s life outside work began to change, too.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Discrimination • Gender • How we look • Who we are
Engage: Kwanzaa celebrations dwindling says poll
December 26th, 2011
10:56 AM ET

Engage: Kwanzaa celebrations dwindling says poll

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

A poll shows Kwanzaa may be a holiday past its prime - The Root

Opinion: After a large turnout in 2008, the youth vote looms large in 2012 - Colorlines

With Aisha Khan found safe, people demand answers - CBS News

How other faiths celebrate on December 25th - CNN

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Filed under: Engage
Despite immigration reforms, many young immigrants still in limbo
Monji Dolon's immigration status makes it impossible to accept full-time work in the technology field.
December 26th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Despite immigration reforms, many young immigrants still in limbo

By Yasmin Amer, CNN

(CNN) - It wasn't until his senior year of high school in North Carolina that Monji Dolon found out about his murky immigration status.

His family had emigrated from Bangladesh in 1991 when Dolon was 5 years old and since then Dolon, his mother and his brother have lived without legal residency in the United States.

Uncertain of what to check under "residency" on his college applications, Dolon learned at the age of 18 that he was in an ongoing battle to stay in the country he had grown up in.

"I remember having a huge sense of panic at the time," say Dolon, now 25.

The Department of Homeland Security announced reforms this year that would halt the deportations of young immigrants who pose no threat to security. It said it also would review almost 300,000 cases on an individual basis - something it had not been done before.

Individuals without a criminal record are considered low priority for forced or immediate deportation. But without permanent relief, many like Monji Dolon are still in immigration limbo.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Education • How we live • Immigration
December 23rd, 2011
02:48 PM ET

'Undocumented' play reveals immigrants' hidden lives

Kat Chua wrote the play "Undocumented," about the experiences of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. It was inspired by a project she worked on as a student at New York University - and her own story. Chua was born in the Philippines, and brought to New York at age 8.

Although the play's characters think the DREAM Act could change their futures, the play isn't really about the legislation, Chua said.

"It's not about one solution fixing everything," she said. "It's about the fact that there is a population of the country, of this world, that isn't represented, that is trying to obtain rights."

Engage: How will Ron Paul's racially charged newsletters play in Iowa?
There's new focus on newsletters published under Republican Ron Paul's name in the 1980s and 1990s.
December 23rd, 2011
10:48 AM ET

Engage: How will Ron Paul's racially charged newsletters play in Iowa?

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

Ron Paul's controversial newsletters could down Iowa surge - The Grio

Eight soldiers charged in Private Danny Chen’s death - Our Chinatown

Opinion: America's newsrooms are becoming whiter - The Root

Mexican immigrants wages are stagnating. Why? - Miller-McCune


Filed under: Engage
Maya Angelou defuses feud with rapper Common over 'N' word
Common's "The Dreamer/The Believer" features Maya Angelou, but she wasn't expecting him to use the "N" word.
December 23rd, 2011
05:14 AM ET

Maya Angelou defuses feud with rapper Common over 'N' word

It was reported earlier this week that Dr. Maya Angelou was upset with the rapper Common over his use of the "N" word on his new album, but Angelou has since clarified that there isn't a dispute.

Common's just-released "The Dreamer/The Believer" features Angelou, 83, reciting a poem on the track "The Dreamer." The New York Post reported Sunday that Angelou was "horrified" that the rapper would have her appear on a song in which he uses the term.

The legendary poet was quoted as saying that she was "surprised and disappointed," adding, "I don't know why he chose to do that. I had never heard him use that [word] before. I had admired him so because he wasn't singing the line of least resistance."

On Monday, Angelou called in to BET's "106 & Park," where Common was talking about his new album, and, according to a statement, said "disappointed" was the wrong word.

Read the full story on CNN's Marquee blog

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