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Evolving In America
June 27th, 2013
12:00 PM ET

Evolving In America

Dear readers,

The In America blog began in November 2011, focusing on the untold, the nuanced and diverse stories of identity. We are proud and grateful that the blog quickly became a trusted place for news and insights about race, ethnicity, gender and culture.

We did it by covering the demographic changes happening right before our eyes, the ‘gayest’ U.S. city, the social media firestorm over Olympian Gabby Douglas' hair and more.

Now, our award-winning blog is expanding its coverage and audience beyond the confines of this space.

While we are archiving the blog, we will continue to focus on identity as a beat. Look for topical stories that delve into the people, places and perspectives that define us in the Living section, and throughout CNN.com.

We welcome your comments on our website, Facebook and Twitter, so keep the conversation going. We’ll be listening to what you have to say.

All the very best,

Alicia W. Stewart
Editor, In America

Opinion: The mariachi singer is more American than his critics
Sebastien De La Cruz sings the national anthem prior to the start of game 4 in the NBA finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat on June 13 in San Antonio, Texas.
June 17th, 2013
10:06 AM ET

Opinion: The mariachi singer is more American than his critics

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

By Ruben Navarette, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - The scoreboard was clear.

Winner: 11-year-old Sebastien De La Cruz, "El Charro de Oro" (the golden horseman) who became a national story after he sang the national anthem at Game 3 of the NBA playoff series between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat and showed a lot of a talent, heart and class.

Losers: The haters and racists who - displaying a lot of ignorance - hid behind the anonymity of Twitter to spew venom and attack the little guy because they thought that no one dressed in a mariachi outfit was certified American enough to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

ere's a sample:

"This lil Mexican snuck in the country like 4 hours ago now he's singing the anthem" - Francois@A2daO

"Who dat lil #Wetback sangin the national anthem at the #Heat game????" - TJ THA DJ@Tj_Tha_Dj

"Can't believe they had the nerve to have a beaner sing the national anthem of AMERICA #smh" - THE_GREAT_WHITE@bdub597

"Is this the American National Anthem or the Mexican Hat Dance? Get this lil kid out of here" - StevenDavid@A1R_STEVEN

"So illegal aliens can sing The National Anthem @ games now?" - Mr.CheckYaDm@DJ_BMONEY

What does it mean to be an American anyway?

Read Ruben Navarette's full column
JFK to nation: 'This nation will not be fully free, until all its citizens are free'
June 11th, 2013
06:31 PM ET

JFK to nation: 'This nation will not be fully free, until all its citizens are free'

By Alicia W. Stewart, CNN

(CNN) - Fifty years ago, Alabama Gov. George Wallace defiantly stood in front of the University of Alabama's Foster Auditorium to prevent black students from enrolling.

The then newly elected governor had famously declared "segregation now, segregation tomorrow,  segregation forever" in his inauguration speech.  His "stand in the schoolhouse door" brought him national attention.

It took  the National Guard, federal marshals and an attorney general to persuade the governor to allow Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood to enter.

It was not the first time Americans saw the drama of the civil rights movement unfold before their eyes. Earlier that spring, images of police attacking peaceful civil rights demonstrators with dogs and fire hoses in Birmingham, Alabama, flashed across the evening news.  The previous year, riots were quelled with federal troops after the admission of James Meredith, the first black student at the University of Mississippi.

Wallace later rescinded his views, but the incidents of the time prompted President John F. Kennedy to address the nation in a historic televised address about civil rights.

“Now the time has come for this nation to fulfill its promise,” President Kennedy said in that address. ‘The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or state or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.”

Read and see what he told the nation that evening:

Read the full transcript of his speech below:

Good evening my fellow citizens:

This afternoon, following a series of threats and defiant statements, the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro.

That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good measure to the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama, who met their responsibilities in a constructive way.

I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.

It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.

It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.

The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the nation in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one-third as much chance of completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is seven years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much.

This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every state of the union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety. Nor is this a partisan issue. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right.

We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?

One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettos, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or state or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.

The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is time to act in the Congress, in your state and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives.

It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.

Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.

Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law. The federal judiciary has upheld that proposition in the conduct of its affairs, including the employment of federal personnel, the use of federal facilities, and the sale of federally financed housing.

But there are other necessary measures which only the Congress can provide, and they must be provided at this session. The old code of equity law under which we live commands for every wrong a remedy, but in too many communities, in too many parts of the country, wrongs are inflicted on Negro citizens and there are no remedies at law. Unless the Congress acts, their only remedy is in the street.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public–hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.

This seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do.

I have recently met with scores of business leaders urging them to take voluntary action to end this discrimination and I have been encouraged by their response, and in the last two weeks over 75 cities have seen progress made in desegregating these kinds of facilities. But many are unwilling to act alone, and for this reason, nationwide legislation is needed if we are to move this problem from the streets to the courts.

I am also asking the Congress to authorize the federal government to participate more fully in lawsuits designed to end segregation in public education. We have succeeded in persuading many districts to desegregate voluntarily. Dozens have admitted Negroes without violence. Today a Negro is attending a state-supported institution in every one of our 50 states, but the pace is very slow.

Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court's decision nine years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job.

The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.

Other features will also be requested, including greater protection for the right to vote. But legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.

In this respect I want to pay tribute to those citizens North and South who have been working in their communities to make life better for all. They are acting not out of a sense of legal duty but out of a sense of human decency.

Like our soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world they are meeting freedom's challenge on the firing line, and I salute them for their honor and their courage.

My fellow Americans, this is a problem which faces us all–in every city of the North as well as the South. Today there are Negroes unemployed, two or three times as many compared to whites, inadequate in education, moving into the large cities, unable to find work, young people particularly out of work without hope, denied equal rights, denied the opportunity to eat at a restaurant or lunch counter or go to a movie theater, denied the right to a decent education, denied almost today the right to attend a state university even though qualified. It seems to me that these are matters which concern us all, not merely presidents or congressmen or governors, but every citizen of the United States.

This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents.

We cannot say to 10% of the population that you can't have that right; that your children cannot have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go into the streets and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that.

Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents.

As I have said before, not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or an equal motivation, but they should have an equal right to develop their talent and their ability and their motivation, to make something of themselves.

We have a right to expect that the Negro community will be responsible, will uphold the law, but they have a right to expect that the law will be fair, that the Constitution will be color-blind, as Justice Harlan said at the turn of the century.

This is what we are talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.

Thank you very much.

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Filed under: History • Race • Who we are
Celebrities who changed their names
June 6th, 2013
08:56 AM ET

Adios Charlie Sheen, hello Carlos Estevez

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN

(CNN) - Are the days of Latinos in entertainment changing their given names to appeal to a broader audience long gone?

That's what it looks like now that former "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen has dropped his stage name for birth name Carlos Estevez for Robert Rodriguez's Latino-centric new action film "Machete Kills."

The film is second in a series after the 2010 film "Machete" starring Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez. In "Machete Kills," Trejo returns as ex-Federal agent Machete, recruited by the president of the United States, played by Charlie Sheen, asked to go on a mission to take down a madman revolutionary and eccentric billionaire arms dealer, played by Mel Gibson, who has come up with a plan to spread war across the world.

This second installment will star Sofía Vergara, Demián Bichir, Antonio Banderas, Zoe Saldaña, Edward James Olmos, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alexa Vega, and Lady Gaga.

According to Sheen's representative, it was his idea to use his birth name for the film. However, there's no confirmation on what spurred the decision or whether Sheen will stick to Estevez from now on.
Some call the change ironic in light of comments last year by Sheen about his heritage. "I don't wake up feeling Latino. I'm a white guy in America, I was born in New York and grew up in Malibu," he said in a 2012 interview with Univision.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Ethnicity • History • Latino in America • Pop culture • Who we are
Out of the closet on Wall Street
"I was fearful at first that I was risking my career," said Mark Stephanz, a senior investment banker at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, about coming out at work.
June 4th, 2013
09:00 AM ET

Out of the closet on Wall Street

By Blake Ellis,  CNNMoney

(CNNMoney) - Mark Stephanz, a senior investment banker at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was sure his decision to come out of the closet would end his career.

He had been at the firm for over 20 years, and everyone knew him as a straight, married man with three children. So he knew the news could come as a shock.

"Wall Street has always had that good old boys image, so I was fearful at first that I was risking my career," he said.
But his internal struggle finally became too much to bear. First, Stephanz gradually came out to his family. Then he told his coworkers and managers.

The reaction was surprising. His boss was supportive and said he couldn't believe that Stephanz, who was 47 at the time, had lived his life as he had for so long. His clients, too, were supportive.

That was just a few years ago. If he had come out even earlier, Stephanz doesn't know whether it would have gone so smoothly.

FULL STORY
100 faces, 100 hours
May 27th, 2013
12:34 PM ET

100 faces, 100 hours

(CNN) - As the U.S. observes Memorial Day, CNN is honoring the fallen by spotlighting a U.S. casualty from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars every hour on the CNN.com homepage through the weekend and the holiday. They're from every state and from every branch of the U.S. military. They're 18 years old and 60; they're sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. And they're just 100 of the more than 8,000 U.S. and coalition troops who have died.

FULL STORY

Filed under: History • Military • Who we are
Dr. Q.'s journey to neurosurgery
May 26th, 2013
12:15 PM ET

From migrant worker to neurosurgeon

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

(CNN) - Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa insists, "I just think of myself as a regular guy."

It's an incredible statement from someone who grew up in an impoverished Mexican village, illegally hopped the fence into California, attended Harvard Medical School and now works at Johns Hopkins Medicine as a neurosurgeon.

"I've never been one who declines adventure," he says.

Early life

The oldest of five children, Quinones-Hinojosa as a child had nightmares that he had to save his mother and siblings from fires, floods, avalanches, says his memoir, "Becoming Dr. Q," which he co-authored.

His interest in medicine may have stemmed from this sense of responsibility, along with his baby sister's death from colitis (the memoir is dedicated to her). At 6, though, he wanted to be an astronaut.

His father owned a gas station, and Quinones-Hinojosa worked there at age 5; his family lived in an apartment in the back. But as Mexico's economy took a dive, the business collapsed, along with the family's livelihood. Quinones-Hinojosa's father had to sell it for almost no profit. They later learned that gasoline had been leaking out of holes in the underground tanks.

The family used to eat meat once a week, but that became a luxury of the past. After the station was sold, they had to make do with flour tortillas and homemade salsa, he wrote.

Short visits to California's San Joaquin Valley, where Quinones-Hinojosa's uncle Fausto was a foreman at a ranch, gave Quinones-Hinojosa a glimpse into the United States - and the American dream. At age 14, he spent two months there pulling weeds, making money to bring back to his family.

That hard-earned cash proved that people like me were not helpless or powerless," he wrote.

As a teenager, Quinones-Hinojosa thought he would become an elementary school teacher. Despite his excellent grades at a teacher-training college, however, he was assigned a position in a remote, rural area; only politically-connected, wealthy kids got jobs in cities, he wrote. Quinones-Hinojosa's salary would be paltry.

His uncle agreed to let him work a short stint again at the California ranch to supplement his income, as doubts began to accumulate about his future as a teacher. A plan began to form in his mind.

Life's work: Mom's death inspires doctor's life work

Passage into the United States

Quinones-Hinojosa had $65 in his pocket when, the day before his 19th birthday in 1987, he decided to cross into the United States for a longer stay. He wasn't thinking about laws, he just wanted to escape poverty so that he could go back and feed his family, he says.

Risking arrest, deportation and even death, Quinones-Hinojosa had a plan: He would cross the border in a "Spider-man climb" up an 18-foot-fence, hop over the barbed wire and make a leap into California, he wrote.

Just when he made it across, border agents picked him up and sent him back to Mexico.

FULL STORY
'Star Trek's' Zoe Saldana on racism: 'I’m not going to talk about it'
May 17th, 2013
06:31 PM ET

'Star Trek's' Zoe Saldana on racism: 'I’m not going to talk about it'

(CNN) - Zoe Saldana is one of Hollywood's leading actresses, and she's making headlines as Uhura in "Star Trek Into Darkness." She crossed barriers as the lead in "Avatar," the highest grossing movie of all time. But how does being a woman of color impact her career choices and options? The actress, who is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent,  spoke about it in an interview with Ebony magazine's Kelley L. Carter:

EBONY: Speaking of color, it doesn’t seem to limit you. And it almost appears seamless. Is that true? Or have there been bumps along the way because you’re a woman of color?

Zoe Saldana: Nothing in life is just one layer. It’s one-layered (but) it’s multifaceted, and there are various factors that take place into making a decision or something happening. So the one thing I will say is, what has not changed is what I feel and think of myself and how I interact with the world, how I handle myself. I feel like I’m very confident. I’m going to have my moments of weakness, but I like who I am and I don’t want to be anybody else. I don’t want anybody to tell me to change when I don’t want to change.

So that’s just who I am. And when I approach something—whether I’m fighting for a role or I’m being offered a role—I’m not thinking whether or not anybody is doing me a favor or if I’m doing somebody else a favor. I’m just thinking, as an artist and as a woman, “is this something that best represents the craft that I want to be known for?” Or is this an accurate representation of what a woman is supposed to be?

And do I like this story? Do I like this director? Do I think the studio is going to manage and sell it properly. That’s where my head is at. I’m not thinking, “Oh, I’m a woman of color, are they gonna want me?” I don’t give too much energy to that, because my time is very valuable, and something that exists to others is not going to exist in my world. That’s how I think I get by, by not giving it any validation by wasting more time investing into thinking about it. FULL POST

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Filed under: Ethnicity • Pop culture • Race • Who we are
Immigration may be America's primary population growth driver by 2027
America is on its way to becoming a minority-majority nation.
May 17th, 2013
04:42 PM ET

Immigration may be America's primary population growth driver by 2027

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Here's something to consider as Congress debates overhauling America's immigration system: For the first time since at least 1850, immigrants will be the primary driver of U.S. population.

Births have been the leading cause of population growth since the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting data in 1850. That may change within the next 14 years.

The population growth shifts could happen as early as 2027 or as late as 2038, depending, of course, on the numbers of international arrivals over the next few years.

Not that immigration levels are at their highest, cautioned Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau's senior adviser. The rates were much higher during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But Americans are having fewer babies.

"This projected milestone reflects the mix of our nation's declining fertility rates, the aging of the baby boomer population and continued immigration," Mesenbourg said.

The Census Bureau issued three projections of population growth shifts based on different immigration levels. A high immigration projection showed that the nation's non-white population would jump from 37% in 2012 to 58.8% in 2060. Hispanics would make up 29.9% of the population, compared with 17% in 2012, and Asians would climb from 5.1% to 9%.

Non-Latino whites are projected to no longer be a majority by 2046, even if immigration levels stay the same.

Follow CNN's Moni Basu on Twitter

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Filed under: Diversity • Ethnicity • Immigration • Latino in America • Population • Who we are
May 14th, 2013
02:33 PM ET

These sisters met after 17 years apart

(WUSA) – After 17 years, two long-lost sisters meet by accident at a high school track race.

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Filed under: Family • How we live • Who we are
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