Indigenous Mexicans survive pandemic by drawing on tradition in the absence of government action

By Jeffrey H. Cohen, The Ohio State University

While the coronavirus hammers Mexico, some Indigenous communities in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca are finding creative ways to cope. Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s poorest and most ethnically diverse states, is home to numerous Indigenous communities, including the Zapotec people. I have spent many years in the central valleys of Oaxaca conducting anthropological research in rural Zapotec villages, documenting the people’s lives, migration patterns and food culture. Oaxaca. TUBS/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY
Now, my summer research in Oaxaca canceled due to the pandemic, I am learning from afar how the Zapotec are confronting the coronavirus given such complicating factors as chronic poverty, inadequate health care, limited internet, language barriers and a lack of running water.

Video: Why does it matter how pandemic data is controlled?

By Julia Lane, New York University

The Conversation Editor’s note: When the Trump administration ordered hospitals to report COVID-19 data to the Department of Health and Human Services rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they had been doing, it provoked worries and criticism from public health experts. The White House said that the HHS system will provide more accurate data faster, but the switch did raise concerns that political considerations would influence what data is reported. Professor of public policy Julia Lane, who recently published the book “Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto,” explains why public data is vital to public health and democracy in general. What was the main concern over the data? The whole point of having a career civil service running public data systems is that, because they can’t be fired, they have the integrity to produce the statistics the best way possible.

Brands may support anti-racism movement, but advertising still needs to decolonise

Carl W Jones, University of Westminster

Brands such as Nike and Adidas to PG Tips and Space NK have been expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement by issuing statements and adverts of support – from Nike playing with their memorable tagline of “Just Do It” by asking consumers “for once, Don’t Do It” to the #Solidaritea hashtag taken up by many tea brands. Many of these messages have been accompanied by promises to take a hard look at each company’s history and current working practises to see what changes can be made to address structural racism. The idea that we need to decolonise various areas of society is finally growing. But the idea itself is, of course, nothing new. Calls and attempts to decolonise curriculums, public transport systems, museum collections, healthcare systems and so on have been around for a while, but finally many appear to be taking it a bit more seriously.

Illustration of criss-crossed string pinned to European countries.

Accents, language differences spark fear amid the coronavirus pandemic

By Stanley Dubinsky, University of South Carolina; Kaitlyn E. Smith, University of South Carolina, and Michael Gavin, University of South Carolina

As the coronavirus spreads around the globe, it’s being characterized by media and politicians alike as an “invisible enemy.” People are afraid others may carry the virus but not show symptoms of the disease it causes – especially strangers, who may or may not have taken proper precautions against spreading the disease. It is this fear of strangers that causes people to be on heightened alert for anyone who might be somehow different. In some cases, the differences are visible, matters of physiological appearance and perhaps dress, leading to the racism and general fear of foreigners that has seen Asians attacked in Australia and the United States, and Africans kicked out of their homes in China. As researchers of people’s language differences, we find that our preliminary research and anecdotal evidence reveal another sort of discrimination, which happens when people’s differences are audible, not visible. Studies have shown that the language or dialect a person speaks is far and away the most important marker of group and national identity, and is the means by which people can immediately and accurately recognize strangers among them.

Un trabajador agrícola mantiene el campo limpio de hierbas con el tractor donde se cosecha la fresa en Oxnard, California. (Photo: Martha Ramírez/El Nuevo Sol)

Coronavirus threatening seasonal farmworkers at the heart of the American food supply

By Michael Haedicke, Drake University

Many Americans may find bare grocery store shelves the most worrying sign of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their food system. But, for the most part, shortages of shelf-stable items like pasta, canned beans and peanut butter are temporary because the U.S. continues to produce enough food to meet demand – even if it sometimes takes a day or two to catch up. To keep up that pace, the food system depends on several million seasonal agricultural workers, many of whom are undocumented immigrants from Mexico and other countries. These laborers pick grapes in California, tend dairy cows in Wisconsin and rake blueberries in Maine. As a sociologist who studies agricultural issues, including farm labor, I believe that these workers face particular risks during the current pandemic that, if unaddressed, threaten keeping those grocery store shelves well stocked.

Census form and mailbox

Fear may keep undocumented immigrants out of 2020 census, hurt communities

By Mary Lehman Held, University of Tennessee

The United States might not be able to get information about more than 10 million people in the 2020 census. That’s the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Another 16.7 million individuals live in a household with an undocumented member and so might also not be counted in this year’s census. The primary reason that undocumented immigrants might forego participation in the 2020 census? Fear.

All Latinos don’t vote the same way – their place of origin matters

By Eliza Willis, Grinnell College and Janet A. Seiz, Grinnell College

Joe Biden won Florida’s 2020 Democratic primary, capturing a majority of the state’s Latino voters. Polls have been tracking the Latino vote in Democratic presidential primaries, and many analysts are trying to predict which candidate Latinos might favor in November. Interest in Florida has been especially strong. Observers commonly speak of “the Latino vote” as if Latinos make up a distinct and unified interest group. This both overstates and understates Latinos’ uniqueness.

Children of color already make up the majority of kids in many US states

By Rogelio Sáenz, The University of Texas at San Antonio and Dudley L. Poston, Jr., Texas A&M University

Demographers project that whites will become a minority in the U.S. in around 2045, dropping below 50% of the population. That’s a quarter-century from now – still a long way away, right? Not if you focus on children. White children right now are on the eve of becoming a numerical minority. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that, by the middle of 2020, nonwhites will account for the majority of the nation’s 74 million children.

A sacred light in the darkness: Winter solstice illuminations at Spanish missions

By Rubén G. Mendoza, California State University, Monterey Bay

On Saturday, Dec. 21, nations in the Northern Hemisphere will mark the winter solstice – the shortest day and longest night of the year. For thousands of years people have marked this event with rituals and celebrations to signal the rebirth of the sun and its victory over darkness. At hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of missions stretching from northern California to Peru, the winter solstice sun triggers an extraordinarily rare and fascinating event – something that I discovered by accident and first documented in one California church more than 20 years ago. At dawn on Dec.

Adding ratings on source reliability helps limit spread of misinformation

By Antino Kim, Indiana University; Alan R. Dennis, Indiana University; Patricia L. Moravec, University of Texas at Austin, and Randall K. Minas, University of Hawaii

Online misinformation has significant real-life consequences, such as measles outbreaks and encouraging racist mass murderers. Online misinformation can have political consequences as well. The problem of disinformation and propaganda misleading social media users was serious in 2016, continued unabated in 2018 and is expected to be even more severe in the coming 2020 election cycle in the U.S.

Most people think they can detect deception efforts online, but in our recent research, fewer than 20% of participants were actually able to correctly identify intentionally misleading content. The rest did no better than they would have if they flipped a coin to decide what was real and what wasn’t. 

Both psychological and neurological evidence shows that people are more likely to believe and pay attention to information that aligns with their political views – regardless of whether it’s true.

The Supreme Court and refugees at the southern border: 5 questions answered

By Karla Mari McKanders, Vanderbilt University

I sat in a small room in Tijuana, Mexico with a 13-year-old indigenous Mayan Guatemalan girl. She left Guatemala after a cartel murdered her friend and threatened to rape her. Her mother wanted her to live and believed the only way for her to survive was to send her daughter alone to the U.S., to apply for asylum. Now she was alone and stuck in Mexico. Every morning, the Guatemalan girl, along with other asylum seekers, would frantically gather at the Tijuana-U.S. border where they waited to hear their name or their number called so the Mexican government could escort them to the U.S. border.

Far fewer Mexican immigrants are coming to the US — and those who do are more educated

By Rogelio Sáenz, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Once upon a time, not long ago, Mexicans dominated the flow of migrants coming to the U.S. Mexican migration expanded over the course of much of the 20th century and into the start of the 21st century. That is no longer the case. The number of Mexican migrants fell during the economic recession and has continued to fall further after the U.S. economy recovered. The downturn of Mexican migration
Data from the annual American Community Surveys, which I analyze in my research on Mexican migration, show that the number of foreign-born Mexicans migrating to the U.S. in the previous year fell from 2003 to 2017. The numbers tell the story, with the volume of Mexican migration dropping from nearly 1.7 million in 2003-2007 to 778,000 in 2013-2017.

Democrats debate the repeal of Section 1325 – what you need to know about the immigration law that criminalizes unauthorized border crossings

By Kit Johnson, University of Oklahoma

During the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 race, former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro challenged all candidates to join his call for the repeal of a controversial immigration law. The law, Section 1325 of Title 8 of the U.S. Code, makes entering the United States “at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers” a federal crime. It’s among the most prosecuted federal crimes in the United States. Thousands of defendants are charged with violating Section 1325 each month. The government shouldn’t “criminalize desperation,” Castro argued.

Image by HeatherPaque from Pixabay

How American giving shifted amid 2018 tax changes and stock market losses

Una Osili, IUPUI and Sasha Zarins, IUPUI

The sweeping tax reforms that took effect in 2018 meant fewer Americans could itemize their taxes and benefit from the charitable deduction. Has that brought about any dramatic changes in charitable giving? We are the lead researcher and an author of Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018, which the Giving USA Foundation releases every year in partnership with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Overall, our team found, total giving was virtually flat in 2018. It increased by 0.7% in current dollars to US$427.71 billion.

Fathers need to care for themselves as well as their kids – but often don’t

By Derek M. Griffith, Vanderbilt University and Elizabeth C. Stewart, Vanderbilt University

If you had to choose, which would you rather have: a healthy father or a good father? Studies suggest men often choose being a good father over being healthy. Becoming a father is a major milestone in the life of a man, often shifting the way he thinks from being “me focused” to “we focused.” But fatherhood can also shift how men perceive their health. Our research has found that fathers can view health not in terms of going to the doctor or eating vegetables but how they hold a job, provide for their family, protect and teach their children, and belong to a community or social network. As founder and director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health at Vanderbilt University and as a postdoctoral fellow from Meharry Medical College, we study why men live shorter lives than women, male attitudes about fatherhood, how to help men engage in healthier behavior – as well as what can be done to reduce men’s risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The Kentucky Derby has a secret Latino history

By E. Gabrielle Kuenzli, University of South Carolina
This Triple Crown season, which opens on May 4 with the Kentucky Derby, horses with Latin American bloodlines are among the top favorites. Two 2019 derby contenders – Vekoma and Game Winner – are half brothers and the offspring of Candy Ride, one of Argentina’s most famous thoroughbreds. Now retired, Candy Ride shares his winning genes freely – well, for a stud fee of US$80,000 – at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky. That two top Derby contenders have their roots in Latin America is no surprise for those who study, as I do, the history of the sport. Many past Kentucky Derby champions hailed from the region – as have their trainers, owners and jockeys.

Central American women fleeing violence experience more trauma after seeking asylum

Laurie C. Heffron, St. Edward’s University

The number of Central American women who make difficult, often harrowing, journeys to the United States to flee domestic and gang violence is rising. I’m a social science researcher and a social worker who has interviewed hundreds of women after they were detained by immigration authorities for my research about the relationship between violence against women and migration. I find that most female asylum seekers experience trauma, abuse and violence before they cross the U.S. border seeking asylum. What these women go through while detained by Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement can take an additional physical, social and emotional toll.

If my measles shot was years ago, am I still protected? 5 questions answered

By Eyal Amiel, University of Vermont

As the measles outbreaks spread, many people are growing concerned. New York City declared a public health emergency and mandated vaccinations in four ZIP codes where vaccination rates have been low. A Israeli flight attendant is in a coma from being infected with the highly contagious disease. As a professor who teaches courses in immunology, microbiology and vaccine public policy, I research the fundamental processes of how our bodies respond to infections and vaccines to generate protective immunity. In my teaching, I work with students to develop an understanding of the complexity of these issues and encourage them to engage in the public discourse on these topics from balanced and informed perspective.

On Mexico’s southern border, migrants seek to survive one day at a time

Stacey Wilson-Forsberg, Wilfrid Laurier University and Iván Francisco Porraz Gómez, ECOSUR

The day we arrive in Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, the southern Mexican state that borders Guatemala, all is quiet. A violent confrontation had occurred just the day before: Central American migrants, mostly from Honduras, had thrown rocks at Mexican migration officials who attempted to stop their entry into Mexico over the international bridge. Many of the migrants hope their final destination will be a better life in the United States. As we approach the town, we chance upon a small caravan of about 30 men, women and children walking along the road in the scorching sun. They are in rough shape and we decide not to take photos today.