Two Jews, three opinions

Ethnic differences don’t all need to be A Problem.

A certain woman has struggled for some years with alcoholism.  I have followed her case because she’s close to me and because I am, after all, an alcoholic myself.

Her husband recently told me she’s been put on two new medications, neither of which I’d heard of before.  One is a daily tablet, Naltrexone, that costs about $1.00/day.  The other is a monthly injection, Vivitrol, that consists of the exact same material but costs $1,200/month, forty times as much.  I find from the Wikipedia article that this medication is optimally effective, or only effective, in persons who have a specific gene.  That gene only occurs in white people.  This got me to thinking.

Different ethnic groups are prone to different diseases.  African-Americans, alone, are subject to sickle cell anemia, and are also more prone than whites to high blood pressure.  Jews are more prone than gentiles to heart disease.  Ethnic groups from the area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea are susceptible to Thalassemia.  There is no controversy about these things.  No one that I know of regards them as A Problem.

If your DNA can yield such a detailed portrait of your appearance, what else about you may it influence?  Original post: Amazing

St. Bernards aren’t chihuahuas

There are well-defined and detailed profiles of the different medical conditions different breeds of dogs and cats are prone to, as well as their different personalities.  Some are more prone than others to blindness, or hip problems, for example; others more prone to wander off.  Some are better than others around children.  Some are more intelligent than others.  There is no controversy that I know of about these things; though for personal reasons someone may prefer certain breeds and dis-prefer others, no one that I know of regards these differences in themselves as A Problem.

Related: Dog Breed Characteristics
Related: Dog Health: Inherited Health Disorders And Diseases By Breed
Related: Cat Breed Center
Related: Personalities of 12 Popular Cat Breeds

Ends and Beginnings, a blog I follow, recently posted at length about the personality and favorite habits of the author’s rat terrier, characteristic of the breed.  There’s a lot more to this than I had supposed.  Previously, all I knew about terriers, all terriers, is that they’re yappy; and, for that reason alone, I personally would never want to own one.  Whether or not it bothers me, however, it clearly doesn’t bother them.

In “What the little birds told me,” I noted that starlings are, in general, far more quarrelsome than sparrows.  It was painful for me to watch.  Is this A Problem?  Whether or not it bothers me, it clearly doesn’t bother them.

I propose accepting and respecting similar ethnic differences among human beings.

Two Jews, three opinions

Jews tend to be more opinionated than gentiles, and to be more assertive of their opinions.  There are exceptions on both sides, of course, but the trait is prominent enough to prompt the remark I first heard from Jews themselves:  “Two Jews, three opinions.”

From a different angle, animated expressions of opinion can devolve into quarrels.  The constant bickering between George’s parents on Seinfeld was always difficult for me to watch.  As a personality trait among Jews, this may well date from the very beginning: at Genesis 45:24, in sending his brothers back to Canaan to get their father, Joseph told them, “Do not quarrel along the way.”  Jesus told his disciples something similar at Mark 9:33.

Jews are more likely than gentiles to enjoy haggling over the price of a prospective purchase.  They are more prone than gentiles to display the Type A personality.  As to academic achievement, Jews made up 40% of the student body of the elite private college I went to — more than twice the percentage of Jews in the country as a whole.

There may be genetic bases for these traits.

Immigrants have come to the United States from all over the world, bringing first languages that include Swedish, Norwegian, German, Italian, Yiddish, Arabic, Igbo, Swahili, Japanese, and any of the five languages that together are known as Chinese.  No group, no group, has been so resistant to acquiring English as a second language, as current immigrants from Central America.  I am sensitive to this because, in my years as a school teacher, I taught many immigrant children: from Central America, but many also from Korea, Viet Nam and Greece.  But you won’t hear or see any of those languages in the signage at the clinic, on the display at your ATM, or in recorded messages that are played out loud on the bus or answer phones.  The Central Americans’ first language is ubiquitous, and it’s the only one.

It is possible that folk of Central American ethnicity are simply less equipped physiologically, than those of European or Asian or African ethnicity, for second language acquisition.

Makes me wanna holler

The dining room at the homeless shelter where I stay is about 40 feet wide and 60 feet long.  The other night, they gave us pizza for supper — lots of it — and Shon got excited.  He was hollerin’ at guys at the distant far ends of the room — this one, that one, the other one.

The population at the shelter is 75% black.  The black guys aren’t all loud, but the loud guys are all black.  All.  Does it bother me?  It doesn’t seem to bother them.  They don’t seem to feel that it’s  A Problem.

Numerous differences between black folk and white folk pertain to how they value different uses of the voice.  Black folk are more likely than whites to enjoy melisma; ululations; a repetitiveness prone to induce a trance; and screaming; as, for example, in the works of J. J. Hairston.

The achievement gap

When school desegregation in the United States began in earnest, circa 1965, it quickly became clear that black children weren’t performing as well in school as their white peers.  At once, this was almost universally declared A Problem.  It conflicts with the American ideal of equality — albeit, at the time, equality was presumed to mean sameness.

On this one issue, it largely still is.

It’s safe to say that, in American education, more heartbreak, indignation and zeal, not to mention money, has been spent on this one issue than on any other; from the time it first appeared until now, and continuing.

The confound of poverty

Confounding the understanding of this issue, and any hopes for a solution, is the fact that childhood poverty definitely inhibits academic achievement; and 40% of black children in America are poor, as contrasted with only 20% of whites, albeit in raw numbers there are twice as many poor whites as poor blacks.

Two studies done exclusively on white children in the U.K. demonstrate the relation between poverty and academic underachievement.  One found flat out that Poor white children have smaller brains than their mainstream peers.  Another found the achievement gap between poor and mainstream whites to be so profound by the time children first enter school, that it can never be made up.

Finally, poverty militates against development of the emotional maturity essential to success in school — or life.  Related:  Wisdom teaching in poor black homes.

As to the special “predicament” facing young black males, a report on the work of Robert Ferguson, “Peer Pressure, Stereotypes Fuel Minority Students’ Struggles,” notes:

For starters, Ferguson writes, efforts to dismantle the predicament should begin at birth, especially since research has shown that male children of color at each parental education level lag their peers in cognitive skills by age 2.

In other words, when poverty is removed from the equation, the disparity still appears — practically from birth.

On the one hand, Ferguson’s proposal to basically overhaul the whole black world, from the cradle forward, would entail financial costs beyond our imagination, and cultural costs as well — possibly the complete loss of black culture as we know it.

On the other hand, that Ferguson calls for intervention suggests he sees the disparity as A Problem.

I don’t.

This little light of mine

Justice requires accepting each person as the person is, without insisting he or she become what she or he is not.

I have written elsewhere:

Matthew 5:

14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

… God has given human beings infinitely many different ways to bring light into this world.  Paul correctly says in 1 Corinthians 12:

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

We may think of those who excel in art, or music, or sports.  Some do more in one, others in others.  But even each of those fields has many dimensions within itself, so that one person may excel at one and another person at another.

Vladimir Ashkenazy excels at playing the piano works of Rachmaninoff, which very few can play.  He’s brilliant — but probably would not be as outstanding playing Beethoven, or the violin, or (God forbid) the trombone.  In those activities, other folks can shine.

Rodin excelled as a sculptor, not a painter, and of van Gogh the opposite was true.  Just among photographers, some are relatively more gifted at producing images in black and white, and others images in color.

LeBron James was born with a specific collection of attributes specific to success in basketball.  Michael Phelps has a corresponding set of attributes for swimming.  But put LeBron in the swimming pool and Michael on the court, and neither one is likely to do as well.

Related:  There’s A Fascinating New Theory About What Makes LeBron James So Good

Some excel at homemaking, others at parenting, others at gardening, others at tending animals.  Some excel at building design, others at construction, others at demolition.

There is no end to the different ways in which any person may excel.

Subsequent related news:

08/09/22 — Civil rights groups, including Al Sharpton-led organization, urge USDA to fix ‘dietary racism’ in school lunch programs | The Hill

4 thoughts on “Two Jews, three opinions

  1. If we can see people as individuals with their own skill set, we will be much closer to a country/world where people are judged by “the content of their character.”
    Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” will be out en Español soon. It’s about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
    Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:

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