“Muslims” versus “Americans”?

I just ran across a book put out by the Gallup press last year, titled Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, by researchers John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. Gallup did tens of thousands of interviews with people in 35 predominantly or significantly Muslim countries, asking them an array of questions about their views of the West and Islam. Here is a bit of the Gallup summary of their findings:

Muslims around the world do not see the West as monolithic. They criticize or celebrate countries based on their politics, not based on their culture or religion.

All their points in the Gallup summary are presented as “counterintuitive discoveries.” And rather uncritically too. The Western bias even in this “liberal” analysis is obvious. It does not take much familiarity with the non-Western media online to know this in advance. Mainly for Westerners would this “duh” conclusion be “counterintuitive.”

In addition, the U.S./Western bias leaps out at the reader in the major part of the summary that accents Western “concerns” about Islam:

When asked to describe their dreams for the future, Muslims don’t mention fighting in a jihad, but rather getting a better job. . . . Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustified. . . . Those who condone acts of terrorism are a minority and are no more likely to be religious than the rest of the population. . . .

Again, this is not really counterintuitive for people living in these countries, or indeed I suspect in most of the non-Western world. Featuring this Western obsession over “jihad” in a major survey tells us much more about Western stereotyping of non-Western Muslims than it does about the latter (billion) citizens of planet Earth.

The summary adds this:

What Muslims around the world say they most admire about the West is its technology and its democracy — the same two top responses given by Americans when asked the same question.. . . . What Muslims around the world say they least admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values — the same responses given by Americans when posed the same question.

The strong and ethnocentric dichotomy throughout the summary is very revealing. There is the odd phrasing the Gallup folks use a couple of times: “Muslims and Americans.” And they carry out this dichotomy in describing (unmodified) “Muslims” and “Americans” as having similar values and views, but again without making it clear that millions of Muslims are indeed Americans. Apparently it does not occur to them that one can be both Muslim and American, all across the U.S.

The ethnocentrism and ignorance about Muslims, including U.S. Muslims, in the U.S. is indeed staggering. Maybe the naïve survey does move in the direction of seeing Muslims everywhere as human beings? As the summary notes:

Muslims around the world say that the one thing the West can do to improve relations with their societies is to moderate their views toward Muslims and respect Islam.

Indeed. And do a little research and reading.

Ethnocentrism and Communal Conflict in Africa


If ethnocentrism or so-called tribalism plays a catalyst role in community conflicts in sub Saharan Africa (Creative Commons License photo credit: Hitchster ), then more people in countries experiencing violent inter-communal conflict should express their ethnic identity as foremost and express stronger ties to their ethnic group. A look at Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe would tell us if this is so.

Violent inter-communal conflicts in so-called ‘trouble spots’ in Africa (Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe) are evidence of the chasms in these countries that have been described variously as weak, failing or collapsed. State weakness or failure and eventual collapse is also catalyzed by the proliferation of small arms, which are readily available because they are inexpensive, portable, easy to conceal and use, and the persistence of ethnocentrism – a phenomenon rather unlike racism in its economic and political outcomes of inequities, in that, allegiance to ethnic or cultural (tribal) group, patronage based on ethnicity (or race), family and kinship ties, and networks of ethnic interest trump other networks in society. I use the popular narrow definition of ‘ethnic’: primarily signifying cultural characteristics or traits. Extreme ethnocentrism manifests as ethnic hostility. And we know too about the role of religious intolerance in contributing to these violent inter-communal conflicts. One scholar thinks that “civil wars…usually stem from or have roots in ethnic, religious, linguistic or other inter-communal enmity; the “fear of the other that drives so much of ethnic conflict stimulates and fuels hostilities between regimes.” There is some empirical evidence that cultural differences, compared to economic (class) or political (political party) differences, contribute significantly to inter-communal violent conflicts in sub Saharan Africa.

The intensity of ethnocentrism in inter-communal conflict is indeed frightening one: it transforms long-time neighbors into mortal enemies overnight based on their ethnic affiliations. Long-time neighbors become marauding killers, and ethnic (or religious) differences become reasons for denying humanity to others, and all prior social relations and interactions cease to matter.
In sub Saharan Africa, the persistence of ethnocentrism – also known as a certain tribalism –in governance and politics has been one of the challenges of the post-independence period as efforts have been focused, sometimes unsuccessfully, on building nations and nationalisms that relied less on ethnicity and ethnic patronage; this post-independence period therefore has become a project tracking the challenges of nationalism and the bane of ethnic allegiances. Also, the level of inexpensive unregulated small arms and light weapons circulating freely on the black market since the end of the Cold War have led some observers to argue that in ‘poorer’ states where security is weak and governments are unstable, stockpiles of arms only worsen community clashes by extending the duration of violence.

If ethnocentrism, or so-called ‘tribalism’ plays a catalyst role in community conflicts, it must be predicated on a certain level of social distance between social groups; that is, the extent to which members of one ethnic group would accept a member of another ethnic group metaphorically and geographically. But precise measures of social distance among ethnic groups in African countries are not available. At best, we can use as proxy measures the (1) strength of ethnic identification, defined as: “the specific group you feel you belong to first and foremost besides nationality” or (2) the strength of ethnic attachment, defined as “the identity group to which you feel much stronger ties to other than people of your nationality”. Representative sampled data from the Afrobarometer surveys in 1999 to 2001 (round 1) and 2004 (round 2) allow us to examine the extent to which ethnocentrism is prevalent in a few of the sub Saharan African countries experiencing violent inter-communal conflict. The samples ensure that all ethnic groups as well as rural and urban dwellers are represented in the data. Of the so-called trouble spots in Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe were included in these surveys; so these three countries are the only test cases we can examine.

In our test cases (countries), we should expect (significantly) more respondents in the representative samples to choose their ethnic group as the one they belong to foremost and to say that they feel much stronger ties to their ethnic group members. This will be especially so in places where there have been cycles or recurrence of ethnic conflict so that the way people feel currently about their ethnicity (the strength of ethnic identity) could be strongly influenced by past ethnic violence. We could then suggest that the countries experiencing violent inter-communal conflict are more ethnocentric (tribalistic) or have not overcome ethnocentrism when compared to other African countries shown in the table.

Table 1: Which specific identity group do you feel you belong to first and foremost (1999-2001)

Country Percent choosing ethnic group
Nigeria 47.4%
Namibia 43.0
Malawi 39.1
Mali 38.5
Zimbabwe 36.0
South Africa 21.6

Country Percent choosing group other than ethnic
Tanzania 76.4%
Uganda 62.0
Lesotho 32.8
Zambia 32.9
Botswana 32.9

Note that in table 1, approximately 1 out of 2 Nigerians (47.4%), followed by Namibians (43%) chose tribe or ethnicity. Approximately 1 out of 3 (36%) Zimbabweans chose ethnicity. The proportion for Nigeria is significantly higher when compared to all the other countries except Namibia. The proportions of Zimbabweans choosing ethnic group are higher when compared to Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia; in these countries, more people did not say they belonged foremost to their ethnic group. Kenya was not included in this round of data collection, but is included in round 2 (2004).

Table 2: Feel much stronger ties to ethnic group than other nationals in country (1999-2001)
Country Feel stronger ties to
ethnic group

Nigeria 91.6%
South Africa 78.3
Namibia 75.7
Zimbabwe 69.8
Malawi 67.9

Respondents in a subset of countries (including our test countries) were asked about the strength of ties to their ethnic group in table 2. Here again, Nigerians emerge with higher percentages. Compare the rates of Nigerians to South Africans, Namibians and Malawians.

More countries were added to the surveys in 2004 (round 2), including Kenya. The results to the question “Which specific identity group do you feel you belong to first and foremost?” are shown in table 3.

Table 3: Which specific identity group do you feel you belong to first and foremost (2004)
Country Percent choosing ethnic group
Nigeria 49.3%
Ghana 39.4
Mali 36.0
Senegal 33.8
Mozambique 28.9
Namibia 20.9
Kenya 19.4
Zimbabwe 10.9
Country Percent choosing group other than ethnic
Uganda 55.2%
Tanzania 52.5
Zambia 39.1
South Africa 31.0
Cape Verde 30.1

Note that in this second round of data collection, half of Nigerians again say they feel they belong foremost to their ethnic group. But the numbers of Kenyans and Zimbabweans saying they belong foremost to their ethnic group are lower than in countries like Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Mozambique and Namibia. Indeed, the survey shows that more Kenyans say they belong foremost to their occupational group (credit dyer). In Zimbabwe, there has been a reduction in the number of Zimbabweans choosing ethnic group in 2004 compared to data from 1999-2001; it is not clear why this is so. Indeed, in this round, more Zimbabweans chose their religious group as foremost. The question: “Do you feel much stronger ties to ethnic group than other nationals in country?” was not asked in 2004.


So, we can say that of our three test cases, Nigerians seem to confirm our argument. But there is a caveat: these results do not account for the widely reported inter-communal violent conflicts in which religious affiliation has been fingered as a contributory factor. Shouldn’t the surveys reveal a certain level of religion-centrism based on well documented conflicts between Christians and Moslems in the North of Nigeria? Even so, clearly, the number of Nigerians choosing ethnicity as their foremost group is remarkable when compared to other countries in the tables; the data describe Nigeria’s historical struggle for ethnic harmony.

Results for Zimbabweans are mixed – in 1999-2001, one in three Zimbabweans felt they belonged foremost to their ethnic group, and most Zimbabweans felt stronger ties to their ethnic group. But in 2004, fewer Zimbabweans felt they belonged foremost to their ethnic group. What can we make of these results from Zimbabwe? We know of the intransigence of the Mugabe regime and the reported brutality of his party machine dating back several years. But, has the political climate suppressed feelings of ethnic identification and attachment; could this be an unintended effect of political repression and economic depression? Why is it that there are more people choosing religious identity versus ethnicity between the two survey periods? Could it be that feelings of ethnic identity and attachment are mutable so that they are affected (suppressed or heightened) by prevailing social, political and economic conditions in the country?
For Kenya, the results do not support our argument; the data from 2004 tell us that 2 out of 10 Kenyans consider their ethnic identity as foremost. But, unlike Nigeria and Zimbabwe, Kenya has not had internecine ethnic conflicts in the past. The results lead me to conclude that in Kenya, class warfare has perhaps more to do with the violent inter-communal conflict than mere ethnicity. This is because more Kenyans chose occupational group; and we know that one’s occupation determines earnings and therefore socio-economic rank. If strong identification and attachment to ethnic group plays a role in violent conflict in Kenya, it must interact with occupational or stark economic dissatisfaction or differences.

These results have one caveat; the data are 6-10 years old and do not tell us about current ethnic feelings. And if feelings about ethnic identity and attachment are mutable, as suggested, then these data may only reflect ethnic feelings of 6-10 years ago. Should we then expect data from 2008 and 2009 (when collected) to show spikes in ethnic feelings especially in Kenya due to the ethnic violence in the wake of the 2008 elections? But what can we expect from Zimbabwe? Are there other unidentified factors accounting for these cultural cleavages?”
Continue reading…

Who Learns a Second Language?

In response to my post on bystander intervention last month, an anonymous commentator maintained that the behavior of a deli clerk in an ABC News social experiment was not racist. Rather, the commentator argued, the deli clerk was reacting to the lack of assimilation on the part of the Mexican day laborers who could not place their order because of their lack of English proficiency. If they want to live in the United States, Anonymous asked, shouldn’t they learn English? Aside from the victim-blaming nature of the comment, I thought that Anonymous raised an interesting question, and in my brief reply, I mentioned that I’ve traveled to many countries where English is not the primary language and where I could not speak the native language, but I was always assisted by native speakers in ordering food, getting directions, finding transportation, and the like. Moreover, I pointed out that learning a foreign language takes time. But in thinking more about Anonymous’ question, I was compelled to explore the issue of foreign language acquisition further.

I was curious, for example, to learn just how long it does take for a non-English speaker to become proficient enough in English to be functionally literate (i.e., to be able to perform basic tasks of everyday living without difficulty). Not surprisingly, a number of factors play a part. One of the most important variables is the amount of formal schooling individuals have received in their first language. In a longitudinal study (1982-1996) of about 700,000 English language students who had no background in English, Wayne Thomas and Virginia Collier found that children 8-11 years old who had had 2-3 years of formal education in their native language took 5-7 years to become proficient enough in English to reach native speaker performance (i.e., 50th percentile) on normed tests. However, individuals with little or no formal schooling in their native language (e.g., children younger than 8, or individuals who were below grade level in reading and writing in their native language) took 7-10 years to reach native speaker performance. Thomas and Collier reported that these findings do not differ by native language (e.g., they studied Asian and Hispanic students), country of origin, or socioeconomic status, although we know that socioeconomic status itself is directly related to educational achievement.

Drawing on Thomas and Collier’s findings, Judie Haynes, writing for everythingESL.net, argues that maintenance of literacy in one’s native language should be encouraged and fostered while English is being learned, and she advocates a developmental bilingual or two-way immersion program in U.S. schools, an idea that “assimilationists” would no doubt consider anathema. Additional research, though, supports Haynes’ position, showing that bilingualism is positively, not negatively, associated with scholarly achievement (see, for example, research cited by Alejandro Portes and Ruben Rumbaut in Immigrant America: A Portrait, 3/e, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006, especially Chapter 7). But other studies indicate that the assimilationists needn’t worry: Among immigrant families to the United States, monolingualism is the norm within one or two generations after arrival. Portes and Rumbaut examine research that shows a clear historical pattern in which first generation immigrants learn enough English to get by, but continue to speak their native language at home and often in social settings with other immigrants; the second generation – those who immigrated as children with their parents or were born here – may speak the language of their parents at home, but English everywhere else, thus becoming fluent English speakers and “anglicized.” Members of the third generation typically speak only English, both at home and elsewhere (see also analyses by the Pew Hispanic Center). As Portes and Rumbaut argue:

Fears of linguistic and cultural fragmentation, like fears of ethnic radicalism, play well in the popular press, and harping on them has made the fame and fortune of many a pundit. However, historical and contemporary evidence indicates that English has never been threatened as the dominant language of the United States and that, with well over two hundred million monolingual English speakers, it is not threatened today. The real threat has been to the viability of other languages . . . (p. 242).

Indeed, the National Association for Bilingual Education reports that compared with other countries, the United States lags far behind in terms of the percentage of citizens who speak a second language. While only 9% of Americans speak both their native language and another language fluently, 50% of Europeans are fully bilingual. As Portes and Rumbaut quip,

“What do you call a person who speaks two languages?”
“And one who knows only one?”
“American.” (p. 207)

Though humorous, one unfortunate outcome of the reality this fictitious dialogue represents is that by stubbornly adhering to the false “English-only ideal,” most Americans “[sacrifice] the possibility of looking at things from a different perspective and [become] bound to the symbols and perceptions embedded in a single tongue” (Portes and Rumbaut, p. 242).

Stereotyping the Irish: Senator McCain Continues US Tradition

A few days ago a rather clueless John McCain told a standard joke about Irish Americans and drunkenness. In response, Seamus Boyle, the National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, sent him this September 23, 2008 letter:

Dear Senator McCain, Thank you for meeting with us on Monday September 22 in Scranton Pennsylvania to discuss our issues concerning the Irish American community. You did address the seven issues which we had given to you on a previous occasion and we were generally satisfied with your answers and your ideas to implement action on our behalf should you be elected in November. It was a great meeting but when you began your speech with a joke about the Irish, I and many of our fellow Irish Americans in the Ancient Order of Hibernians, were shocked. It was really an insult to a whole nationality to be stereotyped as drunks. The Irish are a jovial people who enjoy life, work hard, help the needy, support our community and our country yet get depicted as drunkards and partiers. As you stated in your speech yesterday the Irish have a great education and work ethic. Senator, I was not the only one offended and I received numerous complaints from a variety of people throughout Pennsylvania and other parts of the country. On behalf of these people, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and myself and my family, I wish you would refrain from demeaning the Irish or any other ethnic group by telling such jokes in the future. I think an apology is in order to those millions of Irish in the United States who were offended by your joke.

As an Irish American, I have had this response for years now to all such Irish stereotyping and joking, and I think it is well beyond time to take all such widespread ethnic and racist stereotyped joking out of the U.S. communication system in public frontstage settings and in the private backstage.

It would be particularly good too, in my view, if powerful national organizations like this would take on all racist and ethnic joking as hurtful, inappropriate, degrading of this society, and stimulative of discrimination, as they hint at in the next to last sentence, and make it a major organizational cause to press for national education about such racist and ethnic joking and stereotyping.

Indeed, we need to start teaching Stereotyping 101 at all levels of U.S. education. It is odd that almost no US school system anywhere that I know of has even 6 weeks of Stereotyping 101 required of all children at any grade level. Why is that? I welcome your thoughts and comments on that, and how to change this reality.

From Benin, West Africa: There is water in the Jar!

[Yanick responds from Africa to a post by Yoku on ethnic conflict in Africa.]

Benin is a model of pluralism in Africa. Supporting this idea are recent interviews I conducted in various parts of Benin. The data show the Beninese having no problem with interethnic marriage. This marriage is a welcome “brassage,” because adding a “different flavor” to the existing mix. The pierced jar, a national symbol of unity is no longer pierced. It is holding water. Its holes are filled by citizen participation.>Why is Benin so far from the African ethnic conflict normative? Or, is this normative another construction of African reality? (photo: mercywatch).

On tribalism and racism. These “isms” originate from different sources: one cultural, the other perceived-biological. Chances of deconstructing the cultural seem greater than influencing perceptions of the biological. Though in many ways (not every way) their outcomes appear similar, I dare say tribal (or ethnic) ethnocentrism is different from that which leads to racism. Along the same line, I see a difference between stereotypes of Africans originating from African neighbors and stereotypes of Africans in the West. Yes, in America the same stereotypes might be “racist and crass,” but because directed at a racial outgroup. While in Ghana (staying with the same example) the stereotypes also target an outgroup, it is an ethnic outgroup which, outside of that country, is transformed into a national ingroup.

The Beninese I interviewed express deep discontent at the treatment of “Africans” in France, this without ethnic distinctions. The attack comes from outside of the African continent, so differences with the attacker appear greater. Fon, Yoruba, Dendi, Bariba, Mina, or other, Africans unite with their African brothers and sisters. Internationalization of the problem sheds light on the relative meanings of stereotypes, ingroups and outgroups. (Photo: Djéhami, Queen of Allada)

Finally, it is time to minimize focus on the role of colonizers in ethnic conflict and maximize research on the contributions of ethnic groups in their own problems. While it is important to recognize the intersections of history and biography and be guided by memory, the more responsibility placed on the colonizer for contemporary problems, the more gains for this colonizer in terms of power and superiority. Using Benin as model of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa, how can Africans in Africa and the Diaspora contribute to a peaceful resolution of ethnic conflicts wherever they exist, seems to me a much more positive and respectful approach which assumes Africans capable of mistakes, of thinking, and of conducting their own affairs.

~ Yanick St. Jean
Fulbright Fellow
Benin, Africa

Ethnic Conflict in Sub Saharan Africa: Parallels to US Racism?

Recent intercommunal conflicts in Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe bring to mind the role of a certain ethnocentrism or tribalism in conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa. In Rwanda, the genocide that took place because of enmity between Hutus and Tutsis has become our contemporary example of tribalism gone wild and uncontrolled. Similar conflicts in Kenya between the Luos and Kikuyus, in Liberia between the Americo-Liberians and the native Africans, in Nigeria between Northern Hausa/Fulani and the Southern Ibos and/or Yorubas have been equally violent and tragic (map image from here).

What we are yet to uncover is a mapping of how ethnic differences become prominent; in the narrative reports from the recent conflicts in Kenya, there were incidents of long-time neighbors turning against each other; we find the same narratives from Rwanda and Liberia where neighbors and friends become enemies overnight. How do ethnic differences turn into tragic violence between groups? Are some African countries better able to prevent ethnic differences from turning into violent communal conflicts? When and how do ethnic differences trump peaceful and fruitful social interactions over time between two groups? How remarkable is it that the 11 countries listed above constitute a third of all the countries in that region? These are questions that speak to the extent of social distance among ethnic groups.

Most importantly, does this tribalism or ethnocentrism in sub-Saharan Africa bear any resemblance to white racism in America and Europe? I think so, when we consider the outcomes of it – ethnic or racial patronage, economic rewards that accrue to citizens based on tribal or ethnic and racial affiliations, and the violence that one race/ethnic group/tribe visits on the other.

In Africa, after independence, the emergent nation-states shunned tribal-based or ethnic-based political parties – the so-called ‘tribal unions’ were not consonant with the ideals of the new nationalism based on a progressive ideal of a community of diverse ethnic groups. Even there, some of the political parties evolved along tribal or ethnic lines. The strain between the traditional structures (chiefs, kings and their privileged groups) and the nationalists was palpable and, I argue, has not completely subsided.

Another important factor is the sinister role Europeans played in heightening inter-ethnic tensions and conflicts, as noted by historical accounts (compare, for instance volumes 7 & 8 of the General History of Africa, published by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO). To what extent can we ascribe the current post-independence ethnic or tribal torment to the distal insidious machinations of colonizers who clearly favored one ethnic over others? For instance, we need to map the historical distal role the British played in instigating the Biafra War in Nigeria; and the historical distal role the Belgians played in the genocide in Rwanda and the current political and economic morass in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Liberia, we would need to map the historical distal role of racism in fomenting and justifying the domination of the Americo-Liberians over the ethnic groups of the interior including the Kru and the Mano. We know that the tension between these groups eventually led to a brutal civil war in the country.

We need to study these two phenomena – racism and tribalism – together more closely. Africans from south of the Sahara who cry ‘woe’ when they encounter racism in America, must search themselves for ideas of ethnic or tribal superiority as well and how these tribal ideas configure social relations in their countries of birth.

In reality, ethnic or tribal stereotypes persist in Africa. Recently (May 2008), I received from a friend an email spewing stereotypes (some negative) about four ethnic groups in Ghana [compare a similar posting here]; at first, I laughed at the rambling message; but the subtext was troubling; the email was spreading stereotypes I had heard growing up some 40 years ago in Ghana (credit dyer). I wondered: how can the repetition of these stereotypes help social interaction among groups? Such an email regurgitating stereotypes about racial groups in America would be racist and crass and it is no less when it is about groups in Africa. The consequences of lingering racial, ethnic and tribal stereotypes can be tragic – in the US and sub Saharan Africa. Ultimately, these stereotypes suggest a certain level of social distance – spatially and metaphorically.

I think we must instigate a global analysis of tribal, ethnic, racist thinking to see where they overlap and how we can combat them. We should survey African immigrants about their attitudes on ethnicity, and to what effect their perceptions of tribal or ethnic superiority interact with their experiences of racism.

But I think there is a broader research agenda here as well; how does white racism abet ideas or perceptions of ethnic group superiority in other continents and countries?

~ Yoku Shaw-Taylor PhD
National Opinion Research Center
University of Chicago

Happy St. Patrick’s Day: The Only Irish Catholic President

The discussions of “only” candidates, Obama and Clinton, remind me on this St. Patrick’s Day, of another first. In a recent book, I describe the historical “firsts” for Irish Catholic Americans this way:

Alfred E. Smith, the Democratic candidate for president in 1928, was the first Irish Catholic to carve out an important role in presidential politics. Yet his Catholic religion counted against him in this first Irish Catholic presidential campaign. Not until 1960, more than three hundred years after the first few Irish Catholics had come to the United States and more than a century after sizable Irish Catholic communities had been established, was the first and only Irish Catholic (also only Catholic) president elected. Six of the thirty-six presidents, from Washington to Nixon, had Irish American backgrounds, but except for John Kennedy all of these were Protestant Irish, as were the more recent presidents, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

In the 1960 presidential election, Irish Catholic votes in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania helped to create John Kennedy’s narrow victory. As president, Kennedy acted not only on behalf of Irish Americans but also, to some extent, on behalf of America’s other emergent urban racial-ethnic groups. Thus, Kennedy appointed the first Italian American and the first Polish American to a presidential cabinet and the first African American to head an independent government agency.

I might add too that it was black voters in a few states, like Texas, that also gave key states to Kennedy. There are some interesting comparisons and contrasts here with this year’s election.