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MSU students decipher American relationships

Michigan State University's journalism students are leading a worthy journalistic adventure to explore the cohesive nature of the American experience.

Since 2013, they have researched and written books entitled 100 Question & Answers About Americans, East Asians, Latinos and Native Americans. Each book has information on what it means to be American and how relationships in our melting pot culture thrives and amazes.

The authors of the books argue for what they dub cultural competence, which calls for a constructive societal dialogue in a setting that is tolerant of our nation's splendid variety. They approach the subject with a healthy dose of optimism. America is a garden of different peoples, and we excel when diverse relationships prosper.

"The 100 Questions & Answers About Americans" is a pivotal place to begin to delve into these valuable books. It is designed for immigrant student and workers, but also for any curious and empathetic American who is seeking to bolster his or her treatment and sensitivity towards others.

The book looks at a vicissitude of good and compelling questions about friendship and lifestyle, race and religion, work and money and culture and family.

The material and overarching theme about relationships is the most captivating part of the book. Our culture is an amalgam of individual and collective longevity. We are capitalists, but we treasure both family and democratic representation for all citizens. We embrace self-reliance, but we know that success hinges on help from others. President Barack Obama has spoken about this wondrous combination of personal striving and communal sharing. He is both a messenger and apotheosis of these ideas.

The book begins with an explanation of the good American human spirit. Americans are a proud people, and we value and respect others from different cultures. To be sure, we are a nation of immigrants who have both kept native cultures alive and assimilated into one of the most egalitarian countries on the planet.

Americans also have a facility for friendship both with new acquaintances and in longer relationships. Whether one is an immigrant, friend or someone dealing with new environs, Americans reach out to others. Lasting friendship, the book explains, has to be built over a lengthy period, but they bear a sweet fruit.

Racism and stereotyping challenges relationships in America. We have endured Native American dispossession, slavery, Jim Crow and Islamophobia, to name a few. Yet, our sense of collectivity, fairness and equality mostly prevails.

"Exposure to wider groups of people and more conversation--the goal of this guide to cultural competence--can replace stereotypes with information and understanding," the book reads.

The book's section on family further restates the symbiosis of individual and communal feelings. It describes the changing nature of families. Some of them include more generations of families living together and later marriages for women due to work in the economy. Moreover, so-called millenials, which include young adults in America, have more respect for their elders. They believe they should allow aging family members in their homes in order to care for them. Family structure is transforming, but the essential truth of them is not. The book says: "While family members have their own identity, thoughts and opinions, they understand that they are part of something larger."

The MSU book "100 Questions &Answers About Americans" is full of insight. Its probing questions reveal how we are all interdependent in good or distressing times. We should help each other with love.

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