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June 17, 2014

‘Bias Busters’ book blasts stereotypes

Quick quiz (answers below):

What country are most Hispanics from?

Is Chinese food in America different than Chinese food in China?

These and 198 other questions that people might ask about Hispanics and Latinos and East Asians are answered in the two latest books written by Michigan State University students who are part of the School of Journalism’s “Bias Busters” class.

The books – “100 Questions and Answers About Hispanics and Latinos” and “100 Questions and Answers about East Asian Cultures” – are the latest in a series published by the class taught by Joe Grimm, series editor and journalism instructor.

“The questions are basic and simple,” said Grimm, a former Detroit Free Press reporter. “But they come from real people. They’re the questions people actually wonder about.”

It was MSU students who did the legwork, interviewing people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and other Hispanic heritages, as well as East Asians, people from countries such as China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

The students asked them what basic questions do they routinely hear in everyday conversation. The goal: To replace guesses and stereotypes with accurate, authoritative answers.

“The point of it all is to create communities of people that understand each other better,” Grimm said. “The guides are intended to be just the first step to more conversations and greater understanding.”

Other books in the series include “100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America” and “100 Questions and Answers About Americans,” which is designed to help international students better understand American language and culture.

All of the answers that are provided in the guides are verified through many sources, including the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and many others.

The editor of the East Asian guide was Dawn Pysarchik, an advertising and public relations professor who brought the project into her international advertising class.

Much of the funding for the series was provided by the MSU Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives.

And the answers:

The overwhelming majority of Hispanics in the United States come from, well, the United States. However, most have Mexican heritage. Puerto Rico is a distant second.

There are similarities and differences. However, Chinese restaurants in the United States tend to cater to American palates. Chinese food is traditionally rich in spices and vegetables, while American Chinese dishes emphasize meat, salt and sugar.


By: Tom Oswald