Fear of a Brown Planet: Our Majority-Minority Future

16 Aug

Sometimes, you just gotta admit when you’re wrong.

In several posts on this site, I’ve referenced Census projections pointing toward a tipping of the racial scales in the U.S. around the year 2042. The claim is that around that time whites will make up only a minority of the U.S. population. A Race Files reader questioned the accuracy of this claim, pointing me to an AlterNet article disputing that projection.

That article put me on the trail of more information. At this point on my journey, I find myself scratching my head over how easily I got sucked into drinking the Kool-Aid. I guess it was wishful thinking. The optimism I felt over shifting demographics whacked my understanding of how race works right out of my head.

Note to self, race is a political system. Census categories play to the system, not against it.

Because race is all about politics, it is a system that’s flexible, or at least manipulable by the white power elite.

This manipulation is direct in some cases, such as the imposing of a color line through the U.S. by way of slavery and Jim Crow, or indirectly, through extending white privilege to those who, knowingly or not, strengthen white supremacy. Such was the case with the whitening of the Irish and Italians.

The majority-minority projections manipulate race by counting only non-Hispanics among whites. The reality is that around 27,000,000, or slightly more than half of those who identified as Latino or Hispanic in the 2010 Census, also identified as white. If you count them as they count themselves, that alone indicates that whites aren’t headed toward minority status any time soon.

Then you gotta consider Asian Americans. While many disadvantaged Asian ethnic minorities are not being invited along for the ride, there are some pretty powerful indications that certain Asian groups are being whitened.

According to the Pew Research Center’s highly problematic report on the Rise of Asian Americans, 61% of recent Asian immigrants ages 25-64 have at least a bachelor’s degree. This is true in part as a result of fast tracked visas that are provided to Asian business investors and “highly skilled” workers who wish to immigrate to the U.S.

Those coming from Asia on fast tracked visas may not identify as white, but I’m guessing they identify with whites far more than they identify with African Americans or undocumented Latino immigrants. According to the same report, 37% of all recent Asian-American brides wed a non-Asian groom, and in the vast majority of cases “non-Asian” means white, an indication of a powerful trend toward assimilation, and not in the direction of brown folks.

Now, I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer here. I’m raising this issue because while many who’ve made the majority-minority claim are, like I was, looking at the upside of that equation, many others are using fear of a brown planet as a dog whistle to agitate older, race sensitive white voters. You know, the group who were young voters in 1963 when 75% of whites responded to polls concerning the Civil Rights Movement by saying the movement was asking for too much? 1963 was the year Medgar Evers was assassinated and the 16th St. Baptist Church was bombed by racial terrorists resulting in the deaths of four Black girls.

For many among this group, the idea of a majority-minority demographic is downright terrifying. So, wanna get them to approve Voter ID restrictions or support tighter border controls? You tell them minorities are about to become the majority any minute.

So best to be careful with the rhetoric, right?

It’s also important to note that the racial system isn’t entirely fluid. Whiteness has expanded over time to maintain white privilege, but Black is and always has been on the downside of unjust racial relations in the U.S. Similarly, Native Americans are treated as a conquered people whose status as political inferiors by race is described in treaty agreements and delineated by the borders of reservations. So far, those realities have remained largely fixed and rigid, even as the identity of the latest group of evil outsiders has shifted around some.

And, as author Joshua Holland pointed out in that article I referenced earlier,

It’s long been argued that various groups of lighter skinned immigrants have only truly been assimilated into the fabric of the nation once they began to see themselves, as a group, as superior to African Americans.

So even as the meaning of whiteness changes, there’s still a color line and we gotta decide which side of it we’re on.

The question as we move towards the future is, I propose, not how many of us there are by color, but how many of us there are by allegiance. And we need to define our allegiances in terms of whether or not we identify with and define our own status in relationship to the political status of Blacks and Native Americans.* If not, I fear, our allegiance defaults to white supremacy, regardless of demographics.

*Note: I said with Blacks and Native Americans, not “as” so please, no white folks turning Native American on us or Asian Americans deciding they’re Vanilla Rice, okay?

7 Responses to “Fear of a Brown Planet: Our Majority-Minority Future”

  1. sapotille August 17, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    Perhaps you should count those black people who have kids with white people as whitening their race too ? I don’t know for the US but here in Europe , those bi-racial kids marry almost exclusively to white people…

    • Race Files August 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      I didn’t mean to suggest that Asian Americans who partner with whites are whitening the race. I think folks should marry whomever they want. I was trying to indicate a trend toward assimilation that suggests a process of “white” as a racial identity expanding in order to maintain white dominance and privilege, but I appreciate you reading the article and making a comment!

  2. Judith Mowry August 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    This is an important perspective. Lately I’ve been thinking that “dominant culture” (i.e. white/male defined) is a mind set. At it’s root it is about hierarchy and power and what we value.

    • Race Files August 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      I agree AND I think it’s also a reality. There is a dominant culture whose dominance is perpetuated by the mindset you reference. For instance, part of the way that mindset functions is to divide us so that, for instance, while I’m a person of color, from a working class background, and gay, I’m also male, able-bodied, light skinned, and I’ve climbed well out of my class background, among other privileges. I can lean on those privileges, but at the expense of being split in my allegiances to those who are oppressed in the ways I am or have been, but may not have the same privileges I (now) enjoy, causing what might be a plurality of the oppressed to be atomized into less and less potentially powerful parts. I can just live my middle-class life; take duck and cover to the extent I can under my male privilege and ignore attacks on women’s freedoms and hope for equitable treatment, fail to notice access barriers and service deserts for people with disabilities, and ignore the fact that darker skinned people are being more directly targeted as whole communities and probably be pretty comfortable. If I’d been born middle-class and straight, I might well have lived until now without noticing the different ways people are oppressed beyond my own experience, and might understand racism only as an attitudinal problem of individual prejudice. But what’s I’d be blind to (or blinding myself to) is real. Just as race both is and isn’t real, so is that dominant cultural system.

      Or at least, that’s my take on it.

  3. Kyler Jones August 22, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    The racism of our system is always going to be present, because it i directly tied too, and created for the purpose of economics and profit. Science, technology, television, schooling, etc are all institutions that maintain genocide. So that a person born black, will internalize the consciousness of Whiteness. Thus for example, the black president we have, leftist whites accept him because he represents the “good civilized” nature of Whiteness, and plays back their corporate agenda.
    As for the downfall of groups like the KKK, who are still even at it today, and violence against people of color like lynchings, etc., and slavery. I think the prison system and mass incarceration of black people, television, schooling, and industrial civilization itself do more harm to blacks than the KKK could ever have dreamed of.

    Violence and slavery of indigenous people as simply been exported, it’s been systematically covered up and performed over seas. Since the industrial revolution and the civil war. it hasn’t ended. How many black children starve to death and are poisoned because we drive cars with oil which is imported ( stolen,raped) from the Niger Delta, the source of the Nigeria tribes food and water? Not to mention the failure of whites to come to terms with the theft and occupation of native american lands?

    In an economic world racism will prevail, because the production of capitol, the profit of capitol requires consistent slavery and resources ( which are actually the homes of brown people). And it requires an ideal system where the group exploiting those lands will believe that it is okay, they are entitled to do so, and it is development. For example darwinism was the blueprint for social darwinism and eugenics. Being that it was in the best interests of the negro “savages” to be enslaved by the “civilized” white man.

    People can call our nation colorblind or moving towards that direction but that is only because people are so normalized and blind towards racism because they don’t see the violence or care that they think having black neighbors means equality. People of color have no connection or identity to their cultures, and just aspire to Whiteness. Subscribing to the imperialist, colonialist, misogynist, greed, materialist, narcissist, nihilist values of the system which exploits them based purely out of ignorance and waywardness of living in this death culture.

  4. Jean August 26, 2012 at 2:04 am #

    I haven’t really thought too much about this. But this “fear” raises its ugly head in the 21st century in ways that are abit surprising. The Bank of Canada retracted its proposed design of one its currency dollar bills which featured an Asian looking woman scientist. Some focus groups thought that didn’t reflect Canada! I saw the proposed bill and felt the woman didn’t look Asian but neutral to many folks in Canada is still….white,Caucasian. I wish Bank had more guts to stick to its values.

    OOps. Or maybe suggesting Asians on Canada’s money raises sceptre of Chinese becoming increasingly confident in bidding to buy up some Canadian companies. Right now, there is big issue of Chinese govn’t backed oil organization wanting to buy a Canadian oil company….

  5. Steve Smith September 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    NIce article. Whey you mention non-Hispanics, it called also be applied to Arabs/Muslims, for somet that is interchangeable.
    Why is Andre Agassi an Assyrian considered white yet Tariq Assiz, anoher Assyrian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tariq_Aziz)(former Iraqi, foreign minister in Sadaam’s regime ) considered an Arab, ready to create a mushroom cloud over the United States?

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