Tag Archives: majority minority nation

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?

The Privilege Game

27 Apr

In the classic book, Faces At The Bottom Of The Well:  The Permanence of Racism, legal scholar Derrick Bell put forth this proposition: “Black people will never gain full equality in this country. Even those herculean efforts we hail as successful will produce no more than temporary ‘peaks of progress,’ short-lived victories that slide into irrelevance as racial patterns adapt in ways that maintain white dominance. This is a hard-to-accept fact that all history verifies. We must acknowledge it, not as a sign of submission, but as an act of ultimate defiance.”

I consider Derrick Bell a racial justice hero. To acknowledge the permanence of racism is indeed the ultimate act of defiance because this fact, once we acknowledged, leads necessarily to the conclusion that simple reform (what another great hero, the Rev. Mac Charles Jones, once told me leads only to re-formation of a broken system) will never lift us out of white supremacy. To end racism, we must look beyond reformation to transformation.

It’s a radical notion, but I’m a believer.

On the other hand, I’m also a practical sort. If we are to one day find ourselves at the threshold of radical transformation, we need a map to help us find our way, and then focus on getting there one step at a time.

On any map there are many paths to one’s chosen destination. For racial justice advocates, I think one path is the changing racial demography of the U.S.

By the year 2042, it is predicted that we will be a majority minority nation, with Latinos representing about a third of the population by no later than 2050. That means whites will soon no longer constitute the majority ethnic group. Even the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant group in the country and a bastion of whiteness and conservatism, is in decline.

What that means is that pretty soon, white supremacy may meet its greatest challenge. If we can get it together, people of color won’t have to ask whites for permission to create policies that address the destructive legacy of racism. But, the big question is, will we get it together and act as the majority, or will we remain divided and allow whites to remain in control as the largest minority?

To me, all of this hinges on something called privilege.

Racism endures in spite of generations of resistance because it is enforced by violence and intimidation, and empowered by privilege. It’s a carrot and stick situation. Without the carrot, the stick isn’t enough to keep us all doing our little bits to maintain white dominance.

Privilege, as I and and the Free Dictionary understand it, is special permission, special rights, or exclusive benefits granted as prerogatives of status that are exercised in order to exclude or harm others. Because privilege is given, it can also be taken away. And, because privilege always comes at someone’s expense, it keeps the majority of us who don’t have the power to grant privileges acting like a bunch of divided minorities.

Throughout history, white privilege has been granted to folks who didn’t used to be white. They Irish were labeled sub-whites to exploit them, and then were whitened to get their help in exploiting someone else even more. Around the middle of the last century, they decided Jews were white. And not too many years later, they began a process of whitening Asian Americans by granting us the status of “model minority” in order to promote the idea that if Asians can make it, the cause of poverty and lack of opportunity for Black and Brown people isn’t racism, it’s Black and Brown people.

And now they’re trying to do a job on Latinos by playing the good immigrant vs bad immigrant game. If you’re a “bad” immigrant, you’re “illegal.” That’s right, you’re illegal, you know, like crack cocaine or an unregistered gun or something. As an illegal person, you have hell to pay and more. Intimidation, violence, arrest, indefinite detention, deportation, and the list goes on.

But, if you’re a good immigrant, you get… Well, okay, I guess there’s not much of a carrot in this case. It’s mostly all about the stick. But at least you’re exempted from being treated like you’re illegal. So it pays to allow yourself to be cast as the good immigrant and allow the bigots to persecute the so-called bad guys and avoid the label “racist” by calling you “friend.”

You don’t get to have privilege without that nasty downside, whether you want it or not. And that downside is something we all pay for. It diminishes our humanity and it keeps us all vulnerable to being losers in the privilege game.

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