I am underwhelmed by "news" stories that herald the decline of the white race and the browning of America. Students of U.S. history know and understand that Whiteness is a malleable category. While heavily policed, Whiteness as a racial grouping is ever expanding.
Why? because whites are by definition the majority group in the United States. Just as the Irish, Italians, Jews, Polish, and others existed on the periphery of Whiteness until they "crossed over" during the 19th and 20th centuries, in the 21st century other groups will be ushered into this always renewing and expansive club. Here, history has repeatedly demonstrated that in a practical calculation of the relative value of in-group and out-group membership, new (and old) arrivals to America clamor to enter Whiteness, the perpetual motion machine that it is, at any cost. As the old joke goes, immigrants learn two words upon arrival to this country: "okay" is first, "nigger" is second.
Here are some interesting data points in support of this hypothesis: According to a 2003 study, the majority of Latino immigrants regardless of origin self-identify as "white"; Blacks are the least desirable marriage partners for whites and immigrants, while black out-marriage has continued to increase; And in a signal to the creation of a "coloured" class and "buffer race," so called "multiracials" are the fastest growing group in the United States.
So what do you think about the racial draft into Whiteness? Which racial minority is most likely to take the leap?
Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal:
Whites are on the verge of becoming a minority among newborn children in the U.S., marking a demographic shift that is already reshaping the nation's politics and economy.
The Census reported Thursday that nonwhite minorities accounted for 48.6% of the children born in the U.S. between July 2008 and July 2009, gaining ground from 46.8% two years earlier. The trajectory suggests that minority births will soon eclipse births of whites of European ancestry.
"The question is just when," said Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. He guesses the milestone will be crossed in the next few years, and could happen as early as 2011.
America's changing face has transformed race relations from the traditional divide of black and white to a more complex mix of race, language and religion. There are new strains on schools and social services, while immigration has emerged as one of the nation's most contentious issues—as evidenced by Arizona's recent law that makes illegal immigration a state crime.
A number of forces are pushing the U.S. toward a "majority minority" future. The median age of the white population is older than that of nonwhites, and thus a larger share of minority women are in prime child-bearing years. In addition, white women are having fewer children than nonwhites, while the growth in mixed marriages has led to more multiracial births.
The recession has slowed the transformation by reducing immigration. It also has made people of all races less willing to start families. But births among nonwhites slowed less than those among whites between July 2008 and July 2009. Among the Hispanic population, there were roughly nine births for every one death, compared with a roughly one-to-one ratio for whites.
Minorities made up 35% of the U.S. population between July 2008 and July 2009, up from 31% in 2000, the Census said. While immigration is a touchy political issue, it is not the driving factor behind the nation's growing diversity. Hispanics, for instance, accounted for 54.7% of the total population increase between July 2008 and July 2009, but about two-thirds of that gain came from births.
Charlotte, N.C., and surrounding Mecklenburg County offer a microcosm of the diversifying nation. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi stands in front of the historic county courthouse, a gift from the Charlotte Asian Heritage Association. Food Lion, a supermarket chain in the Southeast, spent the past year adding thousands of Hispanic food items to 19 Charlotte area stores. In 1990, 70.3% of the county was white. Today, it is 54.6%, and Mecklenburg County's youngest whites are a minority among their peers.
The shifting mix has "changed our definition of diversity," said Ann Clark, chief academic officer of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district. The district, for example, used to put its teachers through training to overcome racial biases that usually cut along black-and-white lines. Now, the district focuses more on reaching kids who live in poverty or don't speak English at home. It has hired four full-time translators and started a program to educate teachers about poverty.
Esselito Solano, a 31-year-old who owns a company that makes stone kitchen counters, said he felt like an outsider when he emigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines in the mid-1980s. He remembers being perplexed when an elementary-school teacher made him throw away the remainders of his cafeteria lunch instead of bringing it home, a wasteful move in his native country.
Today, his young daughters are growing up as part of a nonwhite majority. In 2006, the most recent data available, 43% of the babies born in Mecklenburg County were non-Hispanic whites, according to health statistics. "They're not going to have a hard time blending in," said Mr. Solano.
Charlotte's business and social institutions also reflect the change. The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce has expanded minority membership via a program that gives discounts to several racial and ethnic chambers. In 2007, the NAACP of North Carolina formed a coalition called Historic Thousands on Jones Street People's Assembly, which is made up of 93 North Carolina advocacy groups that represent various races and ethnicities. "With this changing demographic, we had to operate in coalition," said Rev. William Barber, president of the NAACP of North Carolina.
America has long been on a path toward becoming a more diverse nation, and several states, including California and Texas, are already "majority minority." But in the past decade or so, the dual forces of assimilation and the housing boom have pushed diversity beyond gateway cities into the suburbs and across states that hadn't traditionally attracted immigrants.
Philip Maung started off in a gateway city, immigrating to Los Angeles from Burma (now Myanmar) in 1989. He moved to Charlotte in 1997 to start Hissho Sushi, now a 400-store company that sells sushi out of kiosks in airports and grocery stores. The company's 50,000-square-foot headquarters has offices, warehousing and a chilled room where a dozen employees begin rolling sushi at 3:30 a.m. "In a bigger city like New York or L.A., I wouldn't have had a shot," said Mr. Maung.
Although he has achieved the American dream, Mr. Maung said he wanted his two boys, both born in Charlotte, to understand where he came from. Two years ago, he sent the kids back to Asia to spend time learning Chinese and living in the developing world. "They'll come back with their eyes open," he said.