1870's Political Cartoon. Anxiety about changing racial demographics is nothing new. White settlers feared that Chinese immigrants took jobs away from white men.
Whatever else may be happening here, the browning of the United States goes forward. The NY Times announced today "Whites to Be Minority in N.Y. Soon."
The article tells us: "What's happening in New York has already occurred in metropolitan areas in the West and South, including Los Angeles, Miami, Houston and San Francisco." But this demographic shift is new to the Northeast. Whites and Blacks moved away from New York in the last six years, while the metro area saw a continuing influx of Latinos and Asians.
Whites (whatever is meant by that designation) will be a minority in the total population by 2050.
Yesterday Professor Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco provided an interesting op-ed article to the Washington Post that contended that this demographic change, insofar as its cause is immigration, is proceeding more smoothly in the U.S. than in Europe. He argued that immigrants to the U.S.
- are not blocked by discrimination from acquiring education and can move into good jobs in the second generation;
- they frequently marry outside their groups rather than importing spouses from the "old country;"
- and they are able to imagine a place for themselves in the national cultural narrative that proclaims this a "nation of immigrants."
Immigrants to the U.S. are often treated badly, but in the aggregate, this country does work at inventing ways of living with diversity. Immigrant populations that were once not "white" -- the Irish, southern and eastern Europeans -- "became white" after time in this country. By 2050, very probably the definition of "white" will have changed yet again.
Not that, as Anne Braden taught, the ideology of white supremacy will not also very probably still be an enduring blemish in the national cultural narrative. The national myth that someone, even if a historically shifting someone, is lesser because "not white" originated with the enslavement of Africans and has been a constant in the country's psyche through waves of diverse immigration. If we cannot find it in ourselves to shake white supremacy completely, "whiteness" will continue to plague us, even as we become brown.
* Author Richard Rodriguez develops a nuanced discussion of "browning" of which my usage is a poor, but convenient, simplification.