Friday, April 8, 2011

The Changing Face of America

This short article from yesterday’s New York Times outlines our country’s changing racial demographics. According to data gathered by the Brookings Institution, white children, who are currently the majority, will be a minority by 2019. This is even earlier than the 2023 date that was predicted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Even more striking is the statistic that the median age for whites is 41, while the median age for Hispanics, the fastest growing demographic, is 27. This means that not only are whites going to be a minority population in the U.S. by 2041, but they are also going to be an old population. Of course, this poses a number of interesting questions regarding race relations in America.

To begin with, is it likely that racism, or perhaps more pertinently white privilege, will decrease along with the white population? Both racism and white privilege seem to be grounded largely in the outdated belief that to be truly American is to be white. Of course, even today this is an absurd notion but it is still reflected prevalently in our societal norms. It seems possible to me that as whites become more and more of a minority, the unwarranted nature of white privilege will become increasingly harder for whites to ignore. Granted, this does not necessarily mean that whites will give up their privilege. As we saw during the Civil Rights struggle in the ‘50s and ‘60s, for instance, whites often react violently when their privilege is challenged. There is probably little coincidence that there has been an upsurge of racial antagonism against Hispanics over the past few decades – numerically, they are the largest challengers to white privilege…

It is also important for us to consider whether or not institutional racism will change along with the changing demographics. By this, I refer largely to the de facto segregation that exists in cities throughout our nation. As whites have decreased in their majority status over the years our cities have become more, not less, segregated. Take a look at this article for more information on this topic:

Not a single one of these cities is in the South! This does not bode well for our nations racial future. It seems that even though whites are a shrinking portion of the population, we still persist in separating ourselves from other races. If this trend continues it seems that there will be a growing inconsistency between the size of the white population and the wealth and power that it holds.

These are just two of the major issues to consider. What do you guys think? What are some other issues to think about and what are some further implications of the two that I brought up?

1 comment:

  1. Hey Colin,

    I've also been thinking about the way that changing demographics will reflect upon the formation of American identity and American racism. I think one really strong indication of the way racism may develop (HOPEFULLY NOT!!!) in this country is the current immigration debate. The language used to describe immigrants, particularly Latino immigrants, is particularly interested in their reproductive capacities as a racial group. The irrational fear of anchor babies, and the notion of Latino Immigrants as scampering, hidden, parasitical insects is a profoundly disturbing, and well-utilized racist trope. Although targeted nominally against "illegals", it is easy to see how the immigration discourse is a thinly-veiled racial diatribe against non-white people, with demographic trends used as a means to create fear and hatred within white America against non-white "invaders". I think that the level of blatant and out-spoken racism in our immigration discourse demands that we take a closer look at it -- especially now that we have the critical analytical lens of race theory.


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