Saturday, June 12, 2010

Birth of a Nation?

I've said it once and will say it again. Demography is not destiny. This is my response to a post on Race Wire about the oft repeated "America is becoming a majority minority country" narrative. (Note the author makes reference to the Tea Party. I'm not interested in the partisan commentary in the post but the issue of race and the future of America). Here's a portion:

"The latest Census figures show that the country’s white population could become a minority as soon as…next year.

No big news, right? We’ve been that hearing for years. But these latest numbers show that massive geographic shifts are taking place in areas of the country not traditionally thought of as ethnically diverse, like the South and middle America.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Census reported that babies of color accounted for more than 48 percent of the total amount of children born between July of 2008 and 2009. Even though a tough economy and harsher immigration policies have slowed the number of babies of color being born in recent years, they’re still more of them arriving in the world than whites. Among Latinos, there were roughly nine births for every one death, while whites had a one-to-one ratio. Similarly, whites are having fewer children and, by marrying more interracially, are having more multiracial kids." (Read the whole thing here)

My question is "so what?". The statistics are undeniable, but as is the case with all statistics the issue is what does this mean? What will America be like when my son is my age (I'm 35)? Will the color-line exert less of an influence than it does today?

Reihan Salam's recent article in the Daily Beast offers some interesting commentary along this line. Check it out:

"One wonders where this leaves the unassimilable or unmeltable ethnics, who choose not to intermarry or to convert to Christianity or some other "mainstream" faith. At present, there are 13 self-identified Jewish members in the U.S. Senate, and two more members with one Jewish parent. In an earlier era, this would have been all but unimaginable. Now we consider it entirely unremarkable, not least because the Jewish community has been part of the fabric of American life for centuries. Can we imagine similar representation of Buddhists or Hindus or Muslims? The obvious answer is no, at least not in our lifetimes. And that's entirely understandable. In any democratic polity, the voting public wants to identify with its leaders. But let's keep the fact that some of our citizens are too exotic for leadership roles in mind before we congratulate ourselves on our tolerance and our embrace of diversity." (Read the whole thing here)

I'd tend to agree with Salam. If whiteness (and to some degree Christian-ness) remains the measure of humanity and power continues to be associated with how one measures up to that standard, we will not be able to birth ourselves free of the color-line. It will take more that multi-colored babies or multi-colored couples to get the job done. It will require a revolutionary change in attitudes and behaviors, not just of white Americans but all of us. This change must become embodied in social structures that in turn create a context that reinforces the change in attitudes and behaviors in a virtuous circle. It is just this revolutionary change that is the Mission of Baha'u'llah and that His followers are slowly but surely translating into reality around the world.

"is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions?" (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 240)