• The Colors That Matter

    by Kelvin Wade

    Are whites the oppressed minority today? A recent study by Michael Norton of Harvard Business School and Samuel Sommers of Tufts University showed that white respondents believe that anti-white bias is a bigger problem than anti-black bias in America.

    If you look at the objective measurements, the reality is clear. African-Americans are worse off than whites. Since the 1950s, black unemployment has ran almost double that of whites. Today, in some cities, black unemployment has reached Depression-era levels. In education, health care and housing, African-Americans lag behind whites. How many white folks would voluntarily become black if they could in search of better treatment? I bet that number is small.

    But objective reality isn’t what’s driving the response to that survey. The anxiety revealed by that response is the uncertainty of a white majority that’s coming to grips with the fact that their majority status is temporary. California, like Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas, is a majority-minority state. And demographers believe that by 2040, the United States will be a majority-minority country.

    The birth rate of Hispanics and Asians in California, coupled with immigration, has swelled their numbers. The numbers of blacks has held steady. In addition to “white flight” — whites leaving the state for neighboring states — the white birth rate has fallen.

    Last year saw Hispanic children outnumber white children in California for the first time since statistics have been collected.

    This demographic shift is driving a lot of what we see in this state as well as the country. The shift portends big changes politically. California beat back the massive Republican wave last November with Democrats sweeping all statewide races. Since the white vote is split between the parties and minorities skew to the Democrats, our demographics just aren’t conducive to far right wing ideology. This same dynamic will eventually play out in Texas, turning a solid red state into a blue one.

    This political shift will have great consequences. Remember that Barack Obama won the presidency with just 43% of the white vote. The majority of whites voted for John McCain.

    Part of the fear is of racial payback. But again, I see this fear as more of a boogeyman than the reality.

    The anxiety that many whites feel (that they read as anti-white bias) is the fear that the influx of (non-white) immigrants and births is going to change America. This fear of losing what it means to be an American is rampant. That fear was enunciated loud and clear in the 2008 campaign’s talk of “Real Americans,” the cry from the right to “take our country back,” the paranoia in the health care debate about covering immigrants, to the ranting of talking heads like radio host Michael Savage. This anxiety is manifest in the oft-heard lament that folks don’t like having to “press 1 for English” when calling a business.

    Most of the changes we’re seeing in America have nothing to do with the changing demographics of the country. The global economy, the Wall Street rip-off, the mortgage crisis, the debt and other problems can’t simply be laid at the feet of Pedro sneaking across the border or the Hispanic birth rate.

    I understand the fear. We fear we’re going to lose our language, traditions and values. But this is nothing new. This has been Americans’ lament for generations. The Italians are going to ruin us! The Irish! The Jews! The Chinese! The blacks!

    But Hispanic Americans’ gain doesn’t have to mean white Americans’ loss. African-Americans used to be the largest minority in America. Now, we’re second to Hispanics, yet we’re no less American.

    The fear is real. Going from a white majority to a minority is something white Americans have no experience with. But we have to have faith that our union is strong enough, our laws ironclad enough and our commitment to our ideals deep enough that we will continue being the great nation that we’ve been. We will continue trying to build a more perfect union.

    These challenges won’t be easy. They never are but we, as Americans, will meet them head on. Call me a dreamer, but I long for the day when the only colors that matter in this country are red, white and blue.

    • I agree with you Kelvin and wish for the day of Red, White and Blue as well. Not sure it will be in my lifetime but for sure with my grown children and my grandchildren.

    • Fear is directly correlated to lack of experience. We have a biological fear of The Other – the one who is not our tribe. Our challenge is to overcome our biology.

      • Jesse

      • June 5, 2011 at 7:39 pm
      • Reply

      I disagree with fear being biological. I think people are attracted to opposites. Its the hybrid vigor that keeps bloodlines strong. Romeo and Juliet are good examples. Fear of retribution as the minority race, or racial payback is real. Also, when the economy tanks, people embrace their hate and scapegoat others. We haven’t evolved enough to stop looking back at the “good ol’ days” and start looking forward to solving economic and social problems together for the good of all, (sans corporations).

    • Kelvin,
      White Americans occasionally do experience racial discrimination; in general, since other groups have less economic and social power, it is uncommon that such discrimination has the power to seriously harm White America. Yes I do agree that the fear is real for those that associate advances in minority rights with a loss of their own. Blacks are not alone; every American ethnic group has perceived racism in dealing with an entrenched White Establishment.
      Economics is the root cause of racism and the underlying force that keeps it in place. Fortunately, the marriage between economics and racism will eventually end in divorce. In just a few generations, White America through the ever evolving media of television and the internet can see for the first time the true face of racism and discrimination. It has become increasingly harder to ignore racism when it is in your face on a daily basis.
      Here is my prediction of what is on the horizon. (At least what I would hope is on the horizon) The fight for equality and civil rights will continue as long as it is instilled in future generations. I see the light of equality in the faces of today’s children. If someone were to ask me what I thought would define my generation as a whole, I would have to say that it was the Civil Rights and Women’s movement and the struggle for human rights. I also believe that this will live on and expand to reach far beyond our borders to encompass the entire earth, regardless of race or gender.
      One more note: Revolution is in the air and it may be violent in nature. America’s economic infrastructure was built by free labor and it still owes its descendents of slaves. It is obvious that as long as minorities do not have equal access to education and employment, as long as there is extreme poverty in this country, there will be no avoiding the violence of the revolution that I mentioned above. We must have faith that our youth will follow our lead when it comes to the advancement of human rights.

      • Kelvin

      • June 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm
      • Reply

      Years ago, my best friend, a white guy named Dan, went with me to a Black Family Day celebration in Vallejo, CA. There were hundreds, if not thousands of blacks there and everywhere I went my friend was attached to me at the hip. If I stopped walking, he’d bump into me. He was clearly afraid being in that scenario. We left and went to the mall in Fairfield. Immediately, we were in an environment where I was one of about five blacks in a sea of a few hundred white shoppers. He was relaxed. But so was I because I’m used to being a minority. So when I think of how people are reacting to the changing demographics, I’m always reminded of that Black Family Day trip.

      I think economics are certainly one of the causes of racism but by no means the only. It’s not only whites who sometimes lament that Hispanics are taking jobs. Blacks and other races say and fear the same thing. But there is plenty of racism bred by white supremacy or supposed minority inferiority. There is a fear among some of the mongrelization of the races through race-mixing.

      The bottom line is we just have to keep working at it. I Love living in California because I’m surrounded by so many different races and cultures and I love it.

    • Kelvin,
      I bow to your wisdom. I do understand what you mean about how your friend reacted at the AA Fest. Most whites have not experienced the AA world and feel out of place when they do. Just a year before my world came crashing down on top of me (at age 6 or 7) my mother and 5 of her children lived in a single room apt. behind a dry cleaners in downtown Detroit. Down the street lived my very first girlfriend. Her name was Cathy Molly. She was a headstrong young AA, wide eyed wonderful girl. We had a thing going and we even went so far as to kiss (slobber) on her swingset. Unfornatuly, her father was home one day and caught a glimps of our affection for one another. I can vividly remember the look on her face when her father grabbed me by the collar and threw me out of his yard. He told me never to come back. I wanted to cry but his daughter was watching so I didn’t.
      Cathy Molly left a few notes on my doorstep, the last of which said goodbye. Shortly after that I was dumped in an orphanage in Little Rock. Behind the tall fences of the orphanage I was never aware of the birth of the Civil Rights Movement that was all around me.
      Beleive me when I tell you that the majority of White America would change things for their AA countrymen in a hot second. They just don’t know how or what to do. I do see President Obama as a guideing light for White America and given the chance, he can show us the way.

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