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Race and Politics
Will America's Future Be Whiter Than We Think?

Pew reports (h/t The Upshot):

Millions of Americans counted in the 2000 census changed their race or Hispanic-origin categories when they filled out their 2010 census forms, according to new research presented at the annual Population Association of America meeting last week. Hispanics, Americans of mixed race, American Indians and Pacific Islanders were among those most likely to check different boxes from one census to the next.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Italians, Jews, and other immigrants from eastern, central, and southern Europe were often considered “non-white” by many Americans. By World War II the melting pot had worked its magic, and “white” came to mean something very new. In California today we have people whose existence would have seemed inconceivable 125 years ago: Jewish-, Greek-, Arab- and Italian-Americans who are all called “Anglos.”

Those earlier waves of immigrants, by the way, were also going to pull America to the left. Socialism, many hoped and others feared, was going to be the result of the mass immigration of darker, poorer, culturally different immigrants into a society teeming with Gilded Age inequality and stark social conflict. But by the 1980s, the descendants of the immigrants were often “Reagan Democrats,” and their political views continue to evolve.

Now with more U.S. Hispanics being born in the U.S. than immigrating from abroad, we are beginning to see a similar process at work. Nobody really knows how American society will be reshaped by the latest waves of immigration, or how the immigrants and their kids will be reshaped by life in the United States. But if the past is any guide at all, those who look to immigrants to fundamentally reshape American politics and culture are likely to be disappointed—as will be the fears of many who think that everything special about American life is about to be washed away.

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  • Silverfiddle

    “White” is a bogus category anyway, and ‘Hispanic’ is not a race. I don’t direct this comment at the author, but some people are overly-preoccupied with sorting people and stuffing them in boxes.

    • Corlyss

      Wherever entitlements are granted on the basis of your “bogus categories,” such distinctions will NEVER be bogus. You must have noticed the stricken swoon the black race-mongers when SCOTUS declined to strike down Wisconsin’s constitutional provision directing the state not to use racial preferences in school admissions and contact awards.

    • El Gringo

      I once met a black American who was born in Panama, immigrated to the U.S. and was completely baffled as to why people keep making him choose between Latino and African American.

      I also met another, blue-eyed American immigrant whose parents had moved to Argentina from Germany and Italy. He got a real kick out of being “Hispanic.”

      Americans have a real problem with forcing people to pidgeonhole themselves into ethno-historic groups based on the color of their skin when ethnicity and skin color have very little to do with each other in modern America. But I do not foresee any end to this issue as post-modern America is obsessed with race.

  • Anthony

    As an American of long ancestry and historical background, I have encountered wide swath of humanity here and abroad but never a white one (many pinkish, reddish, pallid, and swarthy humans) if I understand cast of description. In other words, a thought has always intrigued me: so to whose purpose has arbitrary sociological connotation affixed and why? The term has intrigued not only as sociological construct but as emotive/psychological symbol for many sans power, place, influence, etc. as defined.

  • Avi_in_Jerusalem

    I have never understood the American need to have people tick bogus boxes with outdated and unsupported categories of self definition. The whole concept of “Race” had been disproved and discredited.

    • Corlyss

      Disproved and discredited? Not hardly. Virtually every single one of the categories except Caucasian/white is the beneficiary of preferential treatment programs designed purposefully by legislation to “compensate” for past abuse/discrimination.

  • Corlyss

    In the the 19th century the Irish were not even considered human, never mind white. It is difficult today to grasp the depth of native hatred for the Irish in those days. The phenomenon is the subject of Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.

  • Andrew Allison

    As the post makes clear, “White” is not a race but a social/cultural distinction. Ditto for Hispanic. According to Wikipedia, “Caucasian race (also Caucasoid or Europid) is the general physical type of some or all of the populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia, Central Asia and South Asia.” but, ” . . . the term “Caucasian” has often been used in the United States in a different, social context to describe a group commonly called “White people”. “White” also appears as a self-reporting entry in the U.S. Census.”

    • Bob

      It is very much cultural, and certainly the Central Asians to whom I am supposed be more closely related than sub-Saharan Africans have less in common with me, culturally, than some black Americans I know. The most amusing thing is to be in California and discover Asians are often considered “white”. I recall an article some time back, maybe in the LA Times, about a business gathering full of whites and Asians, and some folks wondered where the minorities were.

  • Pete

    ‘Will America’s Future Be Whiter Than We Think?’

    Let’s hope so for everybody’s sake

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