The myth of the White Minority

Saludos:

En este momento se debate en los EEUU quién es y puede ser blanco. De hecho, se ha estado debatiendo esto desde los 70’s con las proyecciones de que los Latinos iban a ser la “minoría mayoría” para el 2010 y los llamados blancos iban a ser la minoría para el 2050. Los Latinos ya para el Censo pasado se adelantaron a las proyecciones y llegaron a ser la mayoría dentro de las llamadas minorías. Apenas la semana pasada se discutían nuevas proyecciones en el New York Times que estimaban que los blancos van a ser minoría, no en el 2050 como se decía, sino en el 2042. Los ingenieros raciales de los EEUU buscan blancos donde puedan encontrarlos. Qué mejor grupo para encontrar blancos que entre nosotros con nuestra revoltura racial.

La discusión sobre quién es y puede ser blanco habla de identidades; identidades forzadas políticamente. Cada grupo en los EEUU que ha entrado al colectivo blanco lo ha hecho sacrificando identidades étnicas para conseguir el mal llamado sueño americano. Pocos retuvieron su idioma pasada una generación y para la mayoría de estos grupos étnicos europeos sus costumbres pasaron a ser parte de una simbólica celebración anual. Ser “blanco honorario” viene con el costo del des-membramiento de los Latinos en los EEUU. En Puerto Rico, con la imposición del censo tal y cual fue diseñado para los EEUU, significa que estamos pasando por un proceso severo de blanqueamiento que nos acerca peligrosamente a la asimilación. Mientras más internalicemos el sentido de ser de nuestro opresor, menos capacidad tendremos para defender nuestra atesorada nación. Se nos intenta convencer que debemos aceptar las malignas etiquetas estadounidenses. Ofrecer resistencia a estas etiquetas es imperativo como deber patrio. Ser “blanco” no trata, en este juego político sobre color de piel, no es una clasificación objetiva que inofensivamente mide melanina. Es un concepto práctico y necesario en el esquema racial de los EEUU y el nuestro también. A la vez, necesitamos medir, con instrumentos confiables y culturalmente apropiados, qué está pasando entre nosotros en cuanto a relaciones raciales. Nuestra negación a hablar sobre estos issues no es saludable si queremos una patria unificada con un verdadero sentido de SER colectivo. Se nos va la vida en esto…

Ilé necesita de toda la ayuda posible para continuar nuestra campaña antirracista De Cara al Censo 2010. Para información comuníquese con nosotr@s al 671-4826. Necesitamos voluntarios, cabezas y recursos, gente que pueda asumir liderato en sus comunidades y esferas de influencia.

Comparto abajo “The myth of the White Minority y la respuesta de nuestro colega y hermano Víctor Rodríguez.

Cariños,

María




—— Forwarded Message
From: “Dr. Victor M. Rodriguez”
Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2008 08:44:28 -0700
To: “Dr. Victor M. Rodriguez”
Subject: The myth of the white minority

Below is my response to Jacoby. Thanks to Drew for her suggestion of Steinberg’s powerful new book.

Column
The myth of the white minority
By Jeff Jacoby
Boston Globe (August 20, 2008)

WHEN THE Census Bureau announced last week that white Americans would dwindle to less than half of the US population within a generation, the media quickly spread the word.

“A new census report says that whites in the US will be a minority by the year 2042,” announced NPR’s Farai Chideya, while over at CNN Tony Harris proclaimed that “the complexion of America is changing and a lot faster than you think: In just 34 years, the Census Bureau says whites will no longer be a majority in this country.” The Associated Press moved a story headlined “White Americans no longer a majority by 2042.” Once again, the nation’s unhealthy obsession with sorting people into categories based on color and ancestry was in the news.

But there was another problem with all this coverage of how white America is becoming a minority: The Census Bureau never said it.

You can see the numbers for yourself on the Census Bureau website. In a spreadsheet titled “Projections of the Population by Race and Hispanic Origin for the United States: 2008 to 2050,” the bureau forecasts a rise in the number of whites from about 243 million today to 325 million at midcentury – an increase of 82 million. A related spreadsheet gives the percentages: Whites today account for nearly 80 percent of the US population. In 2050, they’ll constitute 74 percent – still a very hefty majority.

So what explains the persistent drumbeat about the impending white minority? A statistical distortion: the exclusion of Hispanic whites. If only non-Hispanic whites are counted, the white population today amounts to 66 percent of the total, and will hit around 46 percent by 2050.

But excluding whites of Hispanic origin from the overall white population makes no more sense than excluding whites of Slavic or Scandinavian origin. “Hispanic” is not a race. It is an ethnic category. As the Census Bureau repeatedly points out, Hispanics can be of any race. In the 2000 census, 48 percent of Hispanics identified themselves as white; Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson has characterized them as “white in every social sense of this term.” Bottom line: Of the 46.6 million Hispanics in the United States today, at least 22 million are white.

On both right and left, however, there are pressures to treat Hispanics as a distinct racial category. Many on the left covet the political attention and affirmative-action largesse that comes with minority-group status. In some quarters of the right, meanwhile, immigration alarmists warn that Hispanics are overwhelming the nation’s “white” culture, dissolving the bonds of language and patriotism on which American civilization depends.

One of the lessons of US history is that racial categories are anything but meaningful scientific classifications. For generations, “whites” have been hearing that they are about to be engulfed by unassimilable foreign races, and for centuries those “races” have eventually become – white! Benjamin Franklin worried mightily about the threat posed to white American culture by the influx of German immigrants. “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens,” he demanded in 1751, “who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them?” Those “swarthy” Germans, Franklin was quite sure, “will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can adopt our Complexion.”

A century and a half later, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge witheringly described the Russians, Poles, and Greeks entering the country as “races with which the English-speaking people have never hitherto assimilated, and who are most alien to the great body of the people of the United States.” In the early 20th century, federal immigration officials classified the Irish, Italians, and Jews as separate races. Yet today all these groups are viewed collectively, and benignly, as “white.”

And so, in time, will Hispanics, who give every indication of being just as assimilable as earlier groups. Most third-generation Hispanic Americans, for example, marry non-Hispanics. The overwhelming majority speak English. With a little luck, common sense, and goodwill, it will seem as odd in 2050 to focus on “non-Hispanic whites” as it would today to insist that only “non-German whites” are really white.

Better still, perhaps by then we will have really progressed, and abandoned the pernicious notion of racial categories altogether.

Jeff Jacoby’s e-mail address is jacoby@globe.com.

While I agree with your general point, the whole issue related to Latinos identifying as white is much more complex. Some Latino sub groups are not doing as well as their identification as Awhite@ might lead us to assume. UCLA sociologists Edward E. Telles and Vilma Ortiz just published AGenerations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation and Race, Russell Sage 2007. Which is the most comprehensive study about Mexican Americans yet because it is a longitudinal study that compares data from 1965 -2005. Their study concludes AEthnic identifications for Mexican Americans remains strong even into the fourth generation.@ P. 236) Despite assimilation there is a strong identification with the ethnic identity (Mexican America, Latino, Hispanic) than with white. However, it varies by region (Los Angeles versus San Antonio, Texas) as you will see below for Puerto Ricans.

Reading the articles on the most recent population projections refer me to the research I am conducting on the origins of color-blind ideology in Puerto Rico and its social and political consequences. To make a long story short, Puerto Ricans deny the reality of racism in Puerto Rico, or at the most, in our left wing tiny circles we claim it is the outcome of U.S. cultural influence. The reality, as usual is a bit more complex and at times the pervasiveness of that denial of race was tied to political decisions made by our elites.

There are a number of anti-racist social scientists that are proposing new ways of understanding how this is operating in the context of the United States. The two most relevant is our paisano Eduardo Bonilla-Silva who argues that instead of the bi-polar/dichotomized racial hierarchy of white/non-white we are in the transition to a tryad hierarchy of white, non-white and Ahonorary white.@ (Bonilla-Silva, 2005, Latin Americanization of U.S. System of Racial Stratification, also under various other titles).

Also fascinating is Stephen Steinberg=s new book, a must read for any anti-racist activist, ARace Relations: A Critique@ where he lays out a devastating critique to the way the social sciences have contributed to the reproduction of racialization and the perpetuation of the race construct in the United States. The best thing about this treatise is that it is accessible and very readable. His classic 1996 article AThe Liberal Retreat on Racial Justice@ reveals the complicity (not always explicit) of white liberals in perpetuating racialization and betraying the racial justice project.

Finally, as we think about the future of the racial hierarchy and racialization in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, we might consider these interesting facts:

1. Sonia Tafoya in AShades of Belonging@ in the 2000 census, 42 per cent of Latinos identified themselves as others, while 48 per cent identified as Awhite.@ Why is this significant? Like a classic sociologist, Horton Cooley used to say AIf people define things as real they are real in their consequences.@ I would amend the phrase and add Asometimes@ but the reality is that how people self-identify says a lot about their own world-view.

This is what Tafoya (2004) found in her statistical analysis of those who self identify as white:

*less likely to describe racial discrimination as a Amajor problem@
*more likely to vote Republican
* more likely to be Anative-born@ (more time being racialized into the U.S. racial ideology)

*they are more likely to identify themselves as AAmericans@ than with a national origin or ethnic identifier (Chicano, Puerto Rican etc.)
*They are more likely to have a higher level of education (more racialized in the educational system)
* They also tend to have a higher income

Mexicans and Puerto Ricans have similar rates of people self-identifying as whites (47%) while 85 per cent of Cubans identify as whites.

Another quaint fact are regional differences, or how the local regional racial ideology shift people self-identification: Latinos are more likely to self-identify as Awhite@ when they live in the South than in the west.

Puerto Ricans whom self identify as white:

West 43.3%
South 60.5%

Mexican Americans whom self identify as white:

West 41.8%
South 59.5%

Cubans whom self identify as white:

West 67.2%
South 89.6%

Guess which Latinos would identify more with the color-blind ideology and eventually could become Awhitened@ and become integrated to the Awhite@ category? How does this play out in Puerto Rico? Guess who are they more likely to choose to marry, based on their self-identification?

The majority of Latino males whom self identify as Awhites@ marry Anon-Latino whites.@ (Steinberg, 2007)

Dr. Victor M. Rodriguez
Professor
Department of Chicano and Latino Studies
California State University, Long Beach

1250 Bellflower Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90840
562.985.8560
http://www.csulb.edu/~vrodrig5/index.html

Dr. Victor M. Rodriguez
Professor
Department of Chicano and Latino Studies
California State University, Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90840
562.985.8560
http://www.csulb.edu/~vrodrig5/index.html