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  • WHO WE ARE-Earlier this month, I arrived in San Diego following five days of driving across the country from Wisconsin. I pulled into my friend’s driveway, brought my things inside, and went back to my car to park it on the street. Almost immediately, a cop’s siren and flashing lights went off. I’d left my license in my friend’s apartment, so I…
  • The Hunting Ground: Human Truths of Campus Rape

    Susan Rose
    CALIFORNIA MOVES AGAINST RAPE-On May 13, California moved aggressively against rape on campuses, issuing a directive to all state colleges to “notify authorities when a sexual assault is reported.” Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.C. president Janet Napolitano jointly issued a set of guidelines to encourage collaboration between campuses and…
  • Santa Barbara Spill Underscores Why We Can’t Allow Arctic Oil Drilling

    Ryan Schleeter
    PLANET WATCH-Last week, a major oil spill in Santa Barbara County made headlines after a ruptured pipeline dumped as much as 105,000 gallons of crude oil on the California coastline. The spill stretches across roughly nine miles of state beach with tens of thousands of gallons entering marine protected areas in the Pacific Ocean. The spill took…
  • How Will David Ryu Honor His Campaign Pledges?

    Jack Humphreville
    LA WATCHDOG-In a race that focused on local issues, outsider David Ryu (photo) outpolled City Hall insider Carolyn Ramsay by almost 10 points (54.8% to 45.2%), representing a margin of over 2,300 votes. Yet, since less than 16% of Council District 4’s 153,000 registered voters bothered to vote, Ryu was supported by less than 9% of those eligible…
  • $15 an Hour: If This Ain't Socialism, Then What SHOULD We Call It?

    Ken Alpern
    CONSIDER THIS-Funny how when you accuse, or even suggest, to a liberal (or is it "progressive"? or is it "reformist"?) that he/she is socialist, they get all bent out of shape. One reason that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is so respected is that he says it like it is--he's a sincere socialist who means what he says and says what he means. One…
  • California Dreaming: Booms to Busts, the Optimists are Still Searching for the Gold

    James Preston Allen
    AT LENGTH-At a meeting I attended recently with the management of the Port of Los Angeles, a civic leader voiced his enduring optimism for a bright and successful future. I gave the unsolicited reply, “an ounce of skepticism is worth a pound of optimism.” Others at the meeting said aghast, “Oh, no. How would anything ever get accomplished?”…
  • LA’s Homeless: Not a lost Cause

    Denyse Selesnick
    MY TURN-I was both surprised and rather pleased about the reaction to my recent article. Apparently, many people in Los Angeles are realizing that the Homelessness isn’t just City Hall’s challenge but affects all of our neighborhoods. Even more important, it doesn’t just affect us economically but impacts our sense of humanity and fair play. Yes,…
  • Senate Race: Choosing Kamala or Loretta Comes Down to North vs. South … California

    Joe Mathews
    CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-Are you a Kamala or a Loretta? Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez—the two leading candidates for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat next year—confront Californians with a choice. But it’s not a choice about competing policies or political visions. Californians don’t have political arguments about…
  • From Tragedy, Healing

    Mike Newhouse
    GUEST WORDS-In the days after Brendon Glenn was killed, in the heart of Venice, I was starkly reminded of one of our community's biggest challenges. But, my perspective may surprise you. What first came to mind was not how we police. It was not about racism or homelessness. It was not about mental illness, or the insidious nature of drug or…

 

  • Can Strawberries Help Fight Cancer?

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-There have been a number of studies over the years that could show evidence of strawberries fighting off cancer. Tong Chen lead a study…
  • Study: The Best Way to Quit Smoking … Bet On It

    Francie Diep
    WELLNESS-Oftentimes, money speaks louder than words. Apparently, that aphorism applies to cigarettes too. A new study finds that money incentives…
  • Exercise Can Help Anxiety … Here’s How

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-Statistics show that over 3 million American adults suffer from anxiety and there is no evidence that number will be declining any time…




Alert! World’s 10 most dangerous animals

Smashing good job. World’s leaders beating each other up

Trevor Noah warming up for takeover of the Daily Show

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

White Out! Majority of Births Now Minorities—Brace Yourself for the Loss of Nothing

VOICES FROM THE PUBLIC SQUARE - Here we go again. The Census Bureau has released yet one more milestone data point that supposedly reveals the profundity of America’s ongoing demographic change. This time, it’s news that, as The New York Times put it last week, “Whites account for less than half of births in the US.”

It’s one of those front-page headlines that give you pause. You know it means something significant—why else would it be on the front page?!—but you can’t quite put your finger on it.


Don’t buy into the hype and all the overwrought commentary (of which there was plenty on cable TV following the demographic “breaking news”) on this supposed milestone. The Census Bureau’s drumbeat of racial change is nothing but empty, invidious data that says more about the uselessness of our current racial categories than it does about any transformation of American society.

For one, reports that “whites” account for less than half of births in the US are not accurate. Since almost half of American Latinos identify themselves as white racially, you can rest assured that, strictly speaking, “white” babies are still securely in the majority of delivery room miracles. Sure, the body of the story specifies that what they’re talking about is “non-Hispanic whites”—a term no one but bureaucrats and wonks use—but the headline says it all. Real white babies or traditionally white babies or the babies we’ve come to consider white are lagging behind in the race to be born.

In the US, we’ve traditionally understood biology as being the fundamental difference between “ethnicity” and “race.” Race is seen as genetically predetermined and therefore unchangeable, while ethnicity—which encompasses language, religion, and culture—can change over time and place.

The Census makes clear that black, white, American Indian, Asian, and Native Hawaiian are racial categories, while Hispanic is an ethnic one. The term non-Hispanic white then, or “white Hispanic” for that matter (think George Zimmerman), combines the racial and the ethnic indicators. It is a jerry-rigged term with no clear objective meaning or predictive value.

Official government usage notwithstanding, whiteness is in the eye of the beholder. Last week, a political journalist friend of mine wondered aloud whether Mitt Romney was “too white” to be elected president. Last month, a flight attendant whose parents were born in Sicily told me she didn’t consider herself white because of her olive complexion.

The first instance of whiteness here refers to the candidate’s behavior and mannerisms that might derive from a particular ethnic background; what my friend really meant was Yankee. The second instance was referring solely to skin color.

Plenty of other traits can confer whiteness on a person—class, economic, educational, or social status to name a few. Five years ago, I followed two friends of mine deep into the heart of the Mississippi Delta where they were studying the construction of whiteness, the process by which a variety of ethnic subgroups forged an uneasy and hierarchical alliance called “white people.”

One remarkable interview with a retired sheriff in Sunflower County taught me more than any demographer, social scientist, or race theorist ever had.

After a winding chat about subtle class and ethnic distinctions among whites in the Delta, we decided to ask the sheriff where a variety of local groups stood in relation to whiteness.

“Are Lebanese white people?” we began.

“Yes,” he said, “although they’re real dark.”

“How about Italian Catholics; are they white?”

“Sure.”

“And Jews?”

“Yes.”

“What about the Chinese?”

“Yes,” he said, “they go to the white schools.”

“And Mexicans?”

“They’re becoming more white. More of them are getting an education.”

“Then what’s a white person?” we asked.

After some confusion over the meaning of the question, he concluded that it was probably anybody “who isn’t black.”

So, if whiteness is more a negative indicator than anything else, it makes sense that for most people the process of becoming white has also been one of negation.

Throughout history, new immigrants to these shores were obliged to fit themselves on one side or the other of the black or non-black (white) racial divide. Not surprisingly, most chose to identify themselves with the side that had full rights. In books such as How the Irish Became White, scholars have traced the path that immigrant subgroups took to become considered part of the “white race.”  It’s a poignant and peculiarly American journey.

That’s because the status of whiteness—and the protection it conferred—came with a significant cost.

Over time, most distinct subgroups gradually lost their distinctiveness. Their members traded specific ethnic labels—Italian, Dutch, Swedish, French—for the generic racial label of “white.” They exchanged identities that told us something about their unique family histories for an elastic racial category that mostly tells us what they are not.

A decade or so ago, I had an epiphany while skulking around Milwaukee’s once German, now African American, West Side. In few places are the mechanics of becoming white so clear. Milwaukee had an ethnic German majority from 1860 until roughly the middle of the 20th century.

This demographic clustering created an ecosystem of newspapers, bakeries, churches, and social groups that nurtured the city’s ethnic distinctiveness. (Even the city’s 1895 City Hall, built in German Renaissance Revival style, resembles Hamburg’s Rathaus.) But in the early and mid-20th century, as greater numbers of blacks moved north in search of industrial jobs, ethnic Germans began to move to the surrounding suburbs, thereby moving beyond the radius of the social organizations and businesses that had nurtured their Germanness several generations after the actual immigrant experience. That’s when they became white.

Not only did this jump into whiteness deprive post-ethnics of all sorts of traditional comforts and ethnic-based networks of affection and meaning, it also stripped them of ethnic identity itself, something that had long served as a source of cohesion and rootedness in the larger, peripatetic society.

In her 1990 book, Ethnic Options, Harvard political scientist Mary Waters argues that being American doesn’t give people that sense of belonging to one large family, “the way that being French does for people in France. In America, rather than conjuring up an image of nationhood to meet this desire, ethnic images are called forth.”

It therefore stands to reason that moving beyond ethnicity into whiteness can lead to a greater sense of individual isolation and loneliness. In her fieldwork, Waters found that many post-ethnic whites often long for the sense of “specialness” and intimacy that being “none of the above” can’t provide.

That longing prompts many to grasp for new ways to connect. In 1972, historian and journalist Thomas C. Wheeler warned that, stripped of embracing ethnic identities, Americans reel off “endlessly on fads” and in “search of life-styles.”

More recently, however, the emptiness of whiteness is not only eroding the social contract but also encouraging people to embrace the abstract certainties of rigid ideologies. Like newly minted atheists who search for all-encompassing worldviews to replace the religions they’ve left behind, atomized post-ethnics substitute political causes for the bakery and social clubs their grandparents once enjoyed.

Recent headlines on infant demographics contained more than a hint of alarmism. Implicit in the story was the belief that changes in the racial makeup of the country would pose a challenge to the nation’s values, identity, and heritage. But race in America has always said more about what people are not than what they are.

On some level, whiteness can only be understood as an anti-heritage, a privileged enclave whose price of entry has been checking one’s past at the gate. The end of whiteness as a majority category doesn’t mean the country is relinquishing something. Quite the contrary, we will literally be losing nothing.

(Gregory Rodriguez is founding director of Zócalo Public Square and executive director of the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University. Zocalo Public Square … where this article was first posted … is a living magazine that connects people to ideas and each other. A must visit.) Photo credit:   Dean Terry.   
-cw

Tags: minorities, majority, Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Blacks, Asians, American demographics, race, ethnicity, US, American births







CityWatch
Vol 10 Issue 43
Pub: May 29, 2012

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