White births have been outnumbered by non-white – now what?

(Spotted by my friend Karlos Gauna Schmeider from the Center for Media Justice–two headlines, backwards ideology and the new moment on race in the US)

That inevitable moment that conservative Americans have been dreading is finally here. According to census data births of white babies has been surpassed by brown babies. The AP reports that for the first time in US history Latino, Asian and black babies make up more than 50% of births,

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who analyzed the census data, noted that government debates over immigration enforcement may now be less pressing, given slowing growth. “The current congressional and Supreme Court interest in reducing immigration — and the concerns especially about low-skilled and undocumented Hispanic immigration — represent issues that could well be behind us,” he said.

Minorities made up roughly 2.02 million, or 50.4 percent of U.S. births in the 12-month period ending July 2011. That compares with 37 percent in 1990.

In all, 348 of the nation’s 3,143 counties, or 1 in 9, have minority populations across all age groups that total more than 50 percent. In a sign of future U.S. race and ethnic change, the number of counties reaching the tipping point increases to more than 690, or nearly 1 in 4, when looking only at the under age 5 population.

The counties in transition include Maricopa (Phoenix), Ariz.; King (Seattle), Wash.; Travis (Austin),Texas; and Palm Beach, Fla., where recent Hispanic births are driving the increased diversity among children. Also high on the list are suburban counties such as Fairfax, Va., just outside the nation’s capital, and Westchester, N.Y., near New York City, where more open spaces are a draw for young families who are increasingly minority.

The actual impact and currency of “white culture” is no longer that relevant, it’s not the culture, but a sub-culture. The cultural landscape we grew up in and certainly the one we have experienced most recently privileges people like Jay-z over Tim McGraw. American culture is a much more diverse beast, then our diversity numbers — with people like Kanye holding the thrown (wince). But we already knew that.

But what’s happened in popular culture has only slowly trickled down to our actual lives and more importantly to law enforcement and legislation, where “white power” is exactly that. The Trayvon Martin situation still happened–a sign that things haven’t changed that much. (But the response to his murder was tremendous–a sign that things have changed somewhat).

Calling people of color the minority  has allowed politicians to not only make us interest groups homogenizing our experiences–but also keeps us separate from the American experience, barring our access to some of the same privileges afforded to white Americans.

So, what happens when the minority becomes the majority? Are we still an interest group with shared experiences working to get included in the mainstream, or are we just Americans? The inability to deal with and fear of the growing number of people of color is most apparent in some of the violent anti-immigration, pro-racial profiling legislation we’ve seen in recent years in places like Alabama, Georgia and of course, Arizona.

The inevitable road to increased diversity has brought about some of the most unsavory elements of “white power” rhetoric we have seen in generations–people that should never be given access to the mic are using direct race-baiting to discredit our President (who’s clearly now much more all-American then we ever realized!), or lashing out with super anti-immigrant or anti-black rhetoric. The anxiety some white Americans feel around the growing majority of people in this country not being white is pretty obvious.

The fear is not just foolish, it’s outdated and won’t stand the test of time. Inevitably, even the most conservative places will reach their tipping point (many already have) and leadership will have to face that most of their constituents don’t look like their own children. Conservatives have already exposed themselves for being racists–the question is how long can they cling to that rhetoric?

And ultimately, is it this very same rhetoric about the declining influence of white people that is being used to propel the war on women? Is the hope that we can force an entire generation to make more white babies? If that is the case it is not only awful, sexist and scary, but short-sighted since so many of the cutbacks we are seeing pass impact young women of color from getting access to contraception or abortion.

Also, comments to the NYTimes article pictured above are….interesting (and scary).

Join the Conversation