I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the man who leaned toward me on the checkout line at ShopRite on Election Day morning and asked, “Can you tell me why all the Jews here are voting for that n…..?” Thirty-five years ago I would have given him in earful, but now he just seemed like an old man the world had passed by. I responded, told him what I thought, but not with the energy I would have given it during the Civil Rights era. What for? It’s too late for him to prepare himself for the change that is coming.
We are quickly approaching a new demographic where the white race will be the minority. According to an August 2008 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, blacks and Hispanics, East Asians and South Asians will account for a majority of the U.S. population by the year 2042. It will take more time for these groups to attain political and economic parity with whites or surpass whites politically or economically, but when they do, I hope they are better to us than we have been to them.
Former President Bill Clinton believes this change will be an improvement. He stated, “Today, largely because of immigration, there is no white majority in Hawaii or Houston or New York City. Within five years, there will be no white majority in our largest state, California. In a little more than 50 years, there will be no white majority in the United States. No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time … [These immigrants] are energizing our culture and broadening our vision of the world. They are renewing our most basic values and reminding us all of what it truly means to be American.”
The fastest growing non-white populations in America are Hispanics who emigrated from Caribbean countries and Mexico. Unlike my grandparents who could pass for white, the Hispanics have no such option, nor would they want it. In the past, immigrants from European nations aspired to become as American as possible and that meant white — speaking English, changing their surnames, emulating the styles of the Waspy upper class wealthy, going to the same churches and aspiring to be accepted at the same schools.
Among the youth, this situation has completely reversed. Public schools are filled with children who are “wiggers,” white kids who steep themselves in black culture. This phenomenon began in the early 1990’s and has been an agent for changing the social patterns in schools. Black music, dance and fashion styles are what are in. Pop culture today celebrates the popular value of multicultural inclusiveness, although the least popular inclusion is white “culture,” which is difficult to define or find. Matt Wray, a sociologist at Temple University said: “Many of my white students don’t care about socioeconomics. They care about culture. And to be white is to be culturally broke. The classic thing white students say when you ask them to talk about who they are is, ‘I don’t have a culture.’ They might be privileged. They might be loaded socioeconomically, but they feel bankrupt when it comes to culture … They feel disadvantaged and they feel marginalized. They don’t have a culture that’s cool or oppositional.”
“It’s become harder for the blond-haired, blue-eyed commercial actor,” remarks Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, of the Hispanic marketing firm Enlace. “You read casting notices and they like to cast people with brown hair because they could be Hispanic. The language of casting notices is pretty shocking because it’s so specific: ‘Brown hair, brown eyes, could look Hispanic.’ Or, as one notice put it: ‘Ethnically ambiguous.’
Ethnic ambiguity is without a doubt the new wave and is here to stay and will continue to grow. The rate of intermarriages between blacks, whites and Hispanics is increasing enormously. The 60’s Age of Aquarius now has a grandchild — The Beige of Aquarius. This growing population will identify with all races. As the number of beige people grows, the ideas of separatists of either extreme will become as antiquated as the point of view of the man in ShopRite.
It’s become really “cool” among the youth to have close friends of all races.
Peter Rosenberg, the radio personality on New York’s Hot 97 FM, interviewed the popular St. Louis rapper Nelly who said, “It’s now very cool and in to have multicultural friends. Like you’re not really considered hip or ‘you’ve made it’ if you’re rolling with all the same type of people all the time.”
For someone of my generation I am pretty “cool” by this definition. I spend a great amount of time with younger black men, a situation I have written about many times for this publication. For eleven years of Sundays I have taught modern dance in prisons to males age 12 to 58.
Each year they ask me to be a keynote speaker at their black history celebration and each year I look for a black man of great intellectual stature instead.
Last year I almost found someone, but the gentleman I found told me that he did not believe in multiculturalism or diversity. Since diversity was the theme of the prison’s celebration, the prisoners wanted to include men of all races. They rejected that speaker and coaxed me to speak again. I did.
During my talk I mentioned the changing demographic and told the men that America would not be a predominantly white country within their lifetimes.
One prisoner said, “It’s not going to make a bit of difference for this messed-up world what race has more folks. It doesn’t matter what color you are if your character doesn’t change. Everything depends on each person’s character. It’s going to take millions of good people from all backgrounds to fix this mess. When are we going to stop talking about race and start talking about becoming better humans, anyway?”