5 minutes

We must pay attention to this historic demographic shift. It’ll change us and our politics.

Photo by Chris Barbalis.

In 2012 Michael Tesler asked 1000 people to comment whether they like Obama’s dog, Bo, or not. But Tesler lied to half of them, saying the dog was Ted Kennedy’s, a former white senator from Massachusetts who owned a similar dog he called Splash. When Tesler looked at the results he found that people’s favorability toward Bo fell by 50%, compared to 20% for Splash. Why? Because Obama is black.

I love this example. When folks extend their racial prejudice to adorable pets, we know that race is powerful in America.

Yet, my friends, in a relentless pursuit of conflict the media has covered the most important demographic shift in our country in such a way that it deepens this racial divide. America has been a nation of whites since the Europeans arrived on this continent and killed millions of Native peoples. Less than a generation ago an all white Congress wrote the laws that had governed our lives. Think about it for a while. Yet for the first time in history my friends, over 50% of our children between 0 to 9 are of color. Together with nerdy projections of white Americans to fall below 50% by 2044, what an alarmist headline this makes. It’s a generous clickbait gift for the corporate media.

But this is a headline that we must discard. We must even if it’s so tempting for progressives to scare the Republican Party and its white following with a certain doomsday. Why?

Trump activated his followers through a rhetoric of hate. The least we want is to threaten half of our country with its extinction and breed more hate. That’s a green light for Trump to a second term in the White House. We know that exposing whites to alarmist headlines on them becoming a minority shifts their allegiance toward the right. And this is not the exclusive psychology of whites. Any group that perceives its identity to be under threat becomes vulnerable and shifts to the right. I’m tempted to say it’s human nature.

The headline is wrong because it disregards our history. Most of the growth in our population comes from Hispanics. Even so, we exclude them from what America choses to call white. We must recall that America had trouble calling the Eastern European immigrants white until it did. America had trouble calling the Asian-Americans white until it did. I can go on, my friends. If America allows for everyone who identifies as white remain white—and our view of whiteness will change— we have an America that remains white well into the future. It’s critical for us to realize that the demographic shift isn’t a zero-sum game like white supremacists see it.

Living in a diverse society is so necessary. Why so? The demographics are clear: The number of Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans is growing and is going to grow for a long time. Only 38% of this growth is because of immigration. We must first accept—open our hearts—to this homegrown change before any meaningful conversation on what America is and will be. But above all, my friends, we must accept this diversity because it’s a unique opportunity in our history for us to practice kindness on people of other races, backgrounds, and ethnicities. It’s up to us to seize this opportunity and fortify our character.

I know it’s tough and we must not hide that vulnerability. It’s like being in a classroom with people from various countries with varying levels of privilege and intelligence. I’ve been through it and it’s uncomfortable. But how else are we going to learn to live together? Segregation? We tried that. Sedimenting our partisan beliefs dwelling on our Facebook feed? We must democratize discomfort in America and acknowledge it’s normal to feel like this. Such inevitable discomfort is critical for learning to become a kinder America. And if we fail to seize this opportunity is we’ll ease Trump’s or a similar demagogue’s job at manipulating our feelings against one another.

A diverse America needs a politics that will represent it in an equitable way. The longest violation of our democracy has been to have 80% of white men in the Republican Party when half of America is a mosaic of races and also half of it have a uterus. Of course this mosaic is going to demand things and representatives who are from these growing communities and sensible to them.

After all, this is what democracy is my friends. We ought to be thankful to our African-American, Hispanic, Muslim, and Native American brothers and sisters for their promotion of it. I’m happy that their efforts have begun to change our Congress with the first Muslim woman, the first Native American women, and the first Latina representative from Texas in Congress as of the last election. Thanks to them and their pursuit of justice for the fifth time in a row the Congress has become more diverse than ever. 22% of our representatives in Congress are minorities. It’s a trend moving faster than the growth of women in Congress (23.7%) even if America had a history to fix its shameful gender inequality.

This should be so encouraging for us, my friends. It means that contrary to a fascist in the White House, the country cannot go back to how it once was. America can only go onward. This should give us the confidence that as long as our country is changing, Tump’s or other demagogue’s crooked strategy to incite hate among identities will face a powerful backlash from our diversifying Congress. Approached in an inclusive way, diversity becomes inoculation against fascism.

Our so-called minorities is 50% of our economy, after all. To think that they are a threat to the white identity instead, is to condemn our collective wellbeing. What struck me is that white America is on average 58 years old. Yet, the minorities are so much younger. They are the energetic communities that will make this country flourish.

But mere disparities in healthcare coverage among minorities tell us that our politics has been grossly failing to invest in this future. We are in urgent need of a leadership that acknowledges this: Our economy is the people whom Trump unabashedly turns against one another. So much for him patting himself on the shoulder for a growing economy.

No. A healthy economy is when you care about half of your population. You rid them of staggering student debt and give them free college. You ensure that 32% of Hispanics get health coverage as well as 21% of African-Americans. You assuage the fear of America changing. You tell the white supremacists in Charlottesville that no coalition conspires against white America and they should relax. You tell people that everyone of us, no matter what sexuality or color, struggle to live a good life. Such empathy goes a long way. Once we’re pushing through and overcome our anxiety with a diverse America, we’ll become so much competent. We must cherish and want this lesson. Onward my friends.