Today's New York Times is reporting Census Bureau projections that the "white" ethnic group in the United States will be outnumbered by other ethnic groups by the middle of this century. From the Times:
The bureau predicts that by 2043 — which is a year later than it previously projected — there will be no single majority group in the country as a whole, as the share of non-Hispanic whites falls below 50 percent.
The population of non-Hispanic whites is expected to shrink both as a share of the population and in raw numbers, the bureau predicted: it is projected to peak in 2024 at 199.6 million, and then to fall by nearly 20.6 million through 2060.
The Hispanic population is expected to more than double during that time, to 128.8 million in 2060 from 53.3 million now. In 2060 nearly one in three residents will be Hispanic, up from about one in six now. (People who identify themselves as Hispanic may be any race.) The black population is expected to increase to 61.8 million from 41.2 million over the same period, with its share of the population rising slightly. And the Asian population is expected to double, to 34.4 million in 2060 from 15.9 million now, with its share of the population climbing to 8.1 percent from 5.1 percent.
Alas, the Census Bureau began collecting racial background information back in 1790 because under the Constitution slaves counted as only three-fifths of a person when it came to apportioning members of the House of Representatives among the states. Now the bureau justifies the multiplication of racial and ethnic categories on the grounds that…
Race is key to implementing many federal laws and is needed to monitor compliance with the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. State governments use the data to determine congressional, state and local voting districts. Race data are also used to assess fairness of employment practices, to monitor racial disparities in characteristics such as health and education and to plan and obtain funds for public services.
What's particularly irritating about the Census Bureau projections is the assumption that Americans 40 years from now will docilely continue to allow themselves to be pigeonholed into the Census Bureau's arbitrary set of racial and ethnic classifications. First of all, the Pew Research Center reported earlier this year that ethnic intermarriage rates are rising steeply which will make a mockery of the federal government's racial categories.
Second, as I pointed out in my column, "The Silly Panic Over a Minority White Nation," if one adds up the current descendants of all of the earlier "non-white" immigrant groups, e.g., Irish, Italians, Slavs, Jews, Greeks, etc., the U.S. is already a "majority minority" nation. As I reported:
So adding up all of the "non-white" groups, one finds that they and their descendants now total 184 million out of 313 million citizens, constituting nearly 60 percent of the country's current population. But how can that be? After all, the Census Bureau notes, "In the 2010 Census, just over one-third of the U.S. population reported their race and ethnicity as something other than non-Hispanic white alone (i.e. "minority")." The answer to this conundrum is that Italians, Poles, Jews, and the Irish are now considered "white."
It is this fact that renders silly and nearly meaningless the pronouncement that "whites" will be a minority in this country by 2050. By 2050, just as the earlier waves of Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Polish immigrants were assimilated, so too will today's Hispanic immigrants and their descendants be. For all intents and purposes, Hispanics will become as "white" as Irish, Italians, Jews, and Poles.
It is my hope and belief that Americans of whatever ancestry living in 2050 will look back and wonder why ever did anyone care about the ethnic makeup of the American population. America is an ideal, not a tribe.
That's still true.