Is the Tanning of America Only Skin Deep?

Is the Tanning of America Only Skin Deep?

The Huffington Post

Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Visiting Scholar
Brown University

It’s official: The United States is officially “tan.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s first population estimate by age, race, ethnicity, and sex since the 2010 Census, “50.4 percent of our nation’s population younger than age 1 were minorities as of July 1, 2011. This is up from 49.5 percent from the 2010 Census taken April 1, 2010. The population younger than age 5 was 49.7 percent minority in 2011, up from 49.0 percent in 2010.”

As expected, media flurry ensued. The Associated Press was among the first outlets to pick up the story reporting, “For the first time, racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half the children born in the U.S.” USA Today noted the nation’s changing complexion and described the Census Bureau’s report as “a sign of how swiftly the USA is becoming a nation of younger minorities and older whites.” And according to the New York Times, “such a turn has been long expected, but no one was certain when the moment would arrive.”

Now that the moment is here we must reckon with it. Today’s Census statement marks a social milestone for a nation that has struggled with issues of diversity, privilege, and power. But, as I suggest in my forthcoming book Clearly Invisible: Racial Passing and the Color of Cultural Identity, the tanning of America might be only skin deep. Or, putting it differently: Is the U.S. passing as “tan”?…

…Here’s why you should care. Because looking at tomorrow’s “tanning” generation in demographic terms only subtly promotes them as the chosen ones who can and will dismantle racism that took centuries to build. When we take this perspective we are shifting the responsibility of solving institutional and structural racism off those of us who were born before July 1, 2011 and off our legal and social histories. This is not only unfair — it’s unrealistic. Predicting the demise of racism by the rising number of nonwhite births is probably not the best way to fulfill our desire for a more just society. Wouldn’t the present-day elimination of disparities in income, employment, health care, education, crime, punishment and family structure for this new generation (as well as their parents) be more accurate measures?…

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