|Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-05-26 02:02Z by Steven|
Matthew Yglesias, Business and Economics Correspondent
It’s rare that a Census Bureau press release dominates the front pages, but last week’s headline “Most Children Younger Than 1 Are Minorities, Census Reports” was the thrilling exception. The shortage of white Anglo babies, the press was eager to tell us, was a glimpse of things to come, of America’s future as a majority-minority nation.
I have my doubts. “A minority,” the census release clarified, “is anyone who is not single-race white and not Hispanic.” It’s not that the census is counting the wrong thing. Rather, I suspect an awful lot of these “minority” babies are going to be white when they grow up.
When I filled out my 2010 census form I was, like many Americans with Spanish surnames, a bit puzzled. Prompted to ask if I am “of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin” I said that I was. But it seems like a bit of a fraud. My grandfather is José Yglesias, and his parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba. He grew up speaking Spanish at home in the Spanish-dominant community of Ybor City in Tampa, Fla. His books are published (in English) by Arte Público Press as part of their Pioneers of Modern U.S. Hispanic Literature series. It’s right there on the cover. And I am, obviously, a descendant of my own grandfather. So if he’s a pioneer of Hispanic literature, then clearly I am of Hispanic origin.
Back in the real world, though, I’m just another white dude….
…It’s conceivable that 40 years from now nobody will care about race at all. But if they do still care, it will still be the case that—by definition—whiteness is the racial definition of the sociocultural majority. If the only way for that to happen is to recruit large swathes of the Hispanic and fractionally Asian population into whiteness, then surely it will happen. Indeed, while the Census Bureau has always been very clear that some people are white, others black, and yet others Native American or Indian, the federal government has frequently changed its mind about the rest. The first time an additional option showed up was in Census 1870’s addition of a “Chinese” race. By 1890 you were also allowed to be “Japanese,” and “mulatto,” “quadroon,” and “octoroon” categories were implemented for the fractionally black. These mixed-race categories vanished in 1900, but mulatto returned in 1910, and in 1920 “Hindu,” “Korean,” and “Filipino” became races. Mulatto vanished in 1930, and “Mexican” became a race, though people of Mexican ancestry had been living in large parts of the United States since those parts of the country actually belonged to Mexico. In 1940, Mexicans were granted white status—a measure backed up by a 1943 Texas law passed in part as an act of wartime solidarity, in appreciation of Latin American support for the anti-Nazi cause…
…The point of this long-winded recitation is simply that with the important exception of the black/white dichotomy, America has never operated with a stable conception of race. The factoid that 50 percent of our latest baby crop is other than non-Hispanic white is true only relative to the 2000 census scheme. There’s no reason to believe that this particular categorization will continue as bureaucratic practice or social reality…
…Everyone knows that a large share of the black population is in fact partially white, while a smaller—but not entirely trivial—share of the white population is partially black. The future of American whiteness will likely evolve to include a larger share of ancestry from Asia and Latin America, just as in the past it’s expanded to include people from eastern and southern Europe…
Read the entire article here.