The Nonsensical Narrative of an Impending White Minority

Mark-Paul Gosselaar (left) and Alexis Bledel.

by James A. Bacon

America’s media and cultural elites are increasingly obsessed with race and ethnicity, viewing every public policy issue through a racial prism. But the American people aren’t cooperating. In their real-world behavior, race and ethnicity are becoming less important. The distinction between “whites” and “Hispanics,” never clear to begin with, is steadily eroding. Meanwhile, the increase of intermarriage between all racial/ethnic groups has given rise to a category of people, numbering in the millions, who identify as members of two (sometimes more) races.

Those are the thoughts that come to mind as I read Hamilton Lombard’s latest contribution to the StatChat blog about the misleading narrative of a disappearing white majority.

As Lombard writes, media headlines have touted a population tipping point in which the “white” majority of Americans will be overtaken numerically by minorities of other races and ethnicities. This narrative, I would add, has fed the fears of white supremacists who vow they will not be “replaced” as well as the aspirations of leftist politicians who believe they can ride minority grievances to power.

But the narrative is misleading, Lombard says. The “white” majority seems to be slipping away only because so many white and half-white Americans are counted as minorities in the census data.

Consider actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar, for instance, best known as blonde haired heartthrob Zack Morris from the early-90s sitcom, Saved by the Bell. Most viewers would consider Gosselaar to be white. If Gosselaar, who once quipped, “People don’t know that Zack Morris is half Asian,” identified himself as both white and Asian on the Census, he would be tabulated by the Census as a person of “two or more races,” which is a category classified as a minority – thereby no longer counting him as white or Asian.

The same goes for Gilmore Girls star Alexis Bledel. While most people see the fair skinned, blue-eyed Bledel as white, according to the census categorization, she, too, would be in the minority category, because of her Hispanic heritage.

Here are the Virginia numbers from Census QuickFacts:

From this data we can conclude that of the 9.8% of Virginia’s population classified as Hispanic, 8.2 percentage points identify racially as white. The other 1.6 percentage points presumably identify as black or American Indian. Some Hispanics are descended from African slaves; some are of mixed white/Indian descent known as mestizos; and some are Native Americans. In Mexico 62% of the population identifies as mestizo and 21% as Native American, according to World Atlas. (Comparable percentages prevail in Central American countries.) I have seen zero reporting or commentary about how Mexican and Central American immigrants of mestizo or Native Americans background categorize themselves when they come to the United States. Any U.S. system of racial classification that fails to take these sociological realities into account isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.

Hispanics/Latinos are far more likely to identify with their Latin American countries of origin than the Hispanic/Latino ethnic classification imposed by American politicians and intellectual elites upon a variegated population for political purposes. Just as Hispanics/Latinos almost universally reject the gender-neutral “Latinx” terminology preferred by white progressives, they likely do not conform to Leftist perspectives on how they should think of themselves as an ethnic group. Many if not most aspire to join the American mainstream.

In the era of slavery and segregation, a child with “one drop of black blood” was classified by a system obsessed with racial purity as black. Now that the racial stigma has mostly disappeared, census takers have bowed to reality by letting Americans classify themselves by more than one race. And an increasing number embrace the backgrounds of both mother and father by declaring themselves to be multiracial.

As Lombard writes, the percentage of Americans identifying as exclusively white and non-Hispanic will continue to decline. Add white Hispanics, however, and the picture changes. And add multiracial Americans with one white parent, and the conventional narrative becomes meaningless.

How do we characterize the change in the white population? While white alone individuals made up 72 percent of the population, 85% of births in 2018 were to white alone, or in combination with other races, or Hispanic, and only 51% of births were to two parents who identified as white alone, non-Hispanic.

Here’s a way to bring that home to Virginia. This data from the Virginia Department of Education classifies K-12 students by race and ethnicity, born far more recently on average than the population as a whole. Compare it to the table above.

The white-alone percentage for the population as a whole is 69.4%; for public school students its 46.4%. That’s a big drop. Conversely, while “two or more races” accounts for 3.2% of Virginia’s population as a whole, it accounts for 6.4% of public school children. That’s a fast riser.

Once upon a time, Americans of northwestern European stock saw themselves as white but looked askance at Italians, Greeks, Lebanese and others of Mediterranean origin with slightly darker skin. Today distinctions between those groups are largely meaningless. Indeed, we are experiencing a steady widening of the circle as more and more groups integrate into the American mainstream. Being “white” doesn’t mean what it used to.

What is astonishing  is the speed at which American racial/ethnic boundaries are eroding compared to those in other countries

This trend drives Leftists absolutely bonkers, of course, because their power rests upon race-based victimhood and grievance. For the Left, it is imperative to perpetuate race and ethnicity as primary identities. Thus, leftists label mainstream American culture as “white,” hence illegitimate for other races to emulate, and members of the white intelligentsia lecture African-Americans on what it takes to be authentically black — conservative political views explicitly forbidden.

While racial/ethnic identity is as important as ever in the world of politics, in the everyday world in which people live, work, marry and have children, it is becoming less important. Americans increasingly see each other as individuals, not members of a race. And that is a beautiful thing.

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29 responses to “The Nonsensical Narrative of an Impending White Minority

  1. Baconator with extra cheese

    Ever seen a picture Ted Cruz’s daughters? Blonde haired latinas….

    • That’s not unusual. Why would you think so? Many blond Italians and I would venture more than a few on the Iberian.

      From back in the day…
      “In Russia ve haf beautiful blond vymens… dey are East Germans but dey is in Russia.”

  2. re: ” This trend drives Leftists absolutely bonkers, of course, because their power rests upon race-based victimhood and grievance. For the Left, it is imperative to perpetuate race and ethnicity as primary identities. Thus, leftists label mainstream American culture as “white,” hence illegitimate for other races to emulate, and members of the white intelligentsia lecture African-Americans on what it takes to be authentically black — conservative political views explicitly forbidden.”

    Well then how would someone like Kirk Cox go about getting these votes? Just ignore the race/ethinicity thing or say “what have you got to lose”?

  3. Welcome to the America you think you know.

    http://racialdotmap.demographics.coopercenter.org

    Yep, you’re there. I checked.

  4. There is a fascinating article in today’s NYT about the shifts in Black and Hispanic precincts toward Trump. It bears out the warning that Democrats need to pay less attention to racial issues and more to class. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/12/20/us/politics/election-hispanics-asians-voting.html?searchResultPosition=4

    • Or, just dumb it down like Trump did.

    • Yep. I can see those groups as Conservative but cannot imagine what they’d see in Trump!

      Does this mean that Amanda Chase could win the black/hispanic/asian vote and Cox not?

      • Other way around. Cox just survived in a district that was packed with new Black voters intending to sink him — and he got quite a few votes after all. Issues do matter, too.

    • Richard is spot-on in that immigrant groups who’ve been left behind in the meritocratic scramble for top-tier school districts and universities (SE Asians and Latinos, not Indians or Persians) are increasingly falling out of love with the vote-by-aesthetics approach of national Democrats. If you aren’t acculturated to progressive (read as: bourgeois neo-Victorian) approaches to gender and race, page-spanning headlines about Trump tweets are miniscule compared to paychecks and mortgage bills.

      That’s not to say Trumpism 1.0 or 2.0 can win nonwhite majorities, but it is to say the Democrats’ approach to maintaining the Obama coalition is far and away weighted toward capturing suburbanites rather than securing the working class, regardless of race. The Republicans haven’t turned the tables here, but there’s an opening to be exploited by Hawley, Rubio et. al.

      I can only speak to my Mexican relations’ exurban Idaho experience, but no Democratic besides Bernie has much weight out there. If Webb were to play in the GOP lane for 2024… now that’d be something.

    • As a Democrat I’ll say one thing Trump did was go to places like South Texas and ask Mexican-Americans for their vote. However clumsily he did do it, this is different from ex Mitt Romney and the like who wouldn’t bother.

      Locally, Kirk Cox did this when he got redrawn into his district with African-American voters in Ettrick-Matoaca, and it’s one reason he won.

  5. Human race has a nice ring to it. That’s how I answer the race question on all surveys.

  6. We act like the way we do ethnicity on the Census is holy writ , like the five categories are written in stone, but this way of doing things only has existed since the Nixon Administration.

    We should do what Canada does—write in your ethnicity. As in British, German, Scots-Irish, African-American, Mexican, Nigerian, Korean, Pamunkey, whatever. Write one or more up to as many as you want.

    Then there’s a box that says “visible minority”. Check “yes” or “no”.

  7. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Get used to steady diet with extra unwanted helpings of this stuff. C. Van Woodward once wrote of a way to maintain power. Keep the masses divided. Prevent them from uniting along the lines of class. The strange career of Jim Crow 21st century style.

  8. “It bears out the warning that Democrats need to pay less attention to racial issues and more to class.”

    How cynical and immoral.

  9. “America’s media and cultural elites are increasingly obsessed with race and ethnicity, viewing every public policy issue through a racial prism.”

    I don’t know… it sure seems like the Rightwing blogosphere is obsessed with the topic. They now view nearly every issue through a racial prism. This very blog has a race-based post nearly every single day. But you keep telling yourself it’s the other guy’s problem… I’m sure it helps…

    • Tough to tell. The Right wingnut blogosphere is either obsessed with racism or it could just be an obsession with the media.

      Either way, you’ll not see them ever run a correction. No need, it’s all baseless opinion. Can’t make a correctable error.

  10. The argument that certain European immigrant groups had to “become white” is historically untenable. On a legal basis, European immigrants were always considered “white”. Had that not been the case, they would’ve been ruled ineligible for citizenship under the 1790 Act, which limited naturalization rights to “free whites” only. That never happened (see, for example, the socio-legal monograph “White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race”) .

    In an extralegal sense there is mounting evidence that it was generally understood by native-born Americans, even the bigots, that European immigrants were “white”, although some groups were certainly placed in an “inferior white” category (a relatively recent study titled “The Racial Position of European Immigrants 1883–1941: Evidence from Lynching in the Midwest” makes a compelling case, and I would also recommend the work of labor historians Eric Arnesen and Barbara J. Fields who, in my opinion, obliterated the “becoming white” thesis in the International Labor and Working-Class History journal).

    I’m surprised you bought this argument. It’s especially popular among leftist academics who call themselves “whiteness scholars” and the amateur bloggers and activists who cite them on left-leaning blogs/websites that discuss contemporary immigration politics. In serious history journals of a specialized nature, this hypothesis is at best treated with skepticism and, more often, disregarded altogether.

  11. Yes, I agree, Dicks version is history porn, driven by ideology, not facts.

  12. True, they did not question what kind of whites. They also didn’t specify what “white” meant in the miscegenation laws of the Jim Crow South. Nor did they prohibit European immigrants from serving in “all white” military units. And when motion pictures were commercialized, there were no restrictions on, say, Italian actors kissing “white women” (non-whites were prohibited from kissing white actresses). There’s a seemingly endless list of examples that call into question the logic behind “whiteness” theories.

    • From the beginning of the republic, there were ethnic divisions within the “white” race. Once upon a time, the Englishmen frowned upon the Germans. Then the Irishmen. Ethnic divisions existed then, just as they do now, although they were based on language, religion and culture. The point is that the mainstream culture kept incorporating new elements… the German speakers, the Irish, the Italians, the Poles, the Jews, the Ukrainians, etc. Over time the old ethnic boundaries became less and less consequential. Now the same process of assimilation is occurring with East Asians, South Asians, Vietnamese, Middle Easterners, Hispanics and, yes, even African Americans. The African-American nut will be the harder to crack because African Americans, given their history of oppression in this country, put a huge premium upon maintaining their culture and racial identity.

      Leftists want to define mainstream culture as “white” so as to encourage other racial/ethnic groups to maintain their separatism. In the long run, that’s a losing strategy because Asians and Hispanics (and many blacks) will be assimilated into the mainstream…. which will cease to be “white” anymore. The only ones opposed to this process are the older generation of whites who defined themselves in part by their whiteness and are now passing from the scene, and leftists who want to ride to power upon the backs of the “minorities” they see becoming the majority.

    • On the other hand, there was “Funny Girl”. But then, that was a horse of another color.

  13. Right, James, because ethnicity is based primarily on culture (including language, religion, etc). But leftist whiteness scholars play fast and loose with the term “race” and make reductionist arguments about the racial positions of European immigrants, often claiming that their racial status was ambiguous or uncertain, and that they had to “prove” their whiteness (usually by participating in racism against blacks, or so they claim).

    In reality there was nothing ambiguous about the racial prerequisite for citizenship under the 1790 Act, at least not concerning European immigrants. The only group that “became white” in the courts were s0-called “Arabians” (there were several cases involving Syrian immigrants and their racial status). Arabians were first ruled “not white”, and then a few decades later there was a racial prerequisite case that overturned that ruling and reclassified them as “white”. That never happened with any European immigrant group. As a matter of fact, no court ever had to determine the racial status of European immigrants because no one ever challenged their position on the color spectrum, even if they were regarded by some as “inferior” (inferior as far as whites go, but still solidly on the white side of the color line).

    There is also mounting evidence that native-born American society, even the bigots, generally regarded European immigrants as “white” in an extralegal sense. With respect to lynching, for example, black (and brown) people were subjected to “spectacle lynching” and their corpses were often burned afterwards. Whites, on the other hand, were rarely ever subject to spectacle lynching and their bodies were never burned; the lynching rate for whites was also exceptionally lower than that of non-whites. The study I cited previously quantitatively analyzed lynching data in the Midwest and found no support for the “becoming white” thesis. European immigrants, including Italians, were lynched at a rate closer to that of native-born whites and nowhere near the lynching rates for non-whites. They were also lynched in a manner consistent with white lynching.

    Since lynching is basically mob “justice” that occurs outside of the law, this is pretty good evidence that in both a legal and extralegal sense European immigrants, despite facing discrimination, were on the white side of the line. Thus, using racialized language to describe the disadvantages of European immigrants is, in my opinion, widely off the mark.

  14. Dick asked earlier if people denied history. The answer is yes… but they do have to twist it around so they can then believe that their version is acceptable to the “leftists” versions!

    I’m agog. We had “white” lynchings but they were not “spectcles”. They were killed because they were white just like blacks were killed for being black?

    Jim says this: ” Leftists want to define mainstream culture as “white” so as to encourage other racial/ethnic groups to maintain their separatism. In the long run, that’s a losing strategy because Asians and Hispanics (and many blacks) will be assimilated into the mainstream…. which will cease to be “white” anymore. The only ones opposed to this process are the older generation of whites who defined themselves in part by their whiteness and are now passing from the scene, and leftists who want to ride to power upon the backs of the “minorities” they see becoming the majority.”

    so “older generation whites” – really? All those white folks in the streets over George Floyd and the subsequent and ongoing equity issues are “older generation whites”? This is what you really believe?

    Mr. Christopher’s musings are even more in denial of history and reality. It’s like there was no such thing as slaves on plantations for generations and denial of the right to an education or vote purely based on the color of skin.

    There were also plantations of “less-favored” white slaves and they managed to “assimilate” while blacks are being more stubborn?

    😉

    So all this “equity” stuff since George Floyd is the machinations of an older generation of white leftists?

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