By Wayne Dawkins
Special to the AFRO
Item: “First drop in U.S. White population” [since 1790], Aug. 13 Washington Post front page.
Here are bottom lines: During the past 20 years, the Latinx [Hispanic] and Asian populations doubled to 18% and 6% of Americans respectively.
The Black, aka African-American population, held steady at 12%.
Two decades ago, when Hispanics surpassed Blacks as the second-largest U.S. ethnic group, National Urban League President Hugh Price advised, what must we do to remain relevant now that we are No. 3? The answers today are a mixed bag of breakthroughs in politics, education and media, yet nagging economic, justice and health disparities. Working on that.
Over the past 20 years the White American population declined from nearly 75% to 58% in 2020, that is, if those numbers are based on checking “White” on census forms. At the close of the 1900s, demographers predicted America would be a human mosaic. The prophecy is reality.
Here is the shocker: Now that American inhabitants can self-identify in these ways, the biracial or multiracial population expanded exponentially, from 9 million to 34 million in the past 20 years, reported the Post.
Consider a Nissan commercial in which a Black mom is at the wheel, a White dad is at her side and two biracial offspring are in the back seats. Not a big deal; simply a vehicle to sell SUVs, until consider that it took a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow interracial marriage in the mainland USA.
Sixty years ago this month, Barack Obama was born in Hawaii because his parents, a White Kansan and African from Kenya, could not get a marriage license in most of the mainland United States.
The biracial/multiracial phenomenon should make political combatants on the Democratic left and Republican right uncomfortable, even bonkers.
Human complexity will make it harder to put Americans in confining boxes, as Isabel Wilkerson wrote in her recent book “Caste.” It should be necessary to build coalitions now that no single ethnic group is dominating the population. This reality is not that shocking to longtime residents of coastal cities such as Baltimore and Washington, Boston, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Interior America has changed radically too [talking to Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Denver, et al].
The delayed 2020 U.S. Census results landed with a ‘boom’ and the results are Emanuel Celler’s legacy. He was the father of 1965 immigration reform. His children have grown up and matured after 55 years. Celler waged a 40-year crusade to end racially discriminatory American immigration. Emigrants to America were ethnically diverse until the 1920s, when Congress passed national origins laws and limited entry to preferred Europeans. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AydxtDMlTI&t=618s
World War II, then cold war, then the modern civil rights movement – history – compelled America to change. Celler, listing for years on the political seas, found wind under his sails and allies to reform immigration.
Celler and wingman, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, both swore in 1965 that taking the racial bias out of immigration would not dramatically alter the ethnic makeup of America. What both men could not predict in the short term was historical forces: Russia kept Europeans yearning to be free behind an Iron Curtain, China, Japan and South Korea emerged as economic superpowers and Cold War also pushed refugees from Vietnam and Cuba onto to American shores.
Soon, Afghan refugees who supported the U.S. military will be settling here.
Can there be an immigration reform 3.0 reboot in 2021?
The writer is a professor of professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.
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