By Edward Blakely
What is the future for the new non-white, non-Protestant, non-Anglo-Saxon America?
On 17 May 2012, the United States crossed a line and opened a new chapter. America as we knew it was no more.
New data showing national minority birth rates exceeded the birth rate for white Americans for the first time in the year to July 2011 was released that day. It represented a shock to an already traumatised nation.
This is not surprising for many educated Americans but startling and disturbing to most of the former ruling White America. What it means is genuinely profound for a nation that, from all appearances, has lost its way to a collectively agreed upon future. America is deeply divided — not just politically, but socially, economically and morally. The most important question for the US now, as it faces deep fiscal deficits, is who will care about the nation’s future.
White Americans have taken their country for granted. They set the goals and roles. Now, if they are no longer the beneficiaries of future prosperity, why should they care how the future works out? They can’t be the winners. We can already see this drama working itself out in the Tea Party and in Congress, where the arguments over the merits of legislations for all of America are shunned for polemics over who will be the winners in the fight for dwindling resources.
Already, affirmative action has been undermined to the point that race no longer counts and may be a disadvantage in education and government employment. This means if you are a formerly discriminated group you can no longer rely on legally established remedies. A black president compounds this problem for many white Americans. Why can’t any black make it, if Obama did?
But now the stakes are different.
Minorities — blacks, Latinos and Asians — will be in charge by mid-century. In many of America’s large cities, elected mayors and seniors and appointed officials are minority group members already.
How will whites feel as minorities in what they perceive as their country? California, the most populous state in the nation, will almost certainly have a Latino governor soon. What we see now is a rising open hostility from the white population toward the common civic.
Whites are retreating from public schools, public hospitals, and public recreation. In place of former civic institutions, we see growing gated and exclusive communities, mostly white, who will not support with their taxes any form of public facilities other than courts and jails.
This retreat from public support of all institutions is most visible in reduced interest in and support for American public education at every level, including America’s great public universities. Too many white Americans don’t have any grandchildren who can benefit from these institutions — so why should they care or spend their tax dollars on educating blacks and Latinos?
What is worse for many white Americans is the increasing interracial marriage rate. Almost every American family now has an interracial couple in it. In time interracial relationships should lead to increased tolerance. But now, interracial family formations are a threat. This is not how the American Dream was supposed to work out for White America. Things were supposed to get better for them first.
If there was something left over for minorities — fine. But now it seems that the privileged White American Dream portrayed in the 1950s' Leave it to Beaver isn’t going to happen. So where must America go to find a future of hope and not one of fear?
What all Americans have to realise is that a new Dream has to be forged. In the new American Dream all Americans will have to share the burdens and possibilities of the future. Every child of colour is needed to create a new America. These new Americans of all colours will work, save, and be innovators and entrepreneurs like former generations in order to reduce the deficit and fund the retirements of an aging nation. Every child born in the nation needs increased skills to compete in a global economy. America has to invest in all new babies to generate the wealth required to meet the challenges of a growing world population with reduced natural resources.
America’s special opportunity is that it will have a truly diverse growing population. The United States is one of the few developed nations that have a growing population, with predictions of 100 million more Americans being born or immigrating to the country by 2050.
Western Europe, Russia and Japan’s populations are in steep decline. Moreover, "Made in America" products and services are more in demand in the fastest growing economies in the world — in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
America’s Dream for the future can be forged out of this: its unique opportunity to demonstrate that all men are created equal, and that a nation that invests in its people will make a better world for all mankind.
3 July 2012