Saturday, May 19, 2012

Demographic Evolution

For many centuries, when it was discovered that there were other lands beyond their own, people explored, traded goods and ideas, and adopted new words into their languages. Sometimes they conquered nations and ruled over them. Sometimes they enslaved the people. Other times they engaged in genocide.
Perhaps the concept of exploration and all the good and bad it embodied was needed for mankind to evolve. Now we are a global community. Progress is rapid and ideas, trends, and news are communicated in seconds. We are connected through technology and the ease of travel.
Cultures are becoming more common than different in industrialized nations, but regional and local cultural mores still operate. In such a world, I think it only matters what personal tastes an individual has in terms of where s/he wants to live, work, and socialize, but I suffer idealism.
This week on I read an article about the shifting demographic in America. No doubt we knew a shift was coming. The Hispanic population has boomed, while middle class white people are aging, have been shrinking as a group, and have fewer children. Blacks remain at around twelve percent of the population, and Asians, also growing in number, are at around five percent of the total population.
The article, found here,, and titled “Hate Groups Grow as Racial Tipping Point Changes Demographics” states, “The data released this week revealed a tipping point in the country's demographic shift. For the first time in the country's history, more minority children were born than white children, setting the stage for an eventual non-white majority in America's population.”
This trend caused a growth in hate groups around the country. Their growth spiked in 2008 when President Obama was elected and continues to grow rapidly. Even white people who don’t consider themselves racist express fear about the changes in population. Mark Potok, spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said, “It's a generalized feeling that 'this is not the country my Christian white forefathers built. We've got to take this country back.' It's not rancid straight ahead race hate, but it is very closely tied to race and the changing look of the country."
It’s an odd anxiety in my opinion, especially because of how this country was settled. First there was genocide and the stealing of land from the native people. Then slaves were brought from Africa when it was deemed Native Americans were not hearty enough to be enslaved. Then after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the dearth of people willing to pick crops and work for low wages in the service of others caused an influx of illegal immigrants. Corporate farmers and the wealthy looking for cheap household help brought them into the country first, then others followed, both legal and illegal, looking for opportunity. Now whites are anxious that the country they considered their home and playground is changing, and they are losing their power to control the situation. It reminds me of the constant feeling that must have run rampant in the South, at the height of slavery, that there were many more blacks than wealthy whites, and if the slaves were ever able to organize, a way of life might be lost. Many of the racist fears that still haunt black men today, like the belief that they have strong sexual desires for white women, grew out of that time. Of course, other historical events and economic trends ended that way of life, but the fear remains.
America doesn’t belong to just white people. It belongs to all Americans of every race and ethnicity. And our culture shows it. The food we eat, the music we listen to, the way we dance: they are all multicultural. Jazz, the blues, Rap, and Zydeco are all uniquely American as is modern dance, tap dance and Hip Hop.  Now Salsa is popular and many businesses display bilingual signage. We are a predominately Christian culture, but we’ve been influenced by many world religions. The popularity of yoga and meditation is an example of how we’ve been influenced by eastern religions and philosophies.
America is an interesting experiment in the merging of world cultures. It makes us unique and influential around the world. I can’t see how that can make people anxious, yet it is ever present.
I’m of Italian and Irish descent with a sprinkle of English and a large dollop of Australian. I’ve spent my adulthood in an interracial relationship with my husband who is black and Seminole Indian. My daughters are interracial –we often told people they were international babies whenever we were asked, “What are they?”  I have always lived a multicultural life. I haven’t chosen one culture or ethnicity over another or felt pressured to. I’ve enjoyed learning that there are different perspectives in the world and have let them open my mind, not close it. My husband is the same way. We’ve always been open to knowing people different than ourselves. That’s how we got together. My daughters feel the same way, too. They use all their cultural influences when creating art, music, dance and theater.
In the article on hate groups, Potok said that younger generations are more accepting of the demographic changes in America. He said 95 percent of them are accepting of interracial relationships. It’s a sign that race is not an important social construct to them. In just a few generations, maybe the color of one’s skin will be unimportant. We will have the chance to enjoy the uniqueness of our global culture instead of fighting over who is American due to race entitlement and who is not due to race prejudice and oppression. Just as cultures and mankind evolved for thousands of years through exploration, we are undergoing another evolution. I can only hope it will happen in my lifetime.

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