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Four years ago, more nonwhite babies came gasping and screeching into American hospitals than white babies. By 2040, racial minorities will be the majority in the United States for the first time in the history of the nation. This will be a huge shift, and some will undoubtedly resist the transition.
The fear of a Minority Majority is not much younger than the United States itself, as we’ve explored already. From the very beginning, American social thinkers feared anything that might threaten a pure, Anglo-centric utopia. Even the presence of “stupid, swarthy Germans” kept Ben Franklin up at night. Swarthy Germans. In the early 20th century, the popularity of the pseudo-science of eugenics enabled Congress to restrict immigration by Eastern and Southern Europeans. Further laws were created restricting those from Asia and the Middle East. Later waves of immigration and a politically galvanized blackness stoked twin fears: Invasion from without, rebellion from within.
With the exception of one political figure’s rhetoric, today’s worries about racial makeup of the U.S. often remain unspoken among America’s blue states. Other political factions are more outspoken about their fears, especially when racial tensions explode onto the nightly news.
But if history tells us anything, we have every reason to be excited about more immigration. Every surge of immigration to the U.S. can be explained as an attempt by a people group to pursue a better life through dogged determination. Whether they were fleeing famine, like the Irish, religious persecution and poor economic conditions like the Germans, Italians, Poles, Jews, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes and Serbs, every one of these groups was originally feared, then tolerated, and then peacefully ignored. Chinese, Mexicans, and other groups followed, following the very same path of hard work and gradual expansion of civic and economic participation. There’s simply no historic evidence to believe this behavior won’t continue with future waves of immigration. Every time we thought that a new group of outsiders was going to take away our Americanness, their presence helped to fulfill the original promise of the nation (freedom, inclusivity, peace), making us more American as a whole.
Furthermore, a Minority Majority in 2040 will mean that people from outside are still trying to get in. They’ll inject a desperately-needed youth and vigor to a white population decline. Immigration will be great for our economy. Especially in the tech sector, where we’ve already learned that immigration creates additional jobs.
It will also be more difficult for government to ignore or abuse minority communities who don’t possess the political power to defend their interests. Like when Robert Moses literally steamrolled through impoverished New York City communities to make way for his highway system, displacing hundreds of thousands of families and shunting them into cloistered, socially alienating housing projects. Similarly discriminatory examples of urban planning have afflicted black communities in Baltimore and St. Paul. American history is riddled painful examples of enforced segregation, discriminatory housing policy, and general disinterest in the plight of blacks. These policies disenfranchised huge swathes of the American population and stunted the economy. America will reckon with the results of these policies for generations.
Robert Moses thought he was helping the communities he destroyed, but he wasn’t able to predict the tragic outcome of his actions because he didn’t know what it was like to be in that position. And he didn’t bother to listen. In 2040, it won’t be easy for policymakers to be so oblivious. Government will be more diverse, and traditionally marginalized populations will have a louder voice. It’s difficult to imagine similar abuses occurring in a Minority Majority America.
We’ll all be better off, as we have been throughout history when new, different people arrived. America will be more prosperous and more uniquely “American” than ever. And the melting pot will continue to simmer.
I say it plain.
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath --
America will be!”