Playing catchup with the minority birthrate

Playing catchup with the minority birthrate (L.A. Times/David Horsey / May 22, 2012)

Pudgy, pink Gerber babies are no longer the typical children being born in the United States. According to theU.S. Census Bureau, moms who are Latino, Asian, African American or mixed race are now giving birth to just over 50 percent of American babies.

Though the median age of Americans of European heritage is 42, the median age of Latinos is 28. The median for Asians and blacks falls somewhere around 33. You do not need a biologist or sociologist to tell you younger people make more babies, so this historic trend toward an increasingly multiracial nation will continue.

When all these little brown babies grow up, they will be working hard to pay for the Medicare and Social Security benefits of a whole lot of old white people like me. It might be a good idea, then, for us all to pay more attention to the quality of K-12 education these youngsters will be getting and make sure they are ready and able to access higher education. We are not going to have a strong economy or a healthy society if we continue to be sanguine as minority kids fall behind and settle for a life of service jobs. We need them to aim much higher. Yes, I know it's a cliche, but I have to say it: They are our future.

And as long as we are talking about the way we waste the potential of some of our young people, here's a suggestion for certain politicians (hello, Mitt Romney): Stop trying to win the votes of xenophobes by trashing the Dream Act. Giving a path to citizenship to young people who have lived their entire lives in this country and who are willing to serve in the military or go to college is not a treasonous idea. It is a smart way to turn a huge problem into an uplifting solution.

These thousands of kids whose parents brought them across the border illegally know no other country but this one. They have grown up here, gone to school here, and they are not going away. If not now, then soon, they, too, will be having babies. We can either offer a way to help them become productive citizens and good parents or we can condemn them to the shadows and their children to a future of stunted dreams. The first option works for everyone; the second is bad for us all.

It is inevitable that America will change. That bothers some folks, I know, but it can be a dramatic change for the better if only we pull our heads out of the sand, stop clinging to outmoded definitions of "real Americans" and do the necessary work to bring all these new babies into the great American family.

America is not defined by ratios of black, white or brown; it is all a matter of red, white and blue.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David Horsey is a political commentator for the Los Angeles Times. Go to latimes.com/news/politics/topoftheticket/ to see more of his work.