Face it, we're on our way to being a majority minority country

Op-ed: Face it pols, we're on our way to being a majority minority country.

The day is not far off when images of majority white crowds waving signs at campaign rallies for white candidates will appear as quaint and old-fashioned as ads for Hutzler's and Haussner's. The inescapable truth is that our nation is well on the way to becoming a "majority minority" country. That tipping point is reached when less than half the population self-identifies as non-Hispanic white.

Therefore, the presidential campaign of 2016 is one of the last, in historical terms, when candidates scrambling to win and woo "minority" voters are by definition looking for non-Caucasians.

The Iowa and New Hampshire white-outs obscured the fact that the District of Columbia and four states are already majority-minority: California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas.

Maryland follows right behind. Within five years, we'll be a majority-minority state, according to research published last year by the Center for American Progress, the American Enterprise Institute, and demographer William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution.

Nevada, the site of a recent primary battle, is also on track to make the transition within five years, along with Georgia and Florida.

Flash forward to 2060, 11 presidential election cycles from now. By that point, roughly two-thirds of the country's population will be non-white. Maryland's eligible voters will comprise a non-white powerhouse, with roughly 64 percent of these residents identifying as something other than white.

Even Iowa, overwhelmingly white now, is expected to triple its non-white population by 2060, according to the report, so that roughly one-quarter of those eligible to vote will be non-Caucasian.

If any of this takes you by surprise, then we're not talking about it nearly enough. To be sure, there are a number of Beltway think tanks and U.S. Census data crunchers putting out charts and graphs and white papers that amply delineate these trends. But it's far from a regular topic of conversation on the campaign trail, let alone in the average living room.

So I was gratified when PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill, who moderated the Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Milwaukee, asked the candidates an unexpected question: "By the middle of this century, the nation is going to be majority non-white. ... If working-class white Americans are about to be outnumbered ... don't they have a reason to be resentful?"

Let's steer clear of the emotional bait embedded in Ms. Ifill's question and stick to the facts. This transition really is a numbers game. For instance, there are currently more than 13.2 million unregistered Hispanic and Asian eligible voters in the United States, according to an analysis of federal data by the Partnership for a New American Economy. Every month for the next two decades, 50,000 Hispanics in America will turn 18. Millions more young adults and African-Americans are also unregistered to vote — for now.

There are many reasons why many Americans do not participate in our current political process, but the tide will turn. With or without a major civil uprising or revolution in this country, and regardless of how many white people resent the changes swirling around them, statistics will win out.

New political agendas will be set by non-white voters and the non-white politicians they elect. The dominant white power structure will not disappear overnight, but it will be diluted, integrated and subsumed in various ways, great and small. Big money, and big business, may retain their outsized influence, but over time the money will flow to — and from — different hands.

So this is as good a time as any for us to stop taking for granted everything we always take for granted, such as who we mean by "we" in this sentence. Calling Spanish a "foreign" language. Expecting a mostly white mainstream media to set the news agenda. And looking to a raft of white presidential candidates to put the interests of white people first, despite their best efforts to be inclusive.

It boils down to this: If you're white in America today, including in Maryland, your grandchildren might — and your great-grandchildren almost certainly will — be the de facto "minority."

It's time to deal with it. This is America.

Amy L. Bernstein is defined by the U.S. Census a "non-Hispanic white" resident in Baltimore. Her email is alb457@gmail.com.

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