When I was 8 years old my family arrived in Dallas, Texas. Shortly after that we were visiting the public library where there was one of those big monuments with drinking fountains. I went to get a drink of water and there was an inscription “For Negros Only”. I went to the other side of the monument and another sign noted, “For Whites Only”. At this point in my life I had not run across black folks so my mom had to explain the signs. At that moment I adopted a life philosophy that told me, “OK we got white folks and we got black folks so pretty soon we will all be brown.” And I was alright with that.
That was in 1960 when 88.6% of Americans were white.
Since then the browning of America has crept forward to 2020, when it is estimated that more than half of all American children will be non-white. (Currently in 10 states non-white children are the majority.) The next milestone will occur in less than a decade when the population under 30 will be majority non-white. Then finally, around 2045, America itself will become a non-white country. Currently 4 states; California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas are majority non-white with 8 more on the cusp; Georgia, Florida, Arizona, New Jersey, New York, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alaska.
America is at a crossroads, one road accepting and amplifying diversity for the economic and social betterment of all, or the other road of escalating racism and politics of exclusion.
Now what about racism? Is America a racist country? The Urban Institute says:
Throughout this country’s history, the hallmarks of American democracy – opportunity, freedom, and prosperity – have been largely reserved for white people through the intentional exclusion and oppression of people of color. The deep racial and ethnic inequities that exist today are a direct result of structural racism: the historical and contemporary policies, practices, and norms that create and maintain white supremacy.
Sounds like a racist country…white supremacy and all. With the recent police murders of George Floyd and others there was (once again) great hue and cry for ending institutional and structural racism in America. The coronavirus has starkly highlighted American health disparities with black families much more likely to suffer and die from the virus than whites.
Again, is America a racist country? I think not, rather, I think America is a young country with a lot to learn. Not only young, but as they say, “younger than its years”. America has existed for 244 years which is only three lifetimes given current life expectancy. Not very long time at all. I would not be surprised if people in France have clothes in their closets older than the U.S.
Despite being a relative newcomer to the world stage America’s rich resources and abundant land enabled America to rocket to the top of the pack. My thought is a little too much too soon. America is like a toddler with a loaded gun wandering around the world stage. (Which is why Baby Trump has been of such concern.) There is real racism in America but I do not believe it defines us a country, rather our immaturity is the clear and present danger to our ability to treat all citizens (and non-citizens) equitably and fairly. (See elsewhere in this site for the Decade of National Racial Reconciliation post.)