- Racial Equity
- Talk About Race
By Lowell Howard
In 2042 there will no longer be a white majority in the United States, leaving in the past our country’s historical identity as a heavily white protestant nation. In 2008, the racial barrier of the White House was shattered by Barack Obama. That landmark election demonstrated an incredible shift in racial attitudes, previously something that was only dreamed of. While progress has been great, there is still much left to be desired in terms of race relations and equality. The year 2042 and what will be its promise of wider racial diversity is different than that of 2008’s election in the sense that at its most basic level, 2042’s promise is numeric.
The disappearance of the white majority in the United States could hypothetically occur due to interracial marriages, immigration, or emigration, among others. However, understanding that the United States’ population continues to grow only due to immigration, it is safe to assume that immigration will be the principal driver of this racial shift in the American demographic. One may wonder why interracial marriage isn’t a greater factor.
Why is there a tendency toward intra-racial marriage in the U.S.? Why do interracial marriages remain almost taboo? Will interracial marriage be just as uncommon in 32 years? These questions are fundamental concerns underlying the imminent demographic shift. For me, these questions have become more tangible and urgent as I have lived in Brazil over the past year.
Brazil, like the United States, exhibits a widely diverse representation of races and ethnicities, though Brazil’s racial composition is undeniably different (as it has a much greater blending of the races and ethnicities). Also, similar to the United States, Brazil is home to many immigrants from all over the world, notably Angola, Bolivia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Libya, Portugal, Syria, and others.
Although racism persists in Brazil, an admirable feature exhibited in Brazilian society is widespread interracial marriage. Indeed, it is possible to find families of diverse races and cultures, such as a Jewish gentleman, son of European immigrants, married to a woman of Japanese descent (Cosmópolis, documentary 2007). There are most certainly drastic differences between the values, physical appearances, and cultures of the Brazilian man and woman, yet that did not discourage their marriage.
This is an example of an interracial union that I believe is sorely absent in the United States. I believe that a demographic shift realized through intermarriage would have far different implications than a shift brought about by immigration alone, which effectively only waters down the historically white majority.
Truly, a shift brought about through intermarriage would reflect a maturing of racial attitudes and overcoming of racial taboos that remain today. If such a shift in interracial marital behaviors propagates, it will most definitely transform the image of Americans as self-assured power hungry white men, the image communicated to me by many during my time in Brazil.
Such a change in the marital patterns would attest to the incredible diversity that the United States has, but for said changes in popular behavior to occur there must be widespread recognition and action. I believe that such changes in societal behaviors, specifically marital patterns, can be achieved in the next 32 years, which would change the United State’s image to no longer be that of a white ego-centric man.
I believe that common discourse and casual conversations are truly powerful influences on public opinion and that positive and supportive ideas regarding interracial marriage must arise. I also believe that the media has an exceptionally convincing voice through both explicit and implicit messages. Commercials and television programs that incorporate mixed race couples could be instrumental in changing common opinion and frequency of interracial marriages. Through public discourse and popular media, common opinion concerning interracial marriage could become transformed, demonstrating racial maturity and progress, rather than simply a mathematical outcome.
In 2042 perhaps, there will be less use of the terms African-American, Chinese-American, Mexican-American, Vietnamese-American, and so forth that are congruent with the earlier concept of the American as a white protestant self-assured man, or perhaps the terms will remain as means for Americans to self-define themselves and appreciate their families’ heritage.
Such a shift in consciousness, appreciation, and intermixing of racial diversity in the United States would be ground-breaking both domestically and internationally. I believe it would extend the American’s pride and patriotism to more of its citizens, developing a more inclusive attitude and image, while projecting that more inclusive ideal abroad, redefining its international identity as a truly global nation. To escape the age-old stereotypical image of the white American, the United States would do well to utilize citizens from all racial segments of the population in international relations, emphasizing the United States multi-ethnic population.
Obama as president certainly has begun to change the image of the United States abroad, which could and should be reinforced by the election of Americans of Asian, Latino, African, and European descent. Elections of said Americans will certainly be evidence of great progress. Our duty in the midst of the demographic shift is to transform common opinion of interracial marriage to increase racial and ethnic contact and mutual respect, creating a new domestic and international image of the American.
Artist: Soraida Martinez
Lowell Howard is a senior undergraduate student studying International Studies – Development Studies at the Ohio State University in Columbus, OH.
Author: Kirwan Institute (427 Articles)