The year 2042 could be a watershed year for the United States and the American people. If the Census Bureau has it right, in 2042 whites will become the minority in this country. Originally the Census Bureau believed that 2050 would be the year of the white minority, but the faster growth of Hispanic, Asian and African-American populations has shifted the projection back some eight years. In 2042 it is estimated that whites will make up 46 percent of the American population.
When the white majority becomes the white minority, the old ” melting pot ” theory of American society will be tested. Already many experts believe that the ” melting pot” theory has little relevance and that our society today is more like a ” mixed salad” with separate ingredients that together add flavor but remain individual and unique. By 2042 all that diversity training, multicultural experiences and sensitivity initiatives designed to make welcome those different from the white majority will come in to play. We will see if America is a ” melting pot ” of a ” mixed salad.”
But the question to ask now is whether the white majority is ready to be the white minority? Proponents of our immigrant heritage point proudly to the ability of this nation to incorporate so many different ethnic groups into the American way of life. But those who know the immigration story remember the discrimination faced by the Irish, the Italians and the Jewish and all the rest of those huddled masses. It is important to remember that most of these millions of immigrants who came to our shores in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were white ( with a mix of some Asians and Hispanics). Therefore what happened after time is that the white majority got larger with all those WASPs being joined by Northern, Central and Southern Europeans.
But now the movement into the United States, whether legal or illegal, is non-white as the Hispanic population explodes, Asians continue to expand in numbers and African-Americans hold their own as a significant minority. Already there is a backlash against Hispanics over language, culture, jobs, and commitment to the American ethic. Think of what may happen as whites realize that they are no longer the poster children of what an American looks like.
One of the early signs of whether whites can really handle the growing diversity is the candidacy of Barack Obama. That decision is months away and may be the result of other factors, but certainly racial diversity will be a factor and one sign of whether white Americans can indeed allow others of differennt skin colors to share real power. There is no doubt that America has thrived because it has successfully incorporated many people from many different backgrounds, but the real challenge comes when white Americans are no longer the majority and they have to give up the center stage to people of different racial backgrounds.