Every single day we read about racist acts committed by White people against Black people and People of Color in America, and it’s getting significantly worse. White supremacists (yeah, they prefer the moniker “white nationalists,” but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck . . . ) celebrate their inside man in the Oval Office and have their own definition of what it means to make America “great” again.
How much worse can it get?
I don’t want to know. One can’t help but wonder if the nation’s advances in Civil Rights and social equality were all for naught. Is there really no hope to be had for effectively ending the one factor that has led to the most tragic and shameful policies and crimes in our nation’s history—racism?
It’s about time we had some hope, right? Here you go: What we’re seeing now is the last great “hurrah” of white supremacists.
Before y’all start replying with every video clip of BBQ Becky, Permit Patty, Pool-Patrol Paula, and (most recently) Butt-Crack Betty, hear me out. Yes, it’s bad now and it will probably get worse given the current political climate; but we Americans are at a crossroads regarding our future. Will we be a nation that upholds freedom from discrimination or freedom to discriminate? We can’t be both. Yes, racism in some form will be all too common in America for decades to come, but the result — the decreased relevance of white racists in America — is inevitable. But till then, will we work to hasten that day or will we sit on the sidelines and allow our inaction to further entrench and prolong the racism that has pervaded our political and social climates since our nation’s founding?
Sounds depressing. But think on this: in any war, there comes a time when one side realizes that it will win. Yes, the leaders of that side know that there are more torrents of blood, sweat, and tears yet to be shed, but they also know that victory is certain.
So it was for Winston Churchill when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Before then, Britain was alone on the Western Front, believing that the USSR would soon crumble before the Wehrmacht. But after Churchill received the news about the Japanese attack, he later recalled of that night —
“ . . . being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful . . . ”
He knew that America would enter the war and that the Allies would eventually defeat the Axis, even though the majority of blood had yet to be spilled. Let’s call this the original “Churchill moment.”
So it goes in the much longer war between white supremacists and their enablers in opposition to Black people and People of Color. Some may feel the use of the word “war” is inflammatory or over-the-top, but when one considers the rampant injustices waged against Black people since our nation’s founding (and for most of that time backed by federal statutes, law enforcement, and occasionally even military force), the metaphor “race war” is certainly more accurate than, say, “war on poverty” or “war on drugs.” But if white racists define victory as remaining socioeconomically dominant in the foreseeable future, then America’s Churchill moment has passed, and they’ve already lost the war. They just don’t know it yet.
The Churchill moment for America’s race war came in August 2008, when magazines in Safeway checkout aisles proclaimed that according to Census Bureau projections, in a few decades, America would become “majority-minority,” meaning that non-Hispanic whites would comprise less than half the population. Even then, I thought to myself, “ . . . racists who read that headline are going to feel the same shiver of fear travel down their spines as when Public Enemy released a certain critically-acclaimed hit album.”
Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California, credits the concurrence of two events—the election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president and the realization that the country would (relatively) soon become a majority-minority nation—as the main reason why white nationalists “went crazy.” At that moment, white supremacists began to successfully exert an increasing degree of influence within the now almost-wholly white Republican party. The proof lay in the fact that in 2006, congressional Republicans voted almost in lockstep to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, but after the aforementioned Census Bureau projections hit newsstands and the re-election of President Obama to a second term in office, the Republicans cheered almost as one when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
But as much as white supremacists want to deny the demographic shift, the numbers indicate otherwise. A study published by the Brookings Institute, one of America’s oldest and most respected think tanks, projects that between now and 2060, the combined racial minority population will grow by about seventy-four percent, while at the same time the aging white population will begin to decline beginning in about 2024 and will continue to do so until at least 2060. In fact, the generation of children born in 2007, dubbed “Generation Z-Plus,” is already majority-minority.
More than any other nation, America is at the forefront of a process that will usher in not only a waning impact of white supremacy, but the very concept of race itself will become increasingly irrelevant as well. The Census Bureau study also points out that more than a quarter of all Asians and Hispanics (and nearly half of all American-born Asians) marry outside their race, and that the share of mixed-race children is set to more than double by 2060. The acceptance of what was once called miscegenation is growing not only throughout urbanized America, but also in most first-world democracies, as the British royal family can now attest.
Let’s not think, however, that the war against racism is over. It’s not, nor will it be ‘over’ in the foreseeable future. The sharp uptick of reports of racist behavior by White people over the past decade is almost certainly a symptom of the frustration and anxiety felt by those who see their white privilege slipping away, ever so slowly. As Sabrina Tavernise pointed out in her article in The New York Times—
For white nationalists, [majority-minority status] signifies a kind of doomsday clock counting down to the end of racial and cultural dominance.
It is indeed a sad commentary on the American experience that this shift in our nation’s demographic makeup would be likened to the ticking of a “doomsday clock.” Any historian of note can easily point to instances in which empires continued to thrive and even grow after significant demographic shifts. In past generations, Black people had to hope for the day that white supremacists would no longer wield such influence and power in America. But now, thanks to the demographic shift, the day will arrive with certainty. It’s our Churchill moment. We are going to win.
There will be continued injustices against Black people and People of Color along the way, but the browning of America is a slow-moving demographic tsunami, one that includes every possible shade of humanity. White people will either adapt to that multicolored tsunami and embrace its advantages and relative peace or get swamped by it. The demographic tsunami is coming.
In fact, it’s already here.
Top photo: White nationalists led a torch march through the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. Credit: Edu Bayer for The New York Times