Minority Children Reach Tipping Point: U.S. Identity In The Balance
At church this Sunday my wife remarked at the number of children that there were at the service. I guess it’s one of those things that you don’t notice until someone points it out. There were many, many kids there. At communion time is when I really noticed. The families came one at a time; the mother lead the way, followed by a small pack of kids in a well behaved line, the dad shepherding the end. Family after family, kids either holding their hands in prayerful expectation or crossed over their chests, the tell-tale sign of an uninitiated to-be communicant.
I leaned over to my wife: “There’s a whole bunch of them.” And there were, all of them Latino. After church our conversation turned to the link between so many kids and education; specifically the fact that as minority children (Latino kids in our part of the world) fill the public school classrooms the real amount of public funding for schools has diminished. In fact there’s an almost proportional decline: as more Latinos enter the public school system, less money goes toward education.
This morning the headlines reiterated the demographic fact: Whites Account for Under Half of Births in U.S.
All of the country’s major dailies carried the story: the U.S. Census has made it official.
This from The New York Times:
Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 49.6 percent of all births in the 12-month period that ended last July, according to Census Bureau data made public on Thursday, while minorities — including Hispanics, blacks, Asians and those of mixed race — reached 50.4 percent, representing a majority for the first time in the country’s history.
Interestingly, both The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post lead their stories with the same eight words, “For the first time in U.S. history…” It’s that momentous. Call it a tipping point, a watershed moment, a wake-up call. What you can’t call it is coming, or eventual. And the shift signals a bigger shift that’s yet to come.
While over all, whites will remain a majority for some time, the fact that a younger generation is being born in which minorities are the majority has broad implications for the country’s economy, its political life and its identity.
The shrill argument we’ve been having over immigration and the obtuse opposition to immigration reform from the right side of the political divide starts to find a place in this context – especially in the last two words of the quoted sentence: it’s identity. Immigration is just the field where a much larger game is being played. I saw it in church on Sunday and read it this morning in the headlines.
It would be good to have an honest conversation, one that calls things as they are instead of circumventing ideas and definitions. The immigration debate isn’t about the border or about jobs or the letter of the law. It’s about the American identity and how it’s changing; it’s about what it means to be American, what it looks like, sounds like and feels like.
Let’s have that conversation. It’ll be good for America. And while we’re at it, let’s put education first in a real sense an not just in a political rhetoric sense. Minority kids need an education just as much as non-minority kids did when they were the ones filling the classrooms. Kids are kids, can we start the conversation there?[Photo by Eastop]