The media tends to use the narrowest racial definitions in order to stoke anxiety because that brings readers, but those definitions are arbitrary and more inclusive racial definitions are more accurate because the biggest growth is the rise in interracial marriage which means that more and more of the population is both white and Hispanic or both Asian and black. Matthew Yglesias explains:
Most media coverage of America’s demographic future sees the country approaching a significant tipping point over the course of the next generation, with headlines like the Associated Press’s “Census Bureau estimate: Whites won’t be majority by 2044” typical of the genre. The Census Bureau itself somewhat encouraged this kind of coverage of its 2014 demographic projections, doing things like releasing an infographic titled “Projecting Majority-Minority: Non-Hispanic Whites May No Longer Comprise Over 50 Percent of the US Population by 2044.” There is, however, another way of looking at it. The very same census report projects that as far out as 2060, 68.5 percent of the population will be white. It’s just that a reasonably large share of the white population will be partially descended from Latin American immigrants. A further 6.2 percent of the population will belong to “two or more races,” with a large share of those likely identifying at least in part as white. The difference here is between an exclusive and inclusive definition of whiteness. It’s clear that in the face of rising intermarriage rates, a larger share of the population will be at least partially descended from Asia or Latin America, while the partially black share of the population will grow at a more modest rate. But many of these people will, like me, be of predominantly European ancestry and have skin tone and other facial features that fit comfortably within the conventional boundaries of whiteness. If you use the exclusive version of whiteness — in which anyone who’s part anything is perforce not white — then you get a majority-minority America by 2044. If you use an inclusive view and let anyone who identifies as white be white, then America remains majority white indefinitely. And a new study from Dowell Myers and Morris Levy, a demographer and a political scientist at USC, respectively, suggests that the media’s choices about how to characterize it make a real difference to people’s political response to these demographic trends. In essence, media narratives that take a narrow view of whiteness and suggest that the falling share of 100 percent Europeans in the population means the end of America’s white majority generate “much higher levels of anger or anxiety” than alternative (and, frankly, more plausible) characterizations of the situation. The implication is that a premature rush to proclaim the end of white America, even when intended in a celebratory manner, may be fueling racial backlash politics. …A different, “inclusive” account allows for the fact that a person of mixed ancestry might identify as white and as Asian and that many people who identify as Hispanic also identify as white or black or Native American. These two methods lead to very different characterizations of the present-day white share of the population, which is either an overwhelming 80 percent of the public or else a tenuous majority of 62 percent:
The gap between the 2014 “exclusive” racial categories and the “inclusive” categories is 20%, so about 20% of the people in this survey see themselves as belonging to more than one racial identity. Almost 18% of the survey sees themselves as both white and some other race too. Accepting them as white won’t satisfy the white supremacists, but most white people who get anxious about the changing racial demographics are just nervous about becoming a minority, and that is NOT happening.
There was a similar political dynamic a century ago when there was a movement to restrict immigration because of worries that immigrants were changing mainstream American culture. At that time, incoming Italians, Poles, and Jews were not considered white by the nativists and Irish immigrants have been similarly denigrated at times in US history, but American became more inclusive. We should continue in that inclusive tradition. When people see themselves as being part of the great American melting pot, we should identify them as they identify themselves.
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