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We May Be Crossing a Bridge, But We're Not There Yet

At the end of Hua Hsu's article, “The End of White America?, he says that the current generation has crossed a bridge beyond the issue of race. He states that racial identity may already be outdated. I believe that it is outdated, but that doesn't mean that it will be phased out easily. Personally, as a white male, I don't see the end of the white majority in America as a negative thing at all. I'm half Italian by descent, and my Great Grandparents weren't considered white when they got here- but today, my 100% Italian mother is always considered a white woman. So, racial categorization has changed before without incident, and it will change again. Mixed ethnicity or “beige? Americans may be considered white, but eventually whiteness will lose much of its meaning as minority ethnicities steadily rise in numbers and achieve greater representation in business and political spheres. Still, while we may be leaving the idea of “White America? behind, I believe that race as a societal issue may very well persist for years even after the majority of Americans are no longer described as “white?. Simply put, it will take much more work to erase a societal issue as deeply rooted as race.

Still, the demographics of America are undeniably shifting toward non-white groups. As the term “White? loses its societal meaning, ideas like “New Abolitionism? gain better holds in the minds of Americans. The demographic shift may even do the work of the New Abolitionists for them, by reducing the meaning of whiteness until it is very rarely used. I found the ideas of the New Abolitionist Society very interesting, and I completely agree that the “white race? is an artificial construct that both fails to categorize people adequately and has been used purely to separate and subjugate people (most notably slaves and immigrants). I do want to point out, however, that the discrimination faced by European immigrants such as the Irish hardly compares with over two centuries of slavery followed by years of de facto and de jure segregation. I don't mean to belittle the struggle of European immigrants, but every time I hear someone say they're “the Rosa Parks of _____? or compare their situation to slavery, I cringe a little. If a group of people were considered human and not property when they arrived in America, then their situation is not comparable to that of American slaves- frankly, the New Abolitionists aren't even trying to abolish a legal practice.
That being said, the changing definition of race will be a very important factor in America's future. If a new majority group cannot be easily defined, we may even see ethnicity no longer being used as a socio-economic descriptor or tool. If we're lucky, changing demographics will force the issue of race to become a non-issue for the vast majority of Americans (assuming that there will always be people with racist or nationalist tendencies). However, I don't believe that will happen by 2042. Race has been artificial from the start, with no biological bearing on a person's ability to achieve anything, and yet it is still a strong issue in our society today. Even the word “race? has no scientific meaning- each race is a loose, ever-changing grouping of ethnicities and nationalities that is used purely as a part of a person's social class or standing. If the idea of race has survived for so long without any real, measurable support, then I believe it will be able to survive for years to come. Just as they have in the past, new groupings, names, and stereotypes will appear. If “white? is no longer the descriptor of the relatively wealthy majority, then we may simply see the rise of another grouping or hierarchy. Even within each race, skin color is contested, with many whites trying to be artificially tan (with “pale? being a negative term) and many blacks using darkness as an insult. Again, there is no rational bearing for these intra-racial hierarchies, and they've even been reversed in the past (pale skin was considered very attractive in medieval and renaissance Europe) but they've persisted for years nonetheless.
The article presents a great deal of evidence that race is becoming less of an issue with each passing year, and I do not deny that at all. But unfortunately, based on patterns in the past, I believe the bridge to a “post-racial? age is a long one. It will be easy to cross for many Americans, but a few would rather die than cross it, and getting all of America across it may prove to be very difficult. This simply means that we cannot just say “race is gone? and assume it to be true. It will take genuine work to change something so fundamental to our society, no matter how artificial or arbitrary it truly is.

Comments

I definitely agree with your belief that as outdated as the concept of race may be, it will not be phased out easily. I also think that because “race? has been a part of our human existence for as long as people of different skin colors have known about one another, it is deeply rooted in both our society and arguably, ourselves, as well.


I like how you point out that race has been artificial from the start, and that it holds “no biological bearing on a person’s ability to achieve anything.? I think that even well meaning people who may not hold any real negative prejudices may sometimes forget that race is essentially something we’ve completely created ourselves. Like you said, there was a time when Irish, Italian, German immigrants etc would come to America and be classified outside of the white race. I think that offers some insight into our society’s need for a designated “other? of some sort.


One thing I do have to question from your article is when you say that “If a new majority group cannot be easily defined, we may even see ethnicity no longer being used as a socio-economic descriptor or tool.? It’s not that I disagree with you, however I just have to wonder if even as we see tremendous demographic shifts as far as race is concerned, will we see a proportionate shift in the structure of power and wealth in our country as well? I definitely feel there will be change, however I am just not sure if the power and money will be redistributed to reflect our nation’s actual racial makeup anytime soon.


One last thing I really enjoyed about your post was that you pointed out that there can be hierarchies, even within a certain race itself. When you stop to think about it, it’s incredibly interesting. Why do some Caucasians expose themselves to dangerous UV rays (sometimes excessively) for the purpose of darker skin? Why do some African Americans insult one another on the darkness of their skin? Furthermore why do so many people (and this is speaking for all races actually) believe that at some point, the “N? word became okay to use, and have no problem using it on each other?? I’m sure the answer’s complicated, and I really have no idea what it could be, except for maybe internalized racism.

You wrote that race has been so deeply ingrained into our society that it will be a long journey before we see a “post-racial? age. I agree with that completely. Diversity, understanding and other changes, even if small, are all steps in the right direction, however ultimately excising the entire concept of race from ourselves and our entire society is much more complicated than that.

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