America’s White Majority Is Declining. How Will Power Shift, and in Whose Favor?
On this episode of democracy-ish, our hosts are “coming to you live from the United States of America, now featuring fewer white people than ever before,” says Toure.
“It's the future,” Danielle intones.
The 2020 Census results are in: The white population of America is declining, and the nation is on track to become “majority minority” sooner than expected. The biggest growth was among the Latinx population.
What do these changing demographics mean for our country, especially Black Americans?
Can Black communities maintain their political capital as Brown communities (which do not vote as a bloc in the same way) grow and develop more power as well?
This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released the results of its 2020 survey. The biggest headline? For the first time ever, the white population of our nation has declined, “partly due to millennials having fewer babies and opioids taking out more people than expected,” Toure explains.
“We thought white people wouldn’t be the racial majority by 2050. Now, we think we will get there by 2045.”
According to the Census, the racial/ethnic group growing fastest is Latinx/Hispanic American. The number of Asian-Americans is rising as well.
Toure remembers that in 2016, Trump-supporting (white) politicos would say things like this is our last chance.
“I think a lot of white people understand at a very deep level that the future of their racial majority is coming to an end,” he adds.
And, because they fear what will happen to their power when demographics shift away from their favor, “they needed to put somebody like Donald Trump in charge to maintain white supremacy,” Toure argues.
He thinks “we’ve talked enough about that moron on the show,” but white folks’ fear of losing power is very much linked to knowing that “the end of the white racial majority is within our lifetimes,” he says. “Especially if you're a millennial –– it will be 100% within your lifetime.”
That’s scary to a lot of white people, because “whiteness equals power and dominance. There’s really nothing else that binds whiteness in America but those ideas,” says Toure.
Danielle can’t get too excited about the changing makeup of race and ethnicity in America, “because if we don’t find a way to take the wind out of the sails of whiteness, it will never actually really matter,” she says. “This is why we are seeing all of these voter suppression laws rolled out: because they know that the demographic shift is coming.”
The Republican calculus seems to be: “As long as we don't allow these people to vote, it doesn't matter what their numbers are. Because we don’t see them, they don't matter at the end of the day,” she explains.
Episode Highlights –– Are White People Withering Away?
‘Whiteness is currency’
In 2016, Danielle argued that Trump’s rise to power would be “white supremacy's last stand.”
When she worked at the Center for American Progress in the mid-2010s, longtime policy wonks were already looking at America’s changing demographics and projecting that we’d be a “majority-minority” country by some future date, like 2030 or 2050.
But while progressives used this trend as a “rallying cry” that demonstrated the need for policy changes –– “to stop ignoring populations they’d been ignoring” –– Danielle worried about how it would actually play out: “These white people are going to lose their fucking minds,” she recalls thinking. “This is going to be the way in which they rekindle the fervor behind the KKK and [other] white supremacy groups.”
And that has come to pass.
Multiple FBI and Homeland Security reports on the rise of white supremacist organizations makes it clear: They are a dangerous threat to the safety and security of us all.
If you were to make a Venn diagram of the demographic shift and the popularity of alt-right hate groups, “I bet you would see some fucking overlap,” Danielle argues. “Whiteness is currency. And it is approximated to power.”
The Latinx files
Before we dive further into the Census results and the changing demographic makeup of America, let’s talk about “Latinx.”
“I saw a poll that said the overwhelming majority of Latino people do not use the term Latinx and that many of them don't even know it,” says Toure. “Are we being, like, hyper-woke ... using a term they don't use to describe themselves?”
On Danielle’s show, appropriately named Woke AF, Latinx journalist Paola Ramos, the author of “Finding Latinx: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity,” explained that the term is “about de-gendering the language and being a lot more inclusive,” Danielle says.
“Do I think that we’re being hyper-woke? No, but I think that it’s important to be inclusive. And if that is being hyper-woke, I’ll wear that badge happily,” she adds.
Toure understands that. He recently saw a TikTok in which an early education teacher argued that teachers should not be saying “good morning, boys and girls,” because it “hyper-centers their gender identities,” he explains. (A better greeting is “good morning, learners” –– or scholars, or students.)
That's what students are there to do, Toure says. “Not to be boys and girls, but to be learners.”
That’s just one way de-gendering language can be powerful. But Toure still returns to “the notion that the overwhelming majority of people in Paola’s community are not using the term Latinx.”
60% of our population is Caucasian, but even if that number slips to 50%, there will still be more of them than any one other group.
And though it’s inevitable that America will change to a certain extent with a shift in racial majority, but “it's a very white notion to think that all ‘people of color’ will band together in some political sense,” says Toure.
“Black people are not a monolith,” he adds. “Hispanic people are absolutely not a monolith. They come from entirely different countries.” (The same is true of Asian people too, of course.)
However, “there are still about half as many Asians in America as there are Black people,” Toure says, pointing out that Asians comprise about 6% of the country and Black people comprise about 12%. Hispanics now constitute about 20% of the country, and the birth rate among this demographic is rising, while the white birth rate is falling.
That’s why Toure wonders “if we’re going to look at the browning of America and see a decrease in the amount of political and moral power that black people have.”
Category is: Not a monolith
About 80 to 90% of Black people identify as or regularly vote for Democrats. But Hispanics don’t vote in a bloc in the same way, for a variety of reasons.
“Some of them don't want to be categorized based on their race,” says Toure. “They want to assimilate. Part of doing that is being part of the Republican party, even as the Republican party is being overtly racist toward them.”
That’s one way we already see certain Hispanic voters aligning themselves as “part of whiteness,” he adds.
The fact that so many Latinx immigrants can come to this country and create such a gap between them and Blackness, says Danielle, is the reason why “we’ve never coalesced together.”
As long as Black people remain on the bottom rung, she notes, “they can separate themselves and climb the ladder to somewhere … approximately close to white.”
‘Of color’ blindness
Danielle thinks we tend to “lump everyone into groups,” but Hispanic and Latinx populations “are much more layered, and much more nuanced, than Americans ever want to understand.”
Those include Spanish-speaking people from Chile and Spain, for example, who often see themselves as white because “in their history and their legacy, they are more akin to Europeans than they are to Central Americans or Mexicans,” she says. “But in this country, if you have a tinge of tan in your skin, you are a person of color.”
That's why even the Democratic party has problems with outreach to the majority of Spanish speaking cultures, Danielle argues. “We want to think you all care about one thing, but you don’t.”
The political needs of Black people vary widely as well, Toure says –– “because of the class differentials and regional differentials, because of the way that we approach things.”
He adds: “Some of us want to defund the police. Some want to abolish the police, some want to reform the police. Some of us feel like there’s nothing we can do, that we have to accept the status quo, and we have to be nicer to the police so they don't kill us.”
Bloc party politics
Regardless of the political outcomes of the demographic shift, anti-Blackness will likely continue to be just as pervasive.
But “the thing our Brown brothers and sisters are not understanding is that a big part of Black political power comes from coalescing within the Democratic party; we do vote as a bloc,” says Toure. “We are the king and queen makers of the Democratic primary.”
It can be argued that in the general election of 2020, Black voters made the difference, too –– especially in places like Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. But for decades, Democratic candidates at every level, especially the presidential race, have won their primaries due to the consolidated support of Black voters.
Because our Hispanic brothers and sisters don’t coalesce around candidates, or even one party, in the same way, “it dilutes their political power,” Toure says. “If they would come to the Democratic party even at 70 to 80%, they’d be shaping the discussion in D.C. at a rate we can’t even imagine.”
Whiteness on a sliding scale
While he’s not afraid of seeing more Brown people in power, Toure notes a distinct advantage they have that Black people don’t.
When Nikole Hannah-Jones was a guest on Toure Show, she talked about how whiteness “has historically imbibed other groups,” he explains. “Jewish people were not always considered white in terms of the dominant white majority. Whiteness has changed to remain dominant throughout American history.”
Toure points out that there are “already more people of color under age 12 than white people in this country. We will see whiteness respond by making Hispanics more white. We will see whiteness respond by perhaps making Asians more white. We will never become part of their group, but they will bring in others.”
Danielle wonders “if we should spend more time trying to understand and commune and collaborate with other marginalized groups, as a way to create our own large-scale tactical plan.”
She says we often don’t have “the same issues … that's okay. We don't have to. But the one thing we have in common is that they [white people] think we’re ‘less than.’”
The devolution of right-wing punditry
Toure has noticed that, since about the year 2000, “the ability to have a rational conversation with [conservatives] has devolved more and more.”
It was already devolving during the George W. Bush administration. It got worse during the Obama administration –– “and circa Trump it became completely Looney Tunes,” he argues. We saw the rise of cable TV pundits whose “bad-faith conversations” exist outside the realm of accepted truth.
It’s been disastrous on a number of fronts: it makes for bad conversation, it’s bad for the audience (which is being misinformed), and it’s bad for our politics and our civic discourse.
“Not for the producers who want a food fight,” Danielle says. “They want to turn politics into a sporting event.”
Toure’s friends at MSNBC have told him that in recent years, they’ve had a hard time booking people from the right-wing side of the political spectrum to appear at all.
“They know they'll get pilloried and attacked because their ideas are cockamamie and they're there to filibuster and say crazy things,” he says.
But it’s precisely because they act so crazy that fewer and fewer producers seek them out.
For many Republican talking heads, “it all just became this zero-sum game,” Danielle says.
Why Danielle quit GOP TV
In the past, Danielle would appear on television with Republicans and other conservatives, even on Newsmax. She doesn’t anymore. But back in the day, “I would say to folks: If white privilege doesn’t exist, if racism doesn’t exist, why would you be concerned if there were more of me and less of you? Where is your fear coming from?”
It always seemed like a paradox, because their behavior suggested they did actually understand that racism, white privilege and the hierarchy of color “has always existed, and they’ve been at the top,” she adds –– so it makes a certain amount of sense that they’re afraid about an impending reversal of fortune.