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Are Whites Becoming an American Minority?

One of the favorite themes of today’s Fake News (read: liberal) pundits is to talk about how the country has become so divided, a division which at times sparks the kind of violence and anger that we saw on January 6th.

One of the prognosticators of this approach is Michael Lynch, who teaches at the University of Connecticut and has published an interesting little book, Know-It-All Society, which deserves to be read.

As one of the long-time members of that society, I found Lynch’s book an enjoyable read, even though I disagree with the major premise on which the book is based which is this: “…we are living in an age of severe disruption. For some Americans, much of that disruption concerns a changing economic, cultural, and demographic landscape – one in which white Americans will no longer be in a majority.” [p. 12]

I have been hearing about the Armageddon that is going to occur when the United States is no longer majority white, an event which demographers predict will occur sometime over the next ten years. But in many parts of the country it has already happened, and the unease which this fundamental racial shift provokes among the formerly white majority which will now be a minority is presented again and again as the reason that Trump not only was elected President but continues to forge ahead.

This is a compelling narrative and one which forms the central focus of Lynch’s clever book. Unfortunately, using words like ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ to discuss the changing racial demographics of American society actually hides more than it explains. In the process, we wind up with an explanation of Trump and MAGA which doesn’t work, or at least doesn’t work for a know-it-all like me.

Take a look at this map:

For every state it gives the percentage of a random connection between two state residents who would belong to different racial or ethnic groups. So, for example, if I live in New York and I’m white, the odds that a random selection of another state resident would produce someone from a different racial-ethnic group are 65.8%. On the other hand, if I live in Montana, the odds that a random selection of another Montana resident would produce someone from a different racial-ethnic group would only 30%.

As of 2020, there are 18 states where the racial-ethnic diversity of the state population is less than 44.9%. There are another 13 states where the diversity percentage is still around 50% or less. In other words, the Armageddon of a majority non-White population has still not taken place in 60% of our 50 states.

But even in those states which have now tipped into racial-diversity land, the numbers alone still must be treated with great care, because when we drill down from a statewide numeric to more localized views the racial-ethnic diversity argument begins to fall apart as an explanation for anything at all.

Take my town for example, a community of some 15,000 located 90 miles west of Boston, MA. In 2020 the town voted for Joe over Trump by a margin of two to one. Massachusetts has a racial-diverse percentage of 51.6%, which means the white population has just about shifted from majority to minority status. In my town, on the other hand, the white population happens to be 90.3% of the racial-ethnic breakdown as a whole, with Blacks comprising 0.7% of the racial-ethnic mix.

So, here we have a town which is overwhelmingly white in a state where whites are about to disappear as the majority race, and yet from a political perspective the idea that white residents feel threatened by the growing numbers of non-whites is an argument which simply cannot be made.

I drove across North Dakota in 2005, driving through crummy, little farming towns like Rugby, Towner, and Granville on old Federal Route 2. If it weren’t for the Department of Agriculture’s Soil Bank program nobody would be living in or around these towns at all, with each town having a post office, a pizza, a Chinese take-out, and an IGA.

Some of the Chinese take-outs now were calling themselves ‘Asian-Fusion’ joints, but I’m sure their menus hadn’t changed. The point is that just like two-thirds of the white residents of my town voted for Joe in 2020, Trump got two-thirds of the votes in these North Dakota towns.

And you’re going to explain Trump because the populations in these North Dakota towns are worried about losing their majority status to some newly arrived Hispanics or Blacks?

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