I know, that's an extremely provocative question. But bear with me. [Full disclosure: Blue Gal is decidedly pink all over, burns a little too easily, and does not wear a bathing suit in public.]
I've been thinking about the attention being given to that 300 million Americans number and all the talk about how America is no longer majority "white" and is getting "browner" all the time, and how the race-hatred against Hispanics is only the latest in our nation's long history of suspecting the "outsider."
I recently read an article (it's on page 23 of this pdf file if you're interested) which introduced me to the concept of Critical Race Theory. If you want to tell me I've had my head in the sand for years having never heard of this before, go ahead, I'm STILL on Mommy-track and I don't give a rat's butt.
Critical Race Theory holds that racist behavior is not an aberration but normal practice. The theory suggests that elites only act against racist behavior when it serves their own purposes; that race is a social, not biological, construct; and that characteristics ascribed to a particular race change based on the needs of the ruling class. For example, according to this theory, during the era of plantation slavery African Americans were characterized as “carefree” and “childlike” in order to rationalize enslavement. Now, however, black Americans are characterized as “menacing” and “threatening” in order to justify current socio-economic policies.
"Socio-economic policies" like pulling over drivers for "DWB" -- Driving While Black. If Critical Race Theory is accurate, then the cultural majority is rationalizing the public policies endorsed by that majority, by portraying other races with generalities, i.e. if you're black, you are likely a criminal, if you're Arab, you are likely a terrorist, if you're Hispanic, you are likely an illegal.
Oh. That's what they are saying.
I did a little internet research and actually found an academic website discussing what "whiteness" means. All the bullshit meters went off in my head simultaneously, but I kept reading. And I kept thinking about that whole "race is a social, not biological, construct" thing.
Because you see, today, the cultural majority would say that Italians, Germans, most Jews (it depends) and the Irish fall under the grand category of White America. But listen up people. There was a time in the past two-hundred-and-thirty-year history of this nation when that was not the case. Benjamin Franklin complained in a letter about the influx of Germans and how they were not, and could never be, true Americans. Teddy Roosevelt decried the influx of high-birthrate southern Europeans (egad, Catholic too!) and that "white" America was committing "race suicide" by not matching them baby for baby. And during our Civil War and after, the Irish were used to load dynamite onto ships because slaves were too valuable to be used in a job where you could blow up any minute.
Where I take Critical Race Theory from here is that it is only a matter of time until the cultural majority, whether because they are totally outnumbered or because the economic clout of the Hispanic majority makes it in the best interest of the dominant to do so, simply accepts Mexican-Americans as white. Much will depend, I think, on whether the Hispanic community decides on the whole to cling to their language, specifically and as a badge of cultural honor. I think that the ecomomic pressure to use the official language of the internet is too great, and English will be the fire under the melting pot, but I could be wrong.
If I may adopt a gross generalization of my own? Americans never take the long view and rarely look down the family tree to see their own outsider origins.
And the elephant in the room is what this says about African Americans. I think that is the point. Without getting too bogged down in pseudo-intellectual theory (which still sets off the bullshit meters in my head and always will) we need to ask the question about Blacks and the American illusion of the melting pot. It's a big question, especially for us liberals, some of whom want to sing Kumbaya and believe that racial equality is a goal we can work toward. I'm not saying it isn't. But if we don't listen to what Blacks other than Oprah have to say about this, we're not going to get very far. I agree with Bill Clinton that addressing racial and ethnic conflict is as important to our future as tackling global warming and poverty. This pink chick's not gonna let the race issue drop.