The ‘browning’ of America


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By the time the class of 2010 has children old enough to attend college, America will look remarkably different. This generation is far and above the most ethnically and racially diverse generation ever; soon, whites will not be the majority group. In fact, this year marks the first time citizens can report more than one race on their census form (which everyone should fill out).

Views on race are rapidly changing as well. Interracial dating and marriage are nearly universally accepted among youths. And more young people are involved in interracial relationships themselves. The next generation that this generation bequeaths will encompass a complex mix of colors. All of this taken together will have profound implications for American society.

To most young people, understanding these changes is not an empirical endeavor. It is something that is lived and experienced every day. It is the reality of the community many grew up in or of the college experience. It is reflected in the images we see or the brands we consume — admittedly not perfect, but markedly different from a generation ago.

From the experience of the average college student, these changes have taken place subtly and are subconsciously taken for granted. (And sometimes not so subtly, like in the transformational election of President Obama.) That a black woman and a white guy can and should be able to date is not that big of a deal.

Of course, this wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until 1967 that interracial marriage became legal all across the country. It took a Supreme Court decision to overturn remaining bans in 17 Southern states.

Animosity still exists today. There are those who still wince, stare, or give disapproving looks at interracial couples. But consider that 85 percent of people aged 18-29 support interracial marriage, according to the Pew Research Center. And, according to a 2008 USA Today/Gallup Poll, more than half of all teens have dated someone from a different race or ethnic group.

In a little over 40 years, the dating landscape of America has changed dramatically. So much so that a black-white dichotomy is no longer useful, nor is it the most interesting aspect of interracial dating.

The Jewish girl taking her Iranian boyfriend home to meet the parents and politics comes up over dinner. The guy who is Thai bringing his white girlfriend to a very traditional family gathering.

These relationships and experiences are causing us to think very differently about interracial dating and race in general. More like a mélange. Or, as a friend likes to put it, “Relationships are like food, and the more they mix, the better they taste.”

Demographic changes are providing young people with ample opportunity to date outside of their race or ethnic group, and they are taking full advantage of it. Does this mean we are living in a post-racial society? Have we or, more specifically, millennials conquered racism? Of course not. Nor should we think of racial progress as inevitable, taking place on a linear line.

But the amazing diversity of this generation and its liberal views as it relates to race do mean that we have a wonderful opportunity to do more about long-standing problems.

For those who fear the “browning” of America or the loss of some Anglo-Saxon “cultural” identity, all I can say is, sorry. Between now and 2050, the vast majority of population growth will come from racial minorities. By 2050, the America that many on the right are so nostalgic about will be a thing of the past.

The truth is that the changes taking place are not something to fear. They only will make America stronger.

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