Cultural Shift: Generations, Race, Technology –by Benjamin Steele

Admin note: This is just the first part of this article. You can visit Mr. Steele’s weblog for the whole:

I’ve been thinking about society in terms of cultural shifts. I sense we’re in the midst of a shift or several shifts combined. Three main factors have come to mind. I was thinking about racial conflicts in the US (in particular in my own small midwestern town), there is of course a lot going on with technology as the information age is just starting to hit its stride (is the industrial age ended yet?), and the ever so fun topic of generations. Here is some of what I came across, but I plan on doing much more research.

– – –

The first article is quite interesting. It’s about the US shifting towards a new racial majority. I was discussing this yesterday with somone in the comments of my local paper’s website. They challenged my assertion that this shift was supposed to happen so soon. It’s always hard to say with predictions, but I’d think the Census Bureau would be fairly accurate. It does seem that I was partially correct in that the shift will happen with the younger generation within the next decade or so. I’ve heard that already for Gen Y race isn’t much of an issue. I was a Gen Xer in the South and in the 1990s bi-racial dating was acceptable.

However, in many small midwestern towns, race was never an issue in the past because some people grew up never or rarely seeing anyone who wasn’t white. My town is a relatively more racially diverse town (still as a college town the other races tended to be of a higher class such as wealthy people from other countries), but is only now feeling the the full impact of Chicago’s overflow (increasing inner city population?). Crime has increased and the population in general has increased. Even though there is more gang activity, I suspect that the crime is as much a result of cultural conflict as anything else. It’s hard to know what is causing what with changes in various factors: race, poverty, crime, culture, racial tensions, downward turn of economy, etc. I somehow doubt that the conflict going on in my town is simply a local issue and instead probably connects to the shifts going on in the entire country.

The End of White America? by Hua Hsu (The Atlantic)

Whether you describe it as the dawning of a post-racial age or just the end of white America, we’re approaching a profound demographic tipping point. According to an August 2008 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, those groups currently categorized as racial minorities—blacks and Hispanics, East Asians and South Asians—will account for a majority of the U.S. population by the year 2042. Among Americans under the age of 18, this shift is projected to take place in 2023, which means that every child born in the United States from here on out will belong to the first post-white generation.

Obviously, steadily ascending rates of interracial marriage complicate this picture, pointing toward what Michael Lind has described as the “beiging” of America. And it’s possible that “beige Americans” will self-identify as “white” in sufficient numbers to push the tipping point further into the future than the Census Bureau projects. But even if they do, whiteness will be a label adopted out of convenience and even indifference, rather than aspiration and necessity. […] To take the most obvious example, whiteness is no longer a precondition for entry into the highest levels of public office. The son of Indian immigrants doesn’t have to become “white” in order to be elected governor of Louisiana. A half-Kenyan, half-Kansan politician can self-identify as black and be elected president of the United States.

As a purely demographic matter, then, the “white America” that Lothrop Stoddard believed in so fervently may cease to exist in 2040, 2050, or 2060, or later still. But where the culture is concerned, it’s already all but finished. Instead of the long-standing model of assimilation toward a common center, the culture is being remade in the image of white America’s multiethnic, multicolored heirs.

For some, the disappearance of this centrifugal core heralds a future rich with promise. In 1998, President Bill Clinton, in a now-famous address to students at Portland State University, remarked:

Today, largely because of immigration, there is no majority race in Hawaii or Houston or New York City. Within five years, there will be no majority race in our largest state, California. In a little more than 50 years, there will be no majority race in the United States. No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time … [These immigrants] are energizing our culture and broadening our vision of the world. They are renewing our most basic values and reminding us all of what it truly means to be American.

Not everyone was so enthused. Clinton’s remarks caught the attention of another anxious Buchanan—Pat Buchanan, the conservative thinker. Revisiting the president’s speech in his 2001 book, The Death of the West, Buchanan wrote: “Mr. Clinton assured us that it will be a better America when we are all minorities and realize true ‘diversity.’ Well, those students [at Portland State] are going to find out, for they will spend their golden years in a Third World America.”

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About DigitalPlato

Poch is a Bookrix author and a freelance writer. He is a frequent contributor to TED Conversations.
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4 Responses to Cultural Shift: Generations, Race, Technology –by Benjamin Steele

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  4. pochp says:

    ‘Well, those students [at Portland State] are going to find out, for they will spend their golden years in a Third World America.”’

    That was a brazen but believable prophecy Mr. Steele.

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