A girl eating a Burger King hamburger. More than a quarter of black households in the United States are food insecure. (Courtesy of Flickr user Steven Depolo)
It’s a rare moment when I’m in the position to soothe white people’s anxiety around an issue concerning race. My usual preference is to start riots. So please allow me this one opportunity I have to assuage any fear white people may be experiencing around the recent news that more white people died in the United States last year than were born. Ready? OK.
Relax. White America isn’t going anywhere.
We went through this last year when the Census Bureau reported that whites were a minority of all newborns, and Jay Smooth did a nice job of calmly explaining why that shouldn’t scare white people. But as the demographics continue to shift and more of these stories become news, our white brothers and sisters may require more consoling. Those of us who are members of historically oppressed racial groups are surely accustomed to a barrage of grim statistics about our community’s future. This isn’t a reality many white-identified people have had to deal with, and I think it’s the humane thing to do to help them through this time of great consternation.
The first thing to note is, if you’re truly in fear of losing the majority, just change the definition of “white.” There is more than enough historical precedence for doing so. We’re told over and over again that race is a social construction. It is not a fixed category. If you simply allow more people to identify as white, problem solved. Jamelle Bouie bets we will reach the point where some groups of Latinos and Asians “will identify themselves as white, with Hispanic or Asian heritage, in the same way that many white Americans point to their Irish or Italian backgrounds.”
But also, understand that holding the majority in terms of population has never been the key to white America’s success. What makes whiteness successful is the control of America’s political and economic systems. The two go hand-in-hand, and so long as wealth is largely concentrated in the hands of a white oligarchy, so too will political power be. The centuries-long project of creating race and then using the idea of racial inferiority to exacerbate the inequality between the races, otherwise known as racism, has done an amazing job of ensuring the capital attached to whiteness will not fade any time soon. White privilege is a hell of a drug.
And if that’s not enough, consider this: according to Feeding America, more than a quarter of black households are food insecure. One in three black children live in households that lack access to enough food to ensure a healthy lifestyle. In fact, “of the 104 US counties with a majority black population, 92 percent of these counties also record high food insecurity rates.”
We can talk about incarceration, wealth, education, housing, healthcare and other important disparities, but black America is struggling with even the most basic of human needs—food. Of course, this is a problem in communities across the country, white and non-white alike, but that’s with anything we discuss. What makes these things unique to non-white people, and what assures me of white America’s bright future, is that they hit communities of color hardest and there is little-to-no political will to do anything about it.
Whiteness is and will continue to be the norm in American society, not because white people have represented a statistical majority of the population, but because of where power and resources have historically been concentrated.
So, fear not white people, the “Rise of the Colored Empires” is not upon you. Whiteness still has the upper hand, and that will change only when more white people decide that racism is a morally corrupt injustice worthy of eradication. Your country is safe for now.