Thursday, August 14, 2008

What Will Become of US Whites?

The US Census Burea predicts that whites will no longer be the majority population by 2042.

This means that folks who are now minorities will have to get used to the idea of being the majority.

It is projected that Hispanics will be the largest population group. By 2050 Hispanics will make up a third of the US population. Blacks numbers will remain steady and Asians will see significant growth.

Not much is said about Indians.

The Guardian UK says that whites are projected to "lose population" in the 2020s and 2030s. This will be the first time in American history that this happens.

So what are we to make of these projections?

Will racism disappear as white people get settled into minority status? What will Affirmative Action look like when white people are a minority? Will white people become the "Other" in post-post colonial theory?

More importantly, will the US still exist in 2042? ;0)

I don't make much out of these projections. Demographic shifts will not alter the domination of whiteness as an institutional system (see post-apartheid South Africa if you think I'm jiving).

I have long maintained, as some attentive students from my infamous "Racism" course at PSU will attest, that whiteness does not need white people to persist.

Whiteness is institutionalized in the socio-institutional fiber of the US.

Whites do not, therefore, have to be in the majority for their privileges and power to persist. It is also quite apparent that even a Black president is not to be feared.

Whites will not disappear because whiteness is the ideological and institutional software that powers and runs the US.


Image Credit


Dade said...

Thoughtful post, Ridwan.

I saw this on the news and had several questions that you might have some insight about:

1) I wonder, will the "races" maintain their racial identities in the future? For example, if Maty and I were to have children, would they be black, white, Hispanic? My mom is English/German. My dad was Filipino/Mexican. What does that make me?

2) I like the idea of a plurality of racial groups. I think in the long term it is the real promise of America. Don't you think?

3) Is the idea of "whiteness" related to the control of resources? Is "whiteness" really just another way to say "material wealth?"


Ridwan said...

Thanks kindly for your comment and questions Dade.

I will do my best to answer with my thinking :0)

Race is never static. Since its formulation about 600 years ago it has changed as interests dictate.

I am certain that the same will hold true for the future.

Race is, of course, assumed to be biologically relevant. It is not.

Race is a socio-historical and political construction. This does not mean that race is not lived and, therefore, real. It is.

Your chidren will obviously have to deal with a multiplicity of identities and the politics of race at the time that they
'identity' and are 'identified'.

In terms of your second question I would have to say that I am committed to making race irrelevant through political struggle.

I do, however, understand that the US is a racial compact and that making race irrelevant would be near impossible.

Still, I think that racism is inevitable in racialized societies.

Race in my mind cannot be reformed.

In the US the very construct of "resources" is all about whiteness and its interest in procurement and management.

Whiteness describes the race rules and race values that drive the US (and South Africa and beyond).

I mean the very idea that whites are decreasing in numbers may speak to the general white fear of losing control.

Whiteness centers 'reality'
around the interests of white people after all.

By the way, I do not see the decreasing numbers of whites in the US or SA as an indication that whites are losing power.

Rather I see it as a consolidation of the numbers who are empowered by whiteness.

In the time of scarcity there is hardly need for large numbers of whites because it is unprofitable in general terms.

What we are witnessing is the political narrowing of what is considered white.

This allows for less hands in the "resources" (the pie) of whiteness.

The reverse was true in the US after the end of slavery when the construct was expanded to counter the presence of Black, brown, and Asian numbers in the workforce.

In the future the construct of white may be expanded again if needed.

And, such expansion may again mean that the political criteria of what may be considered white will change.

Skin color may even become less relevant in deciding who is white. Brazil, to some extent, already describes this thinking.

In these terms whiteness is not just the same as saying "material resources" in my thinking. It is, rather, about the control over all resources.

This includes the idea(s) of race.

Black consciousness advocates like Steve Biko, and Malcolm X to a large degree, believe that race must be made irrelevant.

Both view humanity as common, universal, and above race. I am totally down with that but I know the struggle to that point must gather more momentum.

Peace brother Dade,

Anonymous said...

I'm finding this all very interesting..

This by Darwish (who was buried yesterday)...came across it & think it says better what I am struggling to:
Whenever I search for myself I find the others
And when I search for them
I only find my alien self
So am I the individual-crowd?

It's struck me that I do not know a single 'white' person who has genuinely resisted, fought or rejected their being tagged "white". Left, right of the spectrum - not one person do I know who even aspires to this. Still trying to process the monstrous enormity of what this means.

Ridwan said...

Niteflyer you raise a very important point.

I have met a few white folks in the US who self-define as race traitors.

Their thinking runs parallel to the 'movement' that has established White Studies departments/programs at US universities (see Rutgers).

I have a whole host of problems with white race traitors and White Studies.

The most salient is the fact that both assume that white identity can be either reformed (made less oppressive in terms of its core values) or eliminated by focusing on ethnic variations of identity.

Still, you are absolutely right that there are hardly any whites who reject being white.

In a race-based society this may be impossible anyway. This returns us to the notion that race can be reformed as liberals like to think.

I mean multiculturalism is fraught with liberal tampering to make race a friendly identity. The emphasis is mostly on the individual and the system is largely ignored.

Of late I have also noticed white run websites that either make fun of being white or seek to
'interrogate' what it means to be white:

See for example:

or a blog called:

The former is 'hugely' successful and there is even a book available now. It seems that there is a lucrative market for white navel gazing (I am not surprised).

The latter blog is described as "a white guy, trying to find out what it means" (he often has run-ins with Black posters who call him on his processes ... interesting reading but mostly tiresome).

In my experience the question(s) of what it means to be white can bring a conversation on the identity to a sudden halt.

It would be important for any "tagged" white person to know what it means to be white before rejecting the identity and more importantly, rejecting whiteness.

Peace to you sista,

Anonymous said...

hey Ridwan,

So there's a thread here that I want to pursue :-0 No doubt that means I must interrogate my own 'stuff' more. Also, thinking through race really is perplexing and slippery - just when I think there's a consistent thought, it moves away from me..anyhow, so I appreciate your clarity here very much.

Hope i can carry this thread through... I agree that someone labelled white must first understand the political (& legal, social, gendered, class) functioning of whiteness, before being able to genuinely reject it. I've seen those blogs you refer to and soon tired of them as well. That kind of white naval-gazing in my view only serves to legitimise whiteness. Similarly setting up whole departments that study this (as in the US) would seem to be a kind of institutional sanctioning of whiteness.

I find 'race relations' in the US interesting (though admittedly I've not been there!) because as a dominant cultural paradigm with which SA has had a long-standing affair, we're very much bound up with it (and not in other respects). I don’t think SA has dealt with race on the levels that occur in the States. I kind of hope we don’t go there. Given our paradoxical reality of even and uneven development, maybe we’ll ‘skip’ some stages and be stuck in others..?

Here’s the thing though. Whiteness in SA is not in my view interrogated enough by (all) people. But it especially grates me when white people relax into complacency about their whiteness, never questioning, never doubting, and never considering its political constructions – not really. How can anyone – knowing what whiteness embraces (historically & currently) - take on this identity and not struggle with it? And then struggle for ‘justice’ on other levels? The bigotry irritates me.

So you have a kind of romanticising of the other by ‘radical’ white people. Romanticising the poor, blackness, radical ideologies and ‘isms’ – all the while being able to go home at the end of a struggling day to lives of white privilege. Never struggling with that. Instead there’s a kind of white reaction – a defensiveness – the behaviour of which is to either take the piss out of whiteness or to feel like a white victim and/or proclaim pride in being white –never going that step further to consider shirking off the mantle entirely – and all its related privileges (I suppose therein lies the rub).

And yes I would agree that a very large part of the privilege of the white mantle is material (external). But it’s also very much – and understatedly so – psychological or internal.

Notions of ‘ethnic white’ and ‘ethnic black’, which you’ve raised elsewhere, are frightening notions for me. They illustrate a convergence of imposed political racial identities of Settler (white & black) with imposed political ethnic identities of Native. I think it digs us further into a quagmire of race, foregrounding a kind of ‘racial purity’.

What will dig us out of the quagmire? I don’t pretend to know and I think this is the struggle. But if racial purity digs us further in, then I’m moved to echo what Dade above refers to (and Eugene in another comment); and say viva the ‘impure’. Those for whom the question “what are you?” can never mean an answer in crude racial terms.

There is a paradoxical struggle with racial paradigms that I relate to; that is, to deal with them head-on in order to be able to undermine them; to be free of them (I like how you push and prod in this direction). It is in many ways, a labour for us to free us all. And it includes dealing with the paradigm of whiteness. Why should self-proclaimed white people (especially ‘progressives’) be exempt from this struggle?

Ok that’s it :-/ Peace & out.

Ridwan said...

Niteflyer I absolutely agree with you that we must confront race and racism.

There is no value in believing or hoping that time will weaken or erode the system of race/racism.

In fact, it has not. What we are seeing is a consolidation beyond what one theorist once called the "modernization" of race.

I press the notion that we look beyond phenotypes and notions of purity or even hybridity to see how race morphs/converges around domineering interests.

Classical and neo-Marxist may say that I am just covering the class dimension. But it is more than that really.

Yes class is what brings material interest to the "foreground" when fatcat Blacks and fatcat whites negotiate and consolidate state transitions, etc.

But the race dimension in racial states like South Africa can't disappear when class consolidation is prefaced by the racial content and character of the state (and the international/global system).

So in this context class is only one part, the lesser in my opinion, of the changing racial spectrum.

And those changes are influential on both fatcat whites and Blacks.

For example, De Klerk and company negotiated the shrinking of whiteness in numbers for purposes of survival in the early 90s. This is the largely the essence of the post-apartheid state.

Some poor whites fell by the way. Some would say sacrificed. What emerged was a 'refurbished' whiteness with a more centralized base (and less fingers in the pie of "resources").

On the 'other' side we have witnessed a Black power elite that advances a consolidation and 'new' thinking captured in theory by assertions of ethnic Black, for example.

This 'new' Black category also similarly sacrifices the interests of a larger Blackness as can be seen in multiple examples of late.

The "thread" in this case is that race refurbishes and power is the control variable.

It does not mean that the power elite of the 'new' white and Black do not speak on behalf of the discarded (the subaltern in the case of the ANC elite).

They continue because it is a "resource" that must be controlled for broad legitimacy.

The system does not change because both the politics of race and the economics of race is constant.

The beneficiaries merely consolidate.

The character/substance of race nontheless, must change (what is white and what is Black).

This has been so since the time of Gobineau through Hegel and onward, etc.

Still, to look more closely at race we would have to accept that the "internal" dimension is absolutely important.

You are more than warranted to wonder how whites deal with the "psychology" of race and they psychology of whiteness in non-material terms.

I remember when you raised the issue of whiteness and the need to "interrogate" its make-up on the Thought Leader forum (the African American/South African American debate).

It was a powerful assertion/question that most of the white commentators missed by design.

I say by design because whiteness leaves very little room for uncertainty about its centrality (or commonsense as Gramsci might say).

I was thinking last night that most everything that we watch in movies is about the centrality and normalcy of whiteness.

Even when we are being
'entertained' the race rules of whiteness are being asserted and enforced.

Normality, its internal
"psychology", is white in the main.

Even our struggle notions are prefaced by the centrality of whiteness (hence the "romantic" notions).

That is why Fanon, Sobukwe, Biko, etc, is so powerful in their collective insistance that whiteness be made irrelevant.

I think this is why Sobukwe was so feared that he remained banned (even in death).

Fanon to a large extent was arguing that the neo-colonial state cannot be a version of the racialized colonial state.

Biko closer to your argument was insistent that we pay attention to the psychology of racism.

He so adamantly stated that whites had to deal with what they had created.

"Racism is a white problem not a Black problem" he proclaimed.

In this way Biko was also saying that Black people could not just free whites from their oppression through notions like forgiveness, reconciliation, etc.

It is more complex than that hey?

Left unattended, race and racism will persist and do so in a way that morphs or reinvents.

And so, we find "radical" and race traitor whites replicating the values of whiteness.

On the 'other' side(s) we find the normalcy of whiteness still pressing against the jugular of the "Others".

And, therefore, the racial compact remains intact even where it has changed significantly.

Obama encapsulates this defeat. He is the quintessential invention of a Black man who is permanently seated in the overall values of whiteness.

He too exists at the expense of whites and Blacks (others too) who must be discarded as the racial compact in the US is consolidated in the supposed "post-race" era.

So in a long winded way (my apologies) I have come to say that you are right that if we are to 'progress' beyond this kind of rearranging there would have to be a real "interrogation".

And, so called "progressive" whites and their more radical counterparts are to be part of such a process.

Fanon, Sobukwe, and Biko would however caution us to be careful about what can be expected when whites "interrogate" whiteness without seeking its deconstruction (demise).

No wonder then that Sobukwe and Biko were so skeptical of liberals and their liberal ideas of progress.

I think they assumed the absolute break via a revolution would be necessary.

Clearly the journey toward making whiteness irrelevant in total is the quiding principle.

Thank you kindly Niteflyer, thank you in particular for making me think here.

Peace and struggle,

Professor Zero said...

It wouldn't be the first time whites were a minority and were also the power group.

Also there is huge anti-Black sentiment in many Hispanic populations. Hate to say it, but it's true - and there are big white aspirations, and I don't see any of that changing very soon.

Ridwan said...

Absolutely PZ. In fact the history of colonization bears out your point.

After 14 years of post-apartheid rule whites are still the ones who are demographically the wealthiest.

And their wealth in urban areas are increasing according to recent studies.

It is sad that there are
"antiBlack sentiment" among Hispanic populations. I have witnessed some of this among Cubans who identify as white.

What is the situation among Hispanics in the US? Will Obama cross the divide between support from Blacks and Hispanics?

Peace PZ,