Nation Should Welcome Darkening Demographic

Cynthia Tucker, Yahoo! News, June 15, 2013

Norman Rockwell is dead. So is his America.

If you find that declaration sad, or possibly slanderous, you probably have fond memories of “the way we were” during a supposedly kinder and gentler time before the civil rights movement, women’s lib and cellphones. If you don’t shed tears over that America, you may have grown up as I did–oppressed by the strictures of a social and political system that didn’t show much respect to those who were not white male Christians.

Either way, the overwhelmingly white nation that Rockwell depicted in his sentimental paintings is gone. (I intend no disrespect to Rockwell, whose portrait of 6-year-old Ruby Bridges integrating a New Orleans school stands out in civil rights iconography.) Just last week, new data from the U.S.Census Bureau confirmed a trend long in evidence: The nation continues, inexorably, to grow darker.

For the year ending July 1, 2012, deaths among non-Hispanic whites exceeded births, the Census Bureau reported. The majority of births in this country are now to blacks, Asians and Latinas.

That trend helps to explain the discomfort among older conservative voters with immigration, which has been the driver of the nation’s increasing diversity. They see the country in which they grew up, in which they held the political, social and economic power, slipping away, becoming a place with which they are unfamiliar. Their anxiety boils down to a misplaced fear that they will be strangers in their own land.

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Younger Americans have grown up in a more diverse nation, so they are far less likely to see those with darker skin and different accents as a threat. But there are good reasons for older white Americans to welcome immigrants, too–whether or not they entered the country with legal documents.

Without them, the United States would be doomed to the kind of demographic “bust” that countries from Japan to Russia are experiencing, with birthrates so low that the population is not reproducing itself. That has all sorts of dire economic consequences.

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Whatever the long-term problems with our Social Security and Medicare programs, they’d be far worse without the Latinos, Asians and Africans who have revitalized rundown neighborhoods, invigorated popular culture and shared in the American Dream. {snip}

Their vitality ought to be welcomed.

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