EDITORIAL: Population changes

A Census Bureau report released last week affirms a long-standing trend: America is slowly but surely becoming a majority-minority nation.
Four states – Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas – already have fewer non-Hispanic whites than minorities in their populations, and the nation as a whole is now 35 percent minority. Hispanics recently passed black Americans as the nation’s largest numerical minority.
More telling is that nearly half the children born in the U.S. between July 2008 and July 2009 were minority. Those children will likely be in the majority of the total population by mid-century.
Mississippi has long been one of the nation’s most diverse states. In fact, until the immediate post-World War II years, our state was majority black. Only the mechanization of agriculture and the concurrent exodus of many displaced black farm workers to the industrial north changed that.
Today Mississippi is 37.6 African-American – the largest percentage of any state – and about 2.5 percent Hispanic. We are still largely a biracial state – white and black – though that, too, is changing.
While the national demographic trend is significant, and no doubt unsettling to some because it portends such a cultural change, it’s unquestionably good news that the U.S. population is growing. That means America is unlikely to face severe worker shortages or as much of an age imbalance in the population as, say, many European nations.
The challenges this trend presents aren’t insignificant: educating and assimilating people whose first language is not English and blending multiple cultures into a cohesive whole are two. But America has been at that business a long time – at least since the late 19th century, when Anglo-Saxon dominance began to give way to a wave of new immigrants from eastern Europe. There were difficulties, no doubt, but the nation emerged stronger because of it.
One thing about the current trend is certain: It makes the imperative of learning to live, learn, work and get along with people who are different that much stronger. White parents, for example, who intentionally isolate their children in schools or other places with minimal or no minority presence will be doing them a disservice, since it won’t be the world they’ll be living in when they leave home. Excellence in public education for all children, and the role of public schools as a meeting ground for people from all races and economic strata in a community, will become even more important.
“E pluribus unum” was America’s original motto. It means, “From many, one.” The years ahead will test that idea, but our history should give us confidence that we can succeed.

NEMS Daily Journal

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