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Preparing for a more American America

Photo by stuartncook / Flickr

The more I read about it, the more profound it becomes:

“White people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2043, according to new census projections. That’s part of a historic shift that already is reshaping the nation’s schools, workforce and electorate, and is redefining long-held notions of race. …

America continues to grow and become more diverse due to higher birth rates among minorities, particularly for Hispanics who entered the U.S. at the height of the immigration boom in the 1990s and early 2000s. Since the mid-2000 housing bust, however, the arrival of millions of new immigrants from Mexico and other nations has slowed from its once-torrid pace. …

There are social and economic ramifications, as well. Longstanding fights over civil rights and racial equality are going in new directions, promising to reshape race relations and common notions of being a ‘minority.’ …

Residential segregation has eased and intermarriage for first- and second-generation Hispanics and Asians is on the rise, blurring racial and ethnic lines and lifting the numbers of people who identify as multiracial. Unpublished 2010 census data show that millions of people shunned standard race categories such as black or white on government forms, opting to write in their own cultural or individual identities.”

The projections seem straightforward enough and have been drilled into our brains so often that it’s easy to underestimate their weight.

America has entered into an historic period of transformation, becoming more American by the day. Once whites are a minority, there’ll be no such thing as a “minority” in this country. The United States will be an authentically multicultural nation, not just a white-majority nation seasoned with other ethnicities. And with more members of different groups “intermarrying” and raising children, America is truly a melting pot now — whereas for much of its history, segregation and segregationist attitudes made America more akin to a salad, or at most, a hardy stew.

Because Latinos will feature prominently in the America that emerges a few decades from now, investments must be made and reforms implemented today that ensure Latino kids will perform and achieve at the same levels as their white peers.

The results of two studies released this week showed that while Latino fourth-graders scored above the international averages in reading, math and science — along with whites and Asians — they fell below the national averages in the same areas. Worse yet, while white and Asian eighth-graders again scored above the international averages in all three areas, Latino eighth-graders slid below the international averages in math and science.

If current projections prove accurate, by 2060 Latinos will make up nearly one in every three Americans, which means the education crisis among Latino children poses a threat to the future vitality of the United States. As Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, told the Huffington Post, “How Hispanic youth come of age and what types of education and jobs they get will have implications for how the country will be in 2060.”

All of this brings to mind a Greek proverb I once heard: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

The time has come for us to forest the future.

About Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper's Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He's also a cultural critic for 'LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007, YoungObservers.blogspot.com, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

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