White America Must Embrace Becoming a Minority

“The price of privilege is the moral duty to act when one sees another person treated unfairly.” (Isabel Wilkerson, Caste)

These are discouraging times, yet also illuminating. While the Black Lives Matter movement has brought hope and determination over this last year, it also brings awareness of how very far we are from achieving equality. And the anti-Asian sentiment that became more evident in response to COVID and climaxed in the horrific shooting in Atlanta last month shows us that hate is an equal-opportunity employer. As more of us act to counter the inequities surrounding race, ethnicity, and gender, the backlash by those intent on preserving the status quo becomes more malicious.

I am a white, middle-class, cisgender female. I recognize my privilege and know I will never fully understand what it feels like to be a minority or a member of a marginalized community. Perhaps it is that recognition that makes me eager for the day when whites join our sisters and brothers of color as minorities in America. It can’t come soon enough.

The U.S. Census Bureau has projected that by the year 2044, non-Hispanic white Americans will join all other ethnic groups as minorities. The Bureau states that, “no group will have a majority share of the total and the United States will become a ‘plurality’ of racial and ethnic groups.” In a few states—California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, plus the District of Columbia—this plurality already exists. Georgia and Maryland will soon follow, and many other states will be without a majority population in the next five to fifteen years. I don’t understand why this is so troubling to many white people, but clearly it is.

A few years ago, I was having coffee with several women. All were over fifty, white, well-educated, suburban, and privileged by just about any standards. Our conversation ranged across the usual: family, food, books, politics, aging…. Someone mentioned the Census Bureau projection that before mid-century, Caucasians would be a minority in America. This aroused considerable alarm and generated further conversations about borders, birth rates, and quotas. My comment, “So what?” was dismissed, undoubtedly viewed as flippant.

I tried to listen for what I was missing, but all I heard was fear and a sense of entitlement that puzzled me. These were smart women, kind women, women who would take offense at any suggestion that they were prejudiced. But they were. Of course, they were. In her extraordinary book, Caste, Isabel Wilkerson refers to this sort of prejudice as “dominant group status threat.” It may not be the usual prejudice or stereotyping; instead, it reflects the vulnerability one feels regarding their own advantages and position in the hierarchy.

I’ve thought back to that conversation a lot, and my response is still, “So what?” (and—more and more—an impatient, “Get over it, sister.”)

Why shouldn’t whites be a minority in America? No historic right was ever conferred on Caucasians decreeing that we have claim to the majority. Why does it even matter? If all people are equal, then whether any of us has majority or minority status shouldn’t matter.

And that gets to the heart of the problem. As long as one segment of the population believes it has an inherent right to be in the majority, we are not equal. Even if we speak up for immigrants’ rights, even if we support Black Lives Matter, even if we brandish our liberal credentials, if we are in any way resistant to the idea of becoming a minority ourselves, we have some work to do. Because, whether we admit it or not—whether we even realize it—we must be viewing minorities as “less than,” and minority status as undesirable. As long as we are unwilling to become a minority ourselves, we carry an implicit bias that we are somehow better, and deserving of privilege. Instead of denying it, let’s acknowledge it and work to put that bias behind us.

Those who are troubled by the notion of becoming a minority need to examine their beliefs. There will, of course, be those for whom racial prejudice and entrenched white entitlement will continue to hold sway. Those people may never change, and their resistance to the progression of American values will continue to place them on the wrong side of history. For many others—most, I hope—it’s just a matter of examining beliefs, acknowledging privilege, listening to the stories of others, and being willing to see from a new perspective. We’re not losing anything by joining our brothers and sisters of color as minorities in America. We’re gaining something precious: we’re moving closer to making the American Dream a reality.

In her book, Wilkerson raises another provocative question: “if people were given the choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would choose whiteness?” Recent actions in some state legislatures have provided a troubling answer.

Unless white Americans are unreservedly willing to become a minority in this country that we share with so many other minorities, our talk of equality, equal justice, and equal opportunity is hollow. Our reluctance to relinquish majority status attests that we fear the same discrimination we have practiced for centuries, and that we assume an undeserved privilege granted by the color of our skin.

Instead of wringing our hands, let’s join hands and celebrate becoming a nation of minorities united in a common vision.

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”  (James Baldwin)

49 thoughts on “White America Must Embrace Becoming a Minority

    • So true, Janis. Once we start sharing our stories and really listening to one another, we’ll see how much we have in common. The differences (and fears) will just fall away. I’d like to see Caste become required reading in every high-school in America.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Donna, this is an amazing piece. Astute, profound, thoughtfully-presented and the exact thing that everyone with a conscience needs to read right now. Could I possibly entice you into letting me feature this in a Blogger Spotlight on Bonnywood? I fully understand if you’d rather I not. Just let me know. Either way, thank you for doing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m amazed how many times I end up writing this as a response to something I’ve read on a blog, but We hate what we fear and we fear what we don’t understand. It seems to be something that lies at the root of so many of our problems. Obviously, in this case we also need to throw privilege and entitlement into the mix, but not understanding, not knowing, feels like the main issue.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. At the moment of becoming a minority, there will be a need to begin the process of reparations. The use of current empirical data will allow the majority to rethink their new position of responsibility. “Fact over feeling.” You have taken on a very strong position.

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    • I’m sorry, I don’t really understand what you are saying. What majority are you referring to? I would welcome your clarification. With regard to reparations, I believe they are owed to the Black community—if not for slavery, then for the deliberate redlining and other discriminatory housing practices of the 20th century that denied Black people the ability to purchase homes or grow housing equity, thus impeding their accumulation of wealth. The wealth gap between white and Black was systematically created and perpetuated. I find this reprehensible. Lastly, I’m not sure why calling for the acceptance of circumstances that are inevitable is a “strong position.” It is simply welcoming something that is long-overdue. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Liked by 4 people

      • You are welcome. Wow, Donna, You have opened a big one. We seem to be searching for a simple solution that will change people. My comment was somewhat with “tongue in Cheek” and easily provoke you response. The past has appeared and the future is not yet attained, and with the great programs that were to fix the problem and open doors have been so poorly managed that they have extended the chance of not affording progress. To be honest I am looking for the time when a solution to a problem is offered over the the invention of a solutions that will define the problem. We seem to vilify the opposition over trying to work together for the positive outcome. You have given us much to think about. Keep up the great works.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, pick1, it’s true that simple solutions are probably not on the horizon. Also true that vilifying people who hold different opinions will only divide us further and delay progress. Good intentions and a willingness to listen and learn from one another will take us far.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve gotten to the heart of the problem. Things change and people become afraid of the change. I’m with you in responding with a “so what?” about the census projection. But for people who’ve always been entitled by virtual of who they are & what they look like, the idea that they won’t automatically be in charge of the world is a scary thought. And they’re fighting this reality with all their small-minded might. I find it fascinating and frustrating to observe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, Ally, it’s both fascinating and frustrating. There are always going to be those who assume that birth conferred on them rights and privileges that will carry them through life. But I think more and more people are (finally!) questioning such entitlements. I wonder if the reason we’re seeing so much pushback by the white supremacy crowd these days is that they’re seeing the writing on the wall that their meter has expired.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hypothetically, reduce a race to just a few city blocks of residents who are superficially similar in every way, and there will likely be some form of bitter inter-neighborhood quarreling, eventually.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am an Asian living in Asia, but I understand the fear of the women you wrote about, the fear of becoming the minority. It may be a different situation, but my family, friends and I do fear becoming part of the minority of our island simply because we know too well the culture of the once-minority, and it’s too violent for us.

    I admire your openness to becoming the minority in your country. I just hope when you do become part of the minority, your country will still be the strong country it has been for the last 200 years or so with the new majority.

    Blessings 🙏🌹

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Therese, for sharing your thoughts. It is such a complex issue. I have the feeling that America is at a crossroads. How we respond to current challenges and our growing iniquities will likely determine whether we regain and retain a strong position of leadership in the world (and domestically), or whether we become an irrelevant cautionary tale.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Westerners of East Asian heritage have been increasingly verbally and/or physically assaulted during the last year, the perpetrators perhaps under some delusion their targets are willful creators/spreaders of Covid-19. Many have no Chinese lineage, though their assailants seem to not care, maybe due to a hateful perception that they’re ‘all the same’. Overlooked is that there’s a good chance the assault victims came to the West to leave precisely that which most Westerners currently dislike about some East Asian nation governances. …

    As a young white boy I was bewildered (especially after watching the miniseries ‘Roots’) by Black people being brutalized and told they were not welcome — while they were violently forced here from their African home as slaves! As a people, there’s been no real refuge here for them, since. In Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, the narrator notes that, like the South, the Civil War era northern states also hated Black people but happened to hate slavery more. …

    On Tuesday, in the city neighboring mine, a non-white man wearing a red “Keep America Great” cap (with “45” on the side) called a nine-year-old girl wearing a hijab a “f—–g Muslim terrorist.” The girl’s father rightly confronted the man and repeatedly called him a racist. (One can imagine the shameful pleasure felt — and rampant media posts left — by white supremists upon learning the accused racist is not Caucasian!) As far as terrorism goes, the girl’s family is far more likely to be fleeing extremist violence abroad than planning to perpetrate it elsewhere.

    Clearly, too many people will always find an excuse to despise and abuse those who are superficially different.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Fear makes people act in destructive and bewildering ways. And, instead of seeing the admission of fear as a strength and a starting-off point, the fearful use it to fuel their hate. We have a long way to go, but I am heartened by the determination of so many to get there. Thank you for visiting.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Blogger Spotlight: Donna at “A Year of Living Kindly” – Bonnywood Manor

  8. A great post, Donna. I am white but work among indigenous peoples in the north – here, I am in the minority. It has been an eye-opening experience, because I needed to internalise what I didn’t know that I didn’t know. Both about them and me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Lynette. You raise such a good point: if all of us can experience being the minority—whether in a work situation, in school, on a team, or elsewhere—perhaps we can cultivate a greater understanding of others and ourselves. Thanks for visiting and for your comment.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi Donna, I came here via Brian highlight. I’m the usual white middle-aged everyman who looks on at America with a can’t- look-away-but-wanna fascination. A land that is o conflicted, so angry, yet with so much potential. Times must and will change attitudes but it takes tooooo much time. Thanks, a sobering read.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Obverse, for visiting and for your comment. It is taking way too long for needed change to occur, but it feels like this last year has illuminated both the need and the inevitability. And more people are speaking out—including lots more of the white community of all ages. There’s no going back. Thanks again.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. I read your amazing post courtesy of Brian, who has shared it on. Utah, probably considered ‘really white”, is experiencing the same changes to whites becoming the minority as Nevada or California; at least in the big cities here. I lived in Salt Lake City for most of my life and the area where I lived became a ‘place of color’. There weren’t many whites there. My attitude, like yours, was ‘so what?” The people of color all around me didn’t bother me. Oddly what did bother me was the unexpected and unwelcome sense of disconcertion. I was USED to seeing white people, not brown, black and yellow, and all variations. White faces. It gave me a huge shock because if you knew me or asked people that do know me, they’d probably say I was a liberal (which I’m not, I’m moderate). Liberal here (in Utah) equates to an overly accepting ‘touchy-feely’ sort of person. That’s not a bad thing in my opinion, but Utah is mostly conservative, Red in political color, and dominated by Republican thinkers (yeah that depresses me too). Anyway. I wanted to congratulate you on a really thought-provoking post, which I’ll share on too. People need to read this. It expresses the thoughts of so many of us who are sometimes maligned for being white.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Melanie. It’s good to meet you. I appreciate your kind comments and your thoughtful words here and on your own blog. I am hopeful that more and more people will soon recognize what we are gaining, rather than mourn their loss of unearned privilege and entitlement.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Why Would It Matter? | sparksfromacombustiblemind

  12. Donna, I too am delighted you have broached the topic of whites becoming a minority. And I would extend it to men who are fearful of losing their mantle of dominance and superiority. Because they hang on to a belief they are meant to be in charge because they are white and male creates a great deal of fear, thus making this transition tough, threatening and perilous for them. Not saying its only men who are reacting, but I believe they have 2 pressures requiring them to face.

    I too would like to post your blog in mine, that little voice, if you would be comfortable with me doing so.

    Thanks for addressing this issue. Thought provoking!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. I agree that this may be a harder pill to swallow for some white men, simply because of how our society has been structured since its inception. Still, I know many white men who welcome the move toward truer equality and recognize that it is long overdue. And, by all means, you are most welcome to share the post. Thank you for your interest in doing so!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post, Donna. Fear is at the heart of most all of the world’s problems, and this problem of one ethnic group being opposed/feared/etc. to another has been going on since people walked the planet. At our heart, I think we’re all pretty tribal, even those of us who believe that everyone should be treated equal. On a side-note, I watched “I Am Not Your Negro” that featured James Baldwin. Check it out if you haven’t seen it; it’s great. History may not repeat itself but it certainly echoes through time.

    Liked by 1 person

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