I have expressed some skepticism at the idea that in the year 2050 the United States of America will perceive itself as a majority-minority nation; that is, non-Hispanic whites will be be a minority. This projection is repeated and asserted so often that it’s a plausible background assumption when you’re making a model of the American future. But there are other factors which make this a shakier inference from current trends. A new article in The New York Times which has nothing to do with racial identity as such is a good tell as to the other factor at work, Plea to Obama Led to an Immigrant’s Arrest:
he letter appealing to President Obama was written in frustration in January, by a woman who saw her family reflected in his. She was a white United States citizen married to an African man, and the couple — college-educated professionals in Manhattan — were stymied in their long legal battle to keep him in the country.
One of the principals is introduced as white, but later on, you learn:
“I’ve been feeling very confused and ashamed as an American citizen,” she said, evoking her family’s eclectic immigrant origins.
Her father, an emeritus professor of East Asian languages and cultures at the University of California, Berkeley, is the son of Scottish immigrants; her mother’s family were refugees from North Korea; her stepmother is Chinese; and her sister’s husband is Egyptian.
If her mother is one of the tiny minority of white European-descended Koreans, she happens to be one of those who also has a Korean first name (it isn’t too hard to find these data on the internet). In other words, The New York Times felt that it was permissible for the purposes of this article to frame one of the individuals profiled as white despite the fact that more precisely she’s Eurasian as is clear within the text of the article itself (she may also have identified herself as white to the reporter). I am not sure that she would have been defined as white if her husband was not an African immigrant, as for narrative purposes that is probably a better contrast effect. But imagine if her mother’s family were black immigrants from Jamaica: The New York Times would not define her as white I would hazard in that case.
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