Human potential is in every human. In every place. In every corner of the world. Brilliance is sprinkled evenly across all races, places, and spaces. If we believe that, then there is nothing to fear when we consider demographic shifts, the transnational migration of people of color all over the globe, and here at home—the “Browning” of America.
I like to think I’m not the only person in the United States who is unconcerned (rather excited, actually) about the growing number of people of color—specifically Latina/os—who are becoming a greater part of our society. The birth rate for children of color has already surpassed that of whites, and agencies from the U.S. Census Bureau, to the Department of Commerce, to the Pew Research Center project the equalization of so-called (but not for long) “minorities” and whites as early as 2042. These shifts are a blessing, I say. Not a bane. But not everyone agrees.
Whenever I watch TV, I encounter no shortage of “heterogeny haters,” whose reaction to the changing face of the U.S. voter turnout in the 2012 Presidential election, and the future of a country in which whites will become the numerical minority in a matter of decades is fearful, loathsome, and downright scary.
Fox News and conservative news media provide some of the most virulent commentary, with characters like Bill O’Reilly pining for a more “traditional America,” as a “Brownout doomsday” looms large. Their pleas to recognize, and in some ways disrupt this trend is tantamount to first proclaiming that the sky is falling, and then lamenting its inevitability. Like Adele, I say “Let the sky fall.”
As a seasoned diversity and inclusion consultant, I understand their sentiments. Brown people are coming. White people are becoming “extinct,” or at least facing an upturning of their numerical majority status. The fear is real because the trend is real. We already have a half-Black President who represents our country on a world stage. And the times? They are a changin’.
Our notions of who is in power, who dominates the U.S. population, and what that means for a democracy designed to uphold “one man, one vote” are, and must be challenged. And that scares the pants off people. Especially white people who are accustomed to racial dominance in nearly every sphere—culturally, aesthetically, curricularly, financially, politically, and,…in too many ways…globally.
But there is another way. The Browning of America is nothing to fear. In fact, we should greet it with open arms. When citizenship, healthcare, education, and opportunity are expanded to more people—irrespective of their skin color—we grant ourselves not just the chance to grow as a nation, but to progress as a humans. We don’t know who will invent the cure to cancer, or successfully destroy the latest asteroid to threaten Earth, or invent the next technology that will revolutionize our lives. But one thing is certain. We will never know if we cling to nationalistic ideals of who belongs where, who is “American,” and who should be contained in powerless places.
These are manifested, by the way, in immigration laws which have long kept people of color out of the U.S. in greater proportions than their white counterparts. Rather, if we came to see every person, in every corner of the world, as a walking bag of assets with the potential to optimize human flourishing, we would invest in their lives and futures as though ours depended upon it. Because it does. It always has.
Now is the time to expand citizenship rights and educational opportunities to all people in our country, as well as the very notion of citizenship to include a more cosmopolitan, “global citizen,” member-of-the-human-race concept. This is where we will unlock the potential of all people, and in turn, advance our country and ourselves in ways we never thought possible. Or at least in ways that some are resisting and being dragged toward kicking and screaming. The Browning of America is a good thing. For all people. Even white people. Because everyone benefits when we advance. As people.
Taharee Jackson is a professor at the Center for Urban Education at the University of the District of Columbia, which prepares teachers for the nation’s most under-supported public schools. In addition to designing multiple programs at the Center, she also conducts diversity, inclusion, and equity training sessions for a variety of professionals. When not teaching, she enjoys traveling and jogging in the sun.