The White-Black racial divide in the U.S. was created before the nation declared its independence. Slavery was written into our Constitution. Given the deep historical grounding of race in this country, the divide can be thought of as part of our national psyche.
This part of our psyche was powerful enough to withstand demographic shifts such as those that resulted from prior waves of immigration. For example, Irish and Jewish immigrants who were initially subjected to discrimination eventually found acceptance on the “White” side of the racial line. But the line itself held, with African-Americans remaining on the “Black” side.
Creighton’s 2040 Initiative draws its name from the U.S. Census Bureau’s projections that by the year 2040 non-Hispanic Whites will be a minority of the U.S. population.
But the potency of this projection arises from the assumption that we will move, are moving, and/or have moved from the historically rigid White-Black divide, “either-or” way of thinking about race to a more variegated and flexible multi-cultural/multi-racial/multi-ethnic “both-and” approach. Specifically, the assumption is that Hispanics and others, unlike prior immigrants and ethnicities, will not simply become White.
A recent article on the shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown by White police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, concludes with a 2040-relevant observation: “There are two ways to change a democracy. One is to change its leaders and the other is to change its people. And the people are changing.”
But will the people changing affect our national psyche?
Or will our national psyche affect the change?
Perhaps the answer is not “either-or,” but “both-and.”
by: Palma Joy Strand