Minority Report: More Non-White Babies

It was actually not much of a shock to find out the report that there were more non-white babies than white babies born last year. Still, cool to see it all over Twitter and Facebook. Because you know, my babies were born last year. I was celebrating that a bit, although, apparently not so many people were excited about it. Not that I’ve actually seen articles expressing wringing-of-the-hands, “What are we going to do now?” yet, there are some subtly negative responses and the implications are interesting. but, probably again not much of a shock. A friend on Facebook responded to the Time article about the recent data on minority babies:

I find this article very telling and troubling: The subtitle reads, “The data has gotten attention because of fears that it threatens our national identity, but it signals a blending of culture more than anything else.” I can tell you that for Hispanic and other minority US CITIZENS, this does not feel like a threat. But besides that, it is not a threat but an evolution of our national identity. And finally, why does this author feel the need at all to assuage any of these supposed fears? Why does he feel this need to calm people down by calling it a blending rather than a threat? This subtitle and article marginalizes a massive segment of the US population, and it shows a gross ignorance that is inexcusable for a psychology and criminology professor…

Seriously, so true. Why are we even talking about this as though the world was headed towards its doom? It’s the constant, “us vs. them” mentality that make things this way. I laugh at the way Jay Smooth says it: “A lot of people are wondering if Americans are going to freak the **** out about this news with the babies.” LOLLLOOOL Seriously, don’t worry, we’re still going to be getting the shaft. We’re not going to turn into Gremlins…

But, more than the potential fear and uncertainty about all these minority babies, I am also annoyed by the current language in discourse about race. Isn’t ironic that minority babies were the majority last year? So why are we still employing this politically-charged, completely-inaccurate, and marginalizing label? Rinku Sen, President and Executive Director of the Applied Research Center and publisher of Colorlines.com challenges us to stop using the word “minorities.” I love it. She describes the first time she felt she belonged in an American community, and began to work towards dispelling that word:

[A rally I attended] was the moment I realized that being an American wasn’t about looking like Marcia Brady. It was about making a commitment to the community you were in, and doing all you could do to make that the most inclusive, most compassionate, most effective community possible. I have been building multiracial social justice organizations ever since. Long before the press starting talking about changing demographics, community organizers needed to connect the communities that fell under the “minority” rubric.

Our specific groups were outnumbered by whites. But when we came together, the proportions shifted in a way that forced institutions to deal with us. The term “people of color” has deep historical roots, not to be confused with the pejorative “colored people.” “People of color” was first used in the French West Indies to indicate people of African descent who were not enslaved as “gens de couleur libre,” or “free people of color,” and scholars have found references to the term in English dating back to the early 1800’s. American racial justice activists, influenced by Franz Fanon, picked up the term in the late 1970s and began to use it widely by the early 80s.

As an Indian immigrant, calling myself a person of color enabled me to identify with African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. The new identity freed me from the model-minority slot that I had been given by the media, politicians and by Americans themselves.

It sounds like this is all semantics. But it’s politics, too. And, relationships. And, vocation. And, community. And, reality. It’s about making the world the way God intended it to be, and our job is to speak the words to make it so.

It’s, of course, problematic that I use the term “non-white,” here, like white is always the central indicator for identity, and everybody who isn’t white, is “non.” Which is why I like the positive phrase, “people of color” all the more. And I agree that it is important to be in solidarity with others, even if our shared histories also have some conflict and difficulties. What’s more important is our shared humanity.

I’m terribly sensitive to words. And, once again, the problem for me is that the language is an indication that we haven’t come very far as a society. I wonder what the babies will encounter as they continue to grow older, as they are a part of this statistic. They make this statistic all too real as hapas – those hard-to-define and un-categorizable-on-applications. And, I need the Church, and churches, to be a part of the movement that pushes towards change about our language and perception. Because it’s all connected. Change the words, you change the perspective. Change the perspective, you will change the way you talk to people.

Hello??? When will we step up??? When will we be more brave, more courageous about being part of this dialogue?

This is kind of off-topic, but Jay-Z’s Minority Report came to mind when I was thinking about writing up a blog about all of this and the implications. The lyrics are about Hurricane Katrina and the ways the US government (and I’d say a lot of the country) sat on their hands and moved all too slowly to come to the aid of hundreds of thousands of their citizens…for obvious reasons of race, economics, etc. The following stanza keeps rolling around in my brain. The echo of Barbara Bush’s words makes my blood boil. But even in the larger scheme I keep wondering: Do we actually think that we’ve come so far? Even with the tangible reality that we are becoming more diverse as a country, are we really better off now than we were before?

Can’t say we better off than we was before
In synopsis this is my minority report
Can’t say we better off than we was before
In synopsis this is my minority report