Demographic Breakdown of the Vote

Here is the racial and ethnic breakdown of voters for Obama and Romney.

Here is the racial and ethnic breakdown of the US population as a whole.

Crediting Obama’s victory to high minority turnout ignores the fact that minorities make up such a large part of the country and that Obama’s supporters reflect the demographic reality in the country much more than Romney’s.

Why Obama Won

All the conservative talking points about demographics are an excuse for not coming to terms with being out of touch.

Republicans have been doing a lot of soul searching following Tuesday’s election and have come up with various explanations as to why their candidate lost. The consensus for now is that the country is changing and that the party is out of step with this change.

Rather than meet this change in a responsible and realistic manner, so many prominent conservatives have resorted to lamenting the passing of a golden era, the death of “real America”. The most common statement thus far been “Obama only won because of demographics” which is a lot like saying “I only failed the math test because of numbers”. Similarly heard is “Obama only won because of the Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women and urban residents”. Conservatives are pretending that these people are nothing more than special interest groups – as if they don’t already constitute a vast majority of the country.

In other words, when a Republican wins an election, it’s because the country as a whole voted for him – end of story. When a Democrat wins, a black man at that, the electorate is dissected so as to lay blame on those pesky minorities and women.

It should come as no surprise that the Republican establishment is mourning the end of an era in which White men ran the show. Personally, I think this is premature because White men still overwhelmingly run the shows that matter. But still, the times they are a changin.

Here is my favorite excuse from the aftermath. 

You heard it, but have a closer read. “It’s a changing country. The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore. And there are fifty percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it and he ran on it. And whereby twenty years ago, President Obama would have been roundly defeated, by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney. The White establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You’re gonna see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama, overwhelming Black vote for President Obama and women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel they are entitled to things and which candidate between the two are going to give them things?”

So there you have it. White men made the country and now women and the coloreds are destroying it. Rather than thinking about ways to appeal to women and minorities, conservatives are blaming them for not seeing the light, for wanting things, for not working hard enough. The self-victimization never ends.

Jon Stewart describes the conservative resentment most accurately: “They’re really only entitlements when they’re something other people want. When it’s something you want, they’re a hallmark of a civilized society.”

Dhaka to Rome (Indian Express article)

A friend Kaushik and I got an article published in yesterday’s Indian Express.

Dhaka to Rome: the Bangladeshi community, the eternal city’s most visible immigrants, travel “by donkey” to reach Italy, struggle to make a livelihood but believe in a better tomorrow.

FYI – keep an eye out for Kaushik’s novel Windhorse, which will be published by Harper Collins in the coming months.

What’s a Hispanic?

The non-Hispanic White population is declining whereas that of White Hispanics is increasing. The difference between the two, or lack thereof, will hold the key to determining mainstream American identity over the coming generations.

As with any conversation on race, last week’s post on the relative decline in the population of White America sparked some interesting questions. What does it mean to be White anyway? And most importantly, in the American context of racial and ethnic demography, what exactly is a Hispanic or a Latino?

The boundaries between racial and ethnic categories are always fuzzy and it doesn’t get much fuzzier than the American invention of the word Hispanic. To get the heart of the matter, one must discern the difference between the American conceptions of race and ethnicity.

Let’s lay out at the outset that race is a construct and that the categories are fluid and not based in genetic classification. Race is, however, seen as having to do with geographic origin, phenotype and identity. Ethnicity, on the other hand, is almost entirely based on culture and identity. The US Census uses the following racial categories:

  • White: having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa
  • Black or African American: having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa
  • Asian: having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
  • American Indian and Alaska Native
  • Other
  • Two or more races

Notice, there is no category for Hispanic or Latino. That is because the US Government considers these to be ethnic categories (not racial) and includes people of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. For example, check out the following Hispanic Americans.

Most folks may not realize that Carlton Banks’ real name is Alfonso Ribeiro and that Charlie Sheen was born Carlos Irwin Esteves. Black and White, but both Hispanic.

I know many of you are already saying, but Charlie Sheen isn’t Hispanic – that he’s just a really weird White guy. That is just the point, White and Hispanic (just like Black and Hispanic) are not mutually exclusive terms. Let’s not forget that Latin America also received millions of European immigrants over the past few centuries. Argentina is arguably the Whitest country in the world. In fact, a majority of Hispanics and Latinos in the US are considered White by the government (but then again so are Arabs).

This begs the question, is it useful to have a Hispanic category if it includes the likes of Martin Sheen, Christina Aguilera and Andy Garcia? When demographers say that the US is going to be a majority minority nation in about three decades, they mean that the non-Hispanic White population will dip below 50%.

There is a possibility, however, that many Hispanics will assimilate into mainstream White and Black culture, as many have already done. This is why most Americans don’t consider Christina Aguilera and Charlie Sheen to be Hispanic in any real sense. By 2050, the US may be less than 50% non-Hispanic White, but since so many Hispanics are already White, this milestone may have little, if any real impact on American identity – it will depend largely on whether in the coming decades, White Hispanics see themselves as being primarily Hispanic or White. Let’s keep in mind that throughout American history, many European immigrants were not initially considered White – the term has been constantly evolving/expanding.

Also, there are already four majority minority states, including Texas and California, where the Hispanic and non-Hispanic White populations are almost equal. The non-Hispanic White community in these states still maintains an overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of political and economic power and cultural capital. So perhaps things might not be that different after all.

White Baby Population Falls Below 50%

White babies are now a minority. White people will soon be one too. Will these changes affect the way we interact among one another?

In the year leading up to July 2011, about 4 million babies were born in the United States, of which less than 2 million were non-Hispanic White. This is the first time in American history that there is no racial/ethnic majority among newborns.

The baby numbers came as no surprise to most demographers who had expected this moment for years, but it’s only the beginning of an even larger demographic shift.

In most parts of the world, the thought of an American congers up the image of a White person. This is understandable given that the White population has always represented a large majority of the country, but this majority is shrinking fast. In 2010, the non-Hispanic White population accounted for 63.7% of the total population – the lowest it’s been in our nation’s history.

By the 2040s, the overall non-Hispanic White population in the country will likely fall below 50% for the first time ever. This may have dramatic implications in terms of what it means to be an American. In many ways,  it can already be felt. In a few decades, the US will be the only major Western country to not have a White majority.

I see two potential scenarios. On the one hand, this may be the dawn of an age in which the organizing principle of societal categories will be based on something other than race – perhaps class, religion, geography, ideology. The possibilities to divide are endless, but for the first time, race may not be at the forefront. Another possibility is that the White population, having lost their majority, will grow increasingly insular and fearful of other communities. Let me know what you think will happen when the US become a majority minority country.

A Complicated Situation for Syria’s Minorities

Life under Bashar al-Assad was not great for Syria’s minority communities, but many would rather deal with the devil they know rather than the Islamists who stand to gain from the revolution.

Chances are, man with shoe is not a Kurd, Christian, Alawi, Shi'a or Druze.

Since the beginning of the popular uprising in Syria, thousands of civilians have been killed by Government forces. Although it is safe to say that a significant portion of Syria’s population want regime change, its minority communities are weary of a future without Bashar al-Assad. It is often ignored that Assad’s Ba’ath party (like that of Saddam Hussein until 2003) is resolutely secular and often positions itself as the only thing standing in the way of Sunni Islamist rule. Minority groups are reluctant to oppose Assad because he and the Ba’ath party have historically protected them. 

Syrian Kurds (about 9% of the population) are concerned that Turkish support for the opposition forces increases the likelihood of unfavorable policies under a new regime. Turkey has its own problems with a large Kurdish minority and any help to the mostly Arab opposition forces are seen by Kurds as instigation.

Christians have had a significant presence in Syria since the time of Paul the Apostle.

The Christian community (about 10% of the population) fears that it will suffer a fate similar to that of the more than 1 million Iraqi Christians following the American-led invasion in 2003. As a result of targeted sectarian violence, several hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled the country, mostly to Syria, which was then considered safe for Christians under Assad’s rule. Where can they turn to now if forced out? Lebanon?

Other Islamic communities – the Alawi, Druze and Shi’a (about 16% of the population) – are scared of potential Sunni hegemony that would further marginalize them. Assad himself is an Alawite, which often serves as a rallying point for the mostly Sunni revolutionary forces.

Bashar al-Assad, like Saddam Hussein before him, spoke of secular Arab nationalism as the only credible force able to contend with Western imperialism and radical Islamism. Unfortunately, both men rule(d) in such a way that any concessions made for tolerance were overshadowed by the brutality of their hold on power. The Kurds, Christians, Alawi, Druze and Shi’a that make up a quarter of Syria’s population have little sway with either the international community or the revolutionary forces, both of whom want Assad to step aside. Many support Assad out of fear of the alternative, which will only make it worse in the eyes of the Sunni Arab majority when he loses power, which it seems is only a matter of time.