Monday, August 15, 2005

Minority Report

     If the Angry White Male revolution started in 1996, it had better hurry up and finish remaking the world in its 1950's image. It's about to become a minority. Last week, Texas became the fourth state where the majority of people are not White. California, New Mexico, and Hawaii are the other three, and in all of these states (except Hawaii), the majority is Hispanic. (Hawaii is, predictably, Asian) This, of course, is not a surprise. Hispanic population is up sharply, and by 2050 we should expect to see the US as majority Hispanic. What's interesting is that this is happening in such a pivotal state. Texas is about as Republican as states get, and in addition, happens to hold more electoral votes than any other state except California. Hispanics (with the exception of Cubans), traditionally have voted Democrat. In 2004, they voted somewhere like 60%-65% for Kerry.
     So as absurd as it might sound, we might in the near future see Texas vote Democrat. Except for one thing: Hispanics don't vote. Well, some vote. The census bureau estimated that while 58% of the US population at large voted in the 2004 election, only 28% of Hispanics voted. So maybe Texas is safely in Republican hands for the foreseeable future after all. Don't hold your breath expecting Hillary to win the Lone Star State in 2008. But what we are looking at is the potential of a strange kind of apartheid-like system, where Whites hold power despite having a diminishing minority status.
     I'm not suggesting that Texas would degenerate into a repressive regime with anti-Hispanic laws. But for a number of reasons, the will of the people wouldn't be the will of the state. Hispanics don't vote for a number of reasons. The most basic is that a large percent are not US citizens. In 2004, over 40% of Hispanic legal residents were not citizens of the US. These people live in the US, work in the US, pay taxes in the US, but don't get to participate in representative government. Many are trying to become citizens, but that is a long, difficult process that has grown more red tape since 9/11. The second reason is that many Hispanics are poor. For example, the households of only 0.4% of all Americans over 18 have an income under $10,000/year. But 6.5% of Hispanic households make less than that. Poor people in this country don't tend to vote - they have more pressing issues, like working 90 hours a week to be able to afford bread and rent. Even legal residents aren't protected by minimum wage laws in many cases - when you speak only broken English, you'll take the job that's available whether it pays a living wage or not.
     Speaking of English, a third reason many Hispanics don't vote is because they are not tuned in to the language of national politics. George Bush may throw in a few Spanish words here and there to prove he's not a high-school dropout, but by and large, national politics takes place in English. I'm not saying it shouldn't - we can argue English-only policies some other time. But until Hispanics get a generation or two into this country, they will remain isolated linguistically. Which brings us to fourth - the Hispanic community is becoming more and more segregated away from mainstream America. Partially because new immigrants do this for comfort, but also because of the three reasons listed above, Hispanic communities generally don't have a lot of interaction with middle-class White communities. And so they're not as involved in the national dialogue and voting becomes something that belongs to another world.
     In any event, it will be interesting to see how politics progress in Texas, and in America. When the next generation of English-speaking Hispanic Americans grows up to voting age, we my see a radical shift in how Texas votes. But not before some major ethnic conflict, if my guess is correct.

27 comments:

Shannon said...

I'm not entirely convinced this is true. Hispanics are also, for the most part, socially conservative (with a high Christian influence).

Shannon said...

Sorry that post wasn't finished.

It seems that hispanic voters might be moved by more social issues that fiscal ones, but time will tell. It will certianly be interesting.

Sylvana said...

You may be right, Shannon. I have heard that before.

Ben said...

One reason (among many) that they aren't learning our language is because of the prevelance of bilingual education, which really means they teach them everything in Spanish, and they also get one crappy English course. By the time they finsih high school, most people in those programs still can't speak decent English. But the NEA (liberal teacher's union) loves bilingual education.

And maybe hispanics are smarter than you think. Maybe it's not just social issues, but they see how, despite hysterical warnings from the left, Bush's tax cuts have led to higher tax revenues and economic growth, as well as lower unemployment, and that seems like the horse worth betting on, instead of say the Bill Clinton 90's which led to bad recession in 2000.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

I am wondering whether Hispanics have a strong cultural consciousness. In Canada, francophones are very concerned about their language and culture being swamped by the English majority.

If Hispanics receive education in Spanish, as Ben says, that would suggest that language and culture are very significant to them.

And, if Hispanics will be the majority population by 2050, the issue of English-only politics is going to be upon you before you know it. You may soon have to confront the Canadian reality, where federal leaders must be fluently bilingual, and the Liberal Party (though not the others) alternates between French- and English-speaking leaders.

Ben, you seem to disparage bilingual education. But maybe you're holding the wrong end of that stick. Instead of insisting that Hispanics be educated in English, maybe Anglos should embrace bilingual education for themselves.

I regret that I am unilingual. I've enrolled my children in French immersion programs, so they can speak both of Canada's official languages. I think unilingual individuals will be increasingly disadvantaged in the new global reality.
Q

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Oops — re the Liberal Party of Canada —

I should have said they alternate between leaders whose first language is English and those whose first language is French.
Q

ORF said...

Ben, I'll let shannon handle your comment about ESL teaching...

Scott, my first a$$hole response to this statement: "Hispanic communities generally don't have a lot of interaction with middle-class White communities" was "except in their kitchens and gardens." Did anyone see that film "A Day Without a Mexican?" about the disappearance of all Hispanics from Southern California and how the economy would basically fall apart because they hold up the service industry down there?

Ben and Shannon are right in that a lot of the Hispanic populations are moving to vote Republican due to religious influence. They are morally conservative and so tend to line up with the Bible thumpers. It is no wonder Bush wanted to enact a sweeping citizenship push; it had far les to do with protecting Hispanic workers' rights than it did with ensuring future voters' loyalty.

Ben said...

All I know about the bilingual education thing is what I've read, and just about every article I've read on the subject blasts it. It sucks from both the perspective of hispanic parents who want their kids to learn english, but the school wants to teach them in spanish, and community leaders who want their hispanic citizens to learn english and become productive members of American society.

I don't have a link, but I read something a few weeks ago showing that students who avoid the bilungual crap and just english earn far more than students who get stuck in the bilingual track.

As far as hispanic cultural consciousness, I think it's a lot trickier than with the French. Mexicans, Dominicans, and Argentinians may all speak Spanish, but other than that their cultures are extremely different. That's why saying that hispanics are the largest minority is so deceptive. The only thing that makes them all one group is their language, but if you go by that, then blacks aren't a minority int eh US because they speak English and thus are part of the majority. If you go by skin color, then you have to cut people a lot of people from Spain out because they look just as pale white as I do. And most Dominicans can pass for African-American. Argentinians can look like just about any racial group.

Mainline Mom said...

It was interesting living in Reading, PA where the school system was about 41% hispanic and 15% african-american. Unfortunately almost all the hispanics there were very poor, mostly unemployed, and drug crime is rampant. The city was sued by the justice department and forced into making the voter ballots bilingual. It didn't change the voter turnout one bit. We moved 40 miles away, to a closer suburb of Philly and the culture is extremely mixed due to some high-tech business but still some small urban centers and even some agriculture. I am very happy to be meeting lots of hispanic families at my local YMCA who seem genuinely interesting in fitting in with us mainline white folk. They are the nicest people I meet there, so unpretencious.

Alisa said...

What happened to the days when immigrants wanted to be Americans so bad they immersed themselves in becoming such?

If your country was so wonderful that you have to force your language and culture into our public education system... then why did you leave said country in the first place?!?!

Don't get me wrong.. I'm all about immigration and the American Dream, but I want to know why a middle class white person can't catch a break these days, yet we shell out gobbeldygooks of money on illegal immigrants thru our ineptly organized and poorly run social welfare system. (Granted, the middle class overextend themselves financially, causing their own problems... but hey, every once in a while bad things happen to good people, and they can't get a break from their own government).

Also, as a side note, I really am not racist. I've worked with a lot of immigrants from Mexico and have nothing but the utmost respect for them. Many work two jobs, support a family here and family there, have good values, put their children in private schools to ensure they receive a good education and never utter a word of complaint. For those immigrants ... Welcome to America and God Bless.

To the rest of the illegal population who think they have rights under our constitution... Do not pass go, do not collect 200.00, go straight to the border.

Sylvana said...

I don't hear people complaining about Oktoberfest, St. Patrick Day, or Mardi Gras. These are all cultural things that came with immigrants. In fact, I believe that they still speak French in a lot of Louisiana. These are all now part of the very richness of this country and so "assimilated" and absorbed by everyone that no one really gives them a second thought. These things have always been a part of America- immigrants, melting pot of cultures. Allowing people to be what they want and who they want is one of the promises that this country is supposed to offer. I know I take advantage of that everyday. If any one were to try to force me to conform to someone else's idea of what or who I should be, I would tell them to go f' themselves.

Ben said...

Oktoberfest, St. Patrick's Day, and all that are mainstream now because the second generation, the children of immigrants, assimilated into American culture like two wax candles being melted into the same mold. That's not happening with a lot of Sapnish-speaking immigrants' children, though, and that's a problem. When you have grandchildren of immigrants from Mexico who still live in the barrio, still speak only Spanish, and still don't have any desire to assimilate, that's a big problem, not just for the country as a whole, but for that immigrant community. They are locking themselves into a future with a much smaller range of options than they should have in this great country.

ORF said...

Ben, if you DO find the link you mentioned about the whole ESL thing, I'd be really interested in reading it. NC has one of the fastest growing Hispanic populations in the country because of all the agriculture there and my uncle works for a company that helps to place teachers in schools all over the state. He has told me that one of the most valuable assets teachers can have these days is a working knowledge of Spanish. I'm sure places like Texas and Florida are in even more dire need of them. While there might be a lot of kids who come here and have trouble assimilating linguistically, there are loads more that DO succeed with the language issue but wind up translating for their parents a LOT, who have NOT been able to get language training, or refuse to.

I've lived abroad (coincidentally in two Spanish-speaking countries) and I have to say that doing so made me want to speak the language more than anything. When I go places where I don't speak the language, it frustrates me to no end. When I went to Russia, I made my host sister teach me the Cyrillic alphabet just so I could read it, even though I had no clue what it was saying. I hear about people who have lived here for twenty or thirty years and speak eight words of English and I just marvel at how lonely and isolated that must be. I am not sure I really understand why someone wouldn't want to make at least some effort to try to assimilate because otherwise you live your life always being disconnected from the general population.

Ben said...

ORF, I can't find that link, but I realized that I may have written in a misleading way. The survey showed that people who speak Spanish as a first language and then learn English earn more than their peers who never bother to learn English. The way I wrote it made it seem like anyone who only speaks English earns more than their bilungual counterparts, which is not so true.

Sylvana said...

Ben, I like how you just skipped right over Louisiana. These things aren't commonplace just because some later generation eventually assimilated. They are commonplace because people got over their prejudices and realized that they were enjoyable. The rest of the country assimilated to them as much as those cultures assimilated to what was already going on in America. Just about every big city has a China Town. That doesn't seem to be causing the destruction of this country. In fact, many people that aren't Asian very much enjoy visiting these areas. It gives them a taste of China without having to actually fly to that country. America has always been changing, and it will always change. That IS America.

sideshow bob said...

Ben, I don't think the acceptance of St. Patty's, Mardi Gras and Oktoberfest has as much to do with "assimilation" as it has to do with the massive amounts of alcohol they offer. Give Cinco de Mayo a few more years...and if everyone could just lighten their skin tone a little, I'm sure that would help, too...one reason the Irish, French and Germans have been "assimilated" is because you can't look at them and tell that they're "different" right away, you actually have to have human contact with them before you find out their heritage.

Alisa-"a middle class white person can't catch a break these days"-ROTFLMAO! You have the dry, subtle wit of a young John Cleese!
I know every time leave my well paying job and I drive in my late model car into my neighborhood with it's low crime rate and (relatively) well-funded schools and white picket fences, and I pass a police officer who waves to me and doesn't instantly consider me a suspect because I'm in a nice car in a nice neighborhood, I shake my head and wonder, "When, Lord, when...when's gonna be my time?!?"

Ben said...

I don't live in such a great area, and I'm not sure what exactly I left Louisiana out of.... It seems like most everyone there speaks English, even if some of it is slightly incomprehensible. There you have three or four different groups that kept their identities, but at the same time adapted and assimilated into American culture. I think that Louisiana is a point in my favor. Most of the people in the Chinatowns I've been to (New York and San Fran) seemed to speak English ok.

ORF said...

Ben, we must be hanging out in entirely different Chinatowns. I lived in Chinatown for two years in New York City and THAT is where I met people who'd lived there for 20 years and had never bothered to learn a lick of English. The younger generations might be fairly well assimilated since they've grown up here, but their elders are not. Again, it just baffles me...but I guess if you live in a concentrated enclave like that, then perhaps it is fairly easy to get by.

And SSB is right, just give Cinco de Mayor another coupla years and people will be claiming Mexican heritage because they went to spring break in Cancun once. I have red hair, so obviously, I'm super duper Irish on St. Patty's day.

I think the primary reason people are uneasy about the Hispanic influx in particular is that it is a) happening extremely quickly and our civic agencies cannot keep up with it; b) it's happening illegally so that while people seem to have few qualms about paying migrant workers sub-standard wages, they still feel a twinge of resentment at those people for taking advantage of our medical and educational systems and c) the US government has long affected a policy towards most Latin American countries that put forth an air of superiority to their populist-catholic-rural-poor ways, so why else would US citizens feel a need to contradict the idea that "our brown brothers" are anything BUT inferior?

Ben said...

Scratch my ChinaTown assertion. Now that I think about it, I really only talked to shopowners, and they are probably more likely to leanr English than a typical resident. But the fact is, the VAST majority of Asians living in the U.S. don't live in Chinatowns or whatever, and they have assimilated to a far greater degree than Hispanics, and their average income and educational level is a testament to the wisdom of learning English and assimilating. Assimilating, despite some comments to the contrary, is no Borg-like throwing off of anything old for the new, it's a melting together of the old and the new. I'm not saying that Hispanics living in the barrio should try to act like a white suburbanite and ignore their heritage. There's a middle ground here.

Sylvana said...

There are PLENTY of poor people in America that speak English. Saying that they are poor because they don't speak English, just doesn't wash with me.

If they are content not to speak English, then let them not speak English. Let it be their choice. Or aren't people allowed to make their own choices in this country anymore?

Shannon said...

I've refrained from commenting on this for a gazillion reasons but I gotta let it out now-

How did a post about Hispanic voting patterns (note- ya gotta be a citizen to vote people, illegal immigrants and permanent residents can't vote) devolve to an arguement about assimilation and immigration?

ORF- Bilingual education and ESL are separate. ESL is, or should be, conducted in English, the target language. Bilingual education usually refers to teaching content areas in native language.

Ben- I know, and work with, plenty plenty plenty, ahem, a lot of Asians who have not learned English (yet, I guess since I'm working with them). Where are you getting these facts about the income and location of Asian immigrants? I question their validity, but welcome the opportunity to be corrected.

I've celebrated Cinco de Mayo since Jr. High. It's been a part of my schooling and "culture."

Assimilation has never meant losing your own culture and often results in synchronation with the "main" culture. Additionally, the majority culture usually doesn't leave unscathed...which is kinda what Scott's original post was asking- how is the increase of Hispanic immigrants merging into our culture going to effect its politics?

As someone who works primarily with Hispanic immigrants, especially those with limited English proficiency, and grew up among the children of immigrants-legal and non- (some of whom are now lawyers, PhD candidates, and writers), I get the distinct impression that many of you have very little contact with the Hispanic community and base your opinions on assumptions rather than facts.

Ben said...

http://64.233.179.104/search?q=cache:igx48RT7T-AJ:www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p60-221.pdf+income+by+race+in+united+states&hl=en

If you can get that link to work, and you're willing to scroll through a lot of stuff, you'll see that according to the census, Asians in the United States make almost $10k per year more than whites, and a obviously much more than Hispanics and blacks. Because of this, Shannon, I get the feeling that you are basing your opinions on anecdotal evidence from your own life instead of facts.

Here's a PDF of the same thing:
http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p60-221.pdf

In addition, here's some stuff on English language profiency of US residents based on birthplace:
http://www.uic.edu/cba/cba-depts/economics/faculty/wpaper/wp_bc_199709.pdf

Scroll down to page 58 or so for the pertinent charts. I don't ahve time right now to figure out exactly what it's telling me, though.

Shannon said...

Tnx Ben, I'll check it out when I have a little more time (eg, Lunch). Are these facts for Asian Americans or Asian immigrants to America?

Ben said...

It just says "origin," so I don't think they distinguish between an Asian born here and one that immigrated.

Shannon said...

Interestingly enough, Ben, I had a dept. meeting where we were presented with statistics for hispanics from the US Census (for So. NV, not nation wide)just after reading your post. A vast majority reported only having a 6th grade education, around 50% living at or above the poverty line. It wasn't clear if they were immigrants (most likely) or American born.

Hmmmm...this is interesting stuff...
can't wait to compare the Asian stats to Hispanic stats...::putting on geek hat::

Shannon said...

Er, I forgot to add- I'm not in agreement that a high income and higher education level necessary indicates assimilation.

Ben said...

I will say that, OUTSIDE of Chintown, every Asian I've known was either moved here with their parents and has made EVERY effort to learn English and to work their asses off in school, or they were born here to immigrant parents who raised them with two languages, and encouraged them to embrace his country. I went to high school and college with a lot of Asians.