Race and privilege in America, 100 years from now



Come aboard my time machine. We’re going a hundred years into the future where we will find America a different color. Because of immigration, of vastly divergent reproductive intentions, and of whites emigrating abroad, our country for the first time sees whites a distinct minority, vastly different from 2015, when blacks constitute 12.5 percent of U.S. population and Latinos 13. Asians will make up perhaps 10 percent, about twice today’s rate. What does it feel like to be a minority?

It’s circular, so we can start anywhere. Let’s take jobs. Nothing is worthwhile if one does not have a job. Being white will no longer be an advantage since it is no longer whites who are doing the hiring. So there will be much more white unemployment than there is now. Black unemployment generally is twice that of Caucasian, so imagine the reversal. Joblessness reduces one to the dole — and sometimes to crime since one’s children have to be fed whether the family has job income or not. In families blessed with work, food is available, as is housing, whether owned or rented, and transportation. But without wages, white homelessness will be much worse than in the 21st century. The 22nd century will see the ingenuity of the poor come to white neighborhoods, some of which will be ghettos. Families will team up with other families, sharing living quarters, with all the practical difficulties that brings. Others will resort to the scam of moving out during the night when the rent is due.

The circular merry-go-round continues to education. Public education will still be available, but with the lopsidedness of poorer education available for the white minority. Teachers will be discouraged from teaching in the ghetto partially because the social disorders of the ghetto will manifest themselves there in the classroom. Since marital discord is more prevalent where householders have to argue about money, children in school will reflect in their speech and behavior home friction. Alcohol and other drug abuse is more common since people resort to the anesthesia these provide, even if it is short lived. Since children copy grown-ups, school officials are not surprised at substance abuse among children of all ages. Imprisonment, desertion and divorce are much more common among the poor, so whites will experience these and other social disorders in bigger numbers than in 2015.

Moving ahead on the great mandala, we encounter transportation. If there is no adequate ride to work or the store or the other vital places away from home, whites will discover the time-consuming burden of transferring from one bus to another. True, some whites do this now, but with nowhere near the frequency with which blacks and Latinos and other current minorities do.

Universal medical coverage rounds out the five essential needs of any person hoping to live with dignity. Again, they are job, home, transportation, education and medical insurance. Perhaps the Affordable Care Act will be operative and as dependable as is Social Security in 2015. But some of the same ideologues who oppose Obamacare opposed Social Security, and for the same reason: socialism, the dreaded –ism that allows sluggards to game the system, getting something from the government without having worked for it.

If Baltimore or Ferguson or dozens of other places riot and wreck, it is because minorities are forced to live without some or all of the five basic human needs. White majorities don’t understand the America of white privilege. Being white affords a leg up starting at conception, and many whites blithely assume it is meritocracy at work, the myth that those who have deserve to have. They think they earned it. When the racial reversal comes, and perhaps sooner than a century from now, will whites rue what their ancestors foisted upon them? I doubt it since many of the western and central European minorities who had to fight and claw for acceptance in 20th century America seldom seemed to realize they should turn and offer this break to blacks, Latinos and other current minorities. But we have the curse of American greed weighing us down, imagining there is not enough material goods to go around.