My grandson’s kindergarten day had just ended one afternoon last spring. Children poured from the schoolhouse to waiting parents. Muslim parents retrieved their child as black and brown, Asian-American, and Caucasian children, each exhibiting a range of abilities and disabilities, warmly greeted their parents.
How different from the school in which we baby-boomers grew up. These kids are coming of age in a time when their schools are integrated. So are their families and even the White House.
My grandson slid into his booster seat. I buckled him and walked around to the driver’s side. As the car pulled away from the parking lot, NPR was in the middle of a story about Barack Obama. The announcer said, “He’s the first African-American President of the United States.”
My oldest grandchild is an interracial child as the President once was. Rhyland tunes into anything Obama. “Grandpa, is that true? Is Barack Obama the first African-American president ever?” Yes, I told him. Rhyland asked simply, “Why?” The question hung in the air.
How do you explain to a five-year-old a nation whose founders made the extraordinary claim that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” when those truths have never been “self-evident.” How do you explain the struggle Americans have had over the decades trying to grow into those lofty words?
Our nation is in the process of explaining itself. My grandson will likely reach at least his 14th birthday, never having known a white male as President of the United States.
“That depends,” you say, “on Hillary Clinton being elected.” Americans won’t elect the narcissistic, racist, misogynist, uninformed, reality TV star. If I’m wrong, my premise falls apart along with my grandchildren’s future.
Whether she wins a second term, doesn’t change the argument. After Mr. Obama’s eight years and Mrs. Clinton’s one or two terms, the odds of a white male following her into the Oval Office diminish each day.
The ethnic make-up of the United States is changing fast. Marcelo Suarez-Orozco of UCLA is a global expert on immigration. Suarez-Orozco reviews the demographic evidence. This is what he sees. “The fast-growing demographic today is now the children of immigrants. Moving forward, the U.S. will become the first major post-industrial society in the world where minorities will be the majority.”
The Census Bureau predicts non-Hispanic whites will lose their majority status and with it their historic hold on American politics, business and banking, academia and more. White privilege will be seen only through the rearview mirror.
One day as Rhyland played “Angry Birds,” I asked jokingly what the birds were so angry about. One day he’ll ask me what those white males were so angry about back in 2016. Truthfully many of them are angry that black people are living in the White House.
They’re angry about changing demographics. Soon there’ll be no white majority, only pluralities of diverse cultures. They are angry about marriage equality, bilingual ballots, biracial and same-sex couples on TV. They’re angry that there are fewer Christian churches and growing numbers of Mosques. In his memoir Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance says their anger doesn’t have much to do with skin color as it does with time spent listening to fringe conspiracy theorists. As a result, they believe “the worst about their society.” Vance concludes correctly, “You can’t believe these things and participate meaningfully in society.” And they don’t participate meaningfully. They participate meanly.
Watch TV coverage of a Trump for President rally. Nearly all the heads are male, bald or gray. Fortunately, angry white men are getting older and fewer. By the time my grandson is voting age, they will be so few in numbers as to not warrant news coverage even on FOX, assuming it survives this evolution.
When my grandchildren and kids their age study history, they’ll simply shake their heads in disgust that there was a time when the color of your skin, your religion, gender identity or sexual orientation mattered more than your character.