Magazine article Poverty & Race

Reader Comment/Response

Magazine article Poverty & Race

Reader Comment/Response

Article excerpt

Comment:

I was surprised that Manuel Pastor and Vanessa Carter seem to forget that race is socially determined and defined ("Reshaping the Social Contract: Demographic Distance and Our Fiscal Future," P&R, January /February 2012). Consequently, the authors cannot assume that American racial categories will be the same in 2050 as they are today. Projecting current trends, by 2050, many middle-class people now described as Asians or Latinos will be considered white.

Moreover, with about 10% of today's marriages already interracial, a large number of their children may be defining themselves as multiracials. (Remember, in the 19th century, the then-dominant whites whitened the "black Irish," and in the 20th, the originally "swarthy" Southern and Eastern European "races" who began arriving in the 1880s.) As a result, whites may still be numerically dominant in 2050. It is also possible mat the majority-minority "line," should there be just one, will be divided into higher-class/Lighter-skinned people and lower-class/darker ones. Further, if Latino immigration remains low, many present Latinos are whitened and racism remains intense, African Americans will not only be at the bottom but could be farther below the rest of the population economically and politically dian today. The programs the two authors discuss aren't going to help poor African Americans and other dark-skinned people much now, and if my scenario makes sense, we need to start thinking about more drastic policies and how they can be implemented.

Herbert J. Gans

(hjg1@columbia.edu)

Response:

We thank Professor Gans for his response to our article- and are indeed honored that it provoked his interest. We concur that race is a social construct and that it is a very real determinant in the everyday lives of all Americans. And that is exactly why any new approaches to politics, policies and programs must address the realities of racial disparity and avoid the sort of "leapfrogging" to whiteness that Gans raises.

That said, we think he is misreading some key trends in racial identity, misinterpreting our understanding of the importance of Black economic and political progress, and perhaps misreading the logic of our policy recommendations .

First, since the Census introduced the category Hispanic/Latino, the share of Latinos marking white has been on a steady decline. …

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