Race to Be the `Largest' Puts Minority Groups in Last Place

By Malveaux, Julianne | Black Issues in Higher Education, April 12, 2001 | Go to article overview

Race to Be the `Largest' Puts Minority Groups in Last Place


Malveaux, Julianne, Black Issues in Higher Education


The U.S. Census Bureau started releasing 2000 data in March. While demographic data is usually lackluster and mind numbing, this time around headlines about population data resembles that which you would see for a horse race. "Census Figures Show Hispanics Pulling Even with Blacks," said the New York Times. "Latinos May Exceed Blacks in the U.S.," wrote the Los Angeles Times.

The Washington Post said Hispanics had "drawn even" with Blacks, and the Philadelphia Inquirer described the two groups as being in a "virtual tie" for the dubious distinction of being the nation's largest minority group. Other words have been used to describe the relative size of the African American and Latino populations. African Americans have been, it is said, "outpaced," "overtaken" and "surpassed."

Did I miss something? When the last decennial data were collected, was there someone who said, "Ready, set, go, last one to reproduce at pace is a rotten egg?" Are African Americans and Hispanics in competition? For what? What does the fact that one group is larger than the other signify from a policy perspective? Both groups experience higher unemployment rates, lower incomes and more poverty than Whites. Both groups are underrepresented in the nation's corridors of power, from the seats of the U.S. Senate, to corporate board participation, to enrollment in our nation's elite law, business and medical schools. Neither group has its fair share of representation. Will the victor in the horse race be awarded the prize of fair treatment? I think not.

It is in the interest of many "colorblind" White Americans to set African Americans and Latinos at each other's throats. Chicago Sun-Times columnist George Will virtually salivated with glee on one of the Sunday morning chat shows, when he said the growing Latino population might put an end to the "racial spoils" system. He went on to say that the number of Hispanics and Asians combined, "far outnumber African Americans." Should outnumbering African Americans become a goal of other populations of color, and if so, why?

If, despite growing populations of color, White folks insist on holding onto their slice of the pie, then African Americans, Latinos, Asians and American Indian people will squabble over "racial spoils." But if the allocation system is fair and reasonable, as minority population rises, so will their share of the pie. That means less for Whites. Thus, the conversation about racial competition.

Issues of African American entitlement won't go away, regardless of the growing Hispanic population. …

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