Friday, February 1, 2013

The Great Silence (On Race & Culture) Part IX

Gazing Into The Future of the United States

There is nothing I love more than travelling. What makes new countries so interesting are their distinct characteristics. When we visit a new place, we are first captivated by the sites and the scenery, the museums and the monuments. What week long trip to Paris does not lead to photos of smiling tourists posing next to the Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower? But, the longer we stay, the more we realize that the culture, quirks and everyday customs of the people make other nations so different and interesting. The shared myths, history and traditions form a nation's spirit and  zeitgeist. But, the ways in which culture shapes everyday social, economic and political behavior have a real impact on a nation's level of education, economic development, crime and corruption. While laws and institutions are certainly important, the people are what define a nation. As facile as they may sound, who can deny the axiom: Japan is Japan because of the Japanese and Nigeria is Nigeria because of the unique ways of the Nigerians. The failed nation building endeavors of the United States have made it abundantly clear that when the laws and institutional framework of one land are adopted by another, wildly different outcomes will result, because of the different culture and temperament of the respective groups. And when foreign powers create borders that lump populations together that do not possess a shared culture, the chance of conflict and national disintegration is great. Thus, it can be said that demographics, via culture, is destiny. As the United States shifts towards a Majority-Minority Status, it would be wise to study the experiences of other diverse nations and especially of other states within the union. As the vanguards of demographic change, California and Texas can offer a glimpse into our probable future.

It is fairly obvious that if over time in Japan, Nigeria or any other nation, the historically dominant population group lost their majority status, without the thorough cultural assimilation of the new residents, the respective nations would be irrevocably transformed. The probable outcome would be shifts in policy that increasingly represented the values of the ascending group. But, even if the laws of the land were not formally changed, the shift in norms and behaviors would mean that their real life application and impact would no longer be the same. According to Harvard Professor Robert Putnam, the growth in diversity in a homogeneous society like Japan, would be accompanied by a decline in social trust and civic participation. Bandiera and Levy believe that in a more diverse Japan, fewer tax payers would be so willing to fund their generous universal health care system, especially if they believed that many of the beneficiaries were "others" rather than "their own". And we can be confident that the majority of the Japanese, or any other majority group for that matter, would strenuously object to the elimination of their demographic and cultural hegemony.  Well before it took root, the more democratic minded would push for a platform of reduced immigration and increased assimilation and unfortunately others would be drawn to hostile chauvinism. The universal desire of groups to maintain demographic and cultural control over a territory is also seen on a smaller scales and compels the formation of ethnic enclaves, white flight and even the fear of gentrification that some Latinos display.

One need not approve of these less than egalitarian sentiments, in order to acknowledge that they arise from basic, evolutionary impulses in human nature. In fact, policy that is grounded in an understanding of sociobiology and history can lessen the risk of inter-communal conflict. Contrary to most liberal narratives, the greatest risk of ethnic chauvinism and oppression is not the hegemony of one group or culture, but rather the lack of clear dominance and stability. For example, the Ottoman Empire was most tolerant at its zenith, when Turkish-Muslim political and cultural hegemony was clearest. But, as the empire weakened and Turkish dominance waned, racism and fascism reared its ugly head, with tragic results. Interestingly, most Americans take it for granted that racism is more pronounced in some states and localities than others, without asking why. Paradoxically, the states that have historically been the most homogeneous, such as Vermont, Maine and Wisconsin have also been the most tolerant. And historically diverse states, such as Mississippi and Louisiana, with large African-American populations, have been the least. I believe that in most, but not all cases, when an area is relatively homogeneous with no prospects of bold demographic change, the risk of racism and ethnic conflict are less pronounced. The liberal narrative that presents this as a "white vs brown" issue are puerile and not supported by facts. Much to its credit, the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center has documented the growing tension between Blacks and Latinos, especially in the neighborhoods of Southern California that are undergoing rapid demographic change.

My critics will respond that the pertinent factor is not demographics, but rather racism is correlated with a state's political orientation. A study analyzing the occurrences of racist tweets during the last presidential election, casts serious doubt on this supposition. Interestingly, strongly conservative and overwhelmingly white states, like Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota, had the lowest per-capita rates of racist tweets in the nation. And liberal, ethnically diverse states, like Maryland and Illinois, actually had much higher rates. Minnesota provides a bit of a puzzle, because it is both more liberal and less diverse than the national  average, but it had a higher occurrence of racist tweets. When we look carefully at Minnesota's demographic figures, we see that between 2000 - 2010, it experienced one of the largest and swiftest increase of minority population of any state, which in most other nations is correlated with the growth of illiberal behavior. Given our growing knowledge of evolutionary psychology and the history of group conflict, what is most surprising are not the isolated instances of white chauvinism, but rather the lack of serious debate regarding the unprecedented demographic change that is occurring in the United States. I cannot think of a single instance in all of history in which a majority population acquiesced to their demographic and cultural displacement, yet through a series of government policies, European-Americans are doing just that.  I believe this speaks more about philosophical, if not spiritual changes in our national elite, rather than the general populace.Again, I will affirm that I could not care less if the complexion of the nation changed, but it is important to predict the impact of the the cultural and economic changes that may accompany the decline of America's historically dominant population. More than anything, what is most troubling is the lack of honest, intelligent discussion on this topic. So, the least I can do is offer a paragraph of my predictions.

This may be counter-climactic to my readers, but no, I do not foresee any radical change. Despite the best efforts of our educational elite, assimilation persists, as does the power of our national narratives, so our cultural core will remain. But, never the less there will be economic and cultural shifts.The first question is not if African-Americans, Asian-Americans are Hispanic-Americans are assimilating, but rather to what segment of American Society are they assimilating too? As mentioned in our previous post, each ethnic group is represented at each point in a bell curve, but the distribution is never the same. So, more specifically we must ask: what percentages of each group is joining the ranks of the educated, economically dynamic sector of American Society? The stable middle class? The economically deteriorating working class? The culturally pathological (segment of the) underclass?  Taken as a whole, how is this shaping the socio-economic character of the nation? By gathering key statistical pieces, we begin to form a clear picture of the present state of affairs:

Poverty: Caucasian 9.9%, Asian: 12.1%, Hispanic: 26.6% and Black: 27.4%

Children Living In Poverty: Asian: 13%, Caucasian: 17%, Hispanic: 33% & Black: 38.2%

Median Income: Asian: $45,032, Caucasian: $40,300, Black: $31,890 & Hispanic: $28,548

Unemployment: Asian: 5.9%, Caucasian: 7.2%, Hispanic: 10.2% & Black: 14.1%

Proportionality Of Robbery Arrests: Blacks: 443%, Caucasian-Hispanic: 65% & Asian: 22%

Children Born Out Of Wedlock: Asian: 13%, Caucasian: 34%, Hispanic: 53% & Black: 80%

On most measures, Asians are economically performing above the national average and Latinos and African-Americans are scoring below it. Given that that the first two groups comprise the fastest growing segments of American Society, this demographic shift will, in the future, exacerbate already growing economic inequality. My critics may respond: past immigrant groups, such as the Irish and Italians rapidly rose up the ladder, so will Latinos and African-Americans. In order to ascertain future outcomes, we must explore the indicators that are most correlated with future economic outcomes, namely, academic achievement:

National Math Scores For 4th Graders: Asian: 256, Caucasian: 249, Hispanic: 229 & Black: 224

4th Graders Proficient In Reading: Asian: 50%, Caucasian: 42%, Hispanic: 18% & Black: 16%

National Math Scores For 8th Graders: Asian: 303, Caucasian: 293, Hispanic: 270 & Black: 262

High School Graduation RatesAsian: 93.5%, Caucasian: 83%, Hispanic: 71.4% & Black: 66.1%

Total SAT (Reading, Math, Writing): Asian: 1640, Caucasian: 1579, Hispanic: 1363 & Black: 1272

Bachelor's Degree Or Higher: Asian: 50.2%, Caucasian: 29.3%, Black: 17.7% & Hispanic: 13.%

In a globalized economy that increasingly rewards educated workers and offers diminishing returns for low skilled labor, based on present patterns in academic achievement, we can project that the wage gap will become even more, not less pronounced. Furthermore, when we analyze the selections of majors among different ethnic groups, we find that Asians are over-represented in high demand, high wage fields such as computer science, mathematics and engineering, while Hispanics and Blacks are underrepresented. I suspect that to a degree, we will come to resemble nations like Mexico and Chile, which economically speaking are a juxtaposition of: globally competitive firms that generously reward the best and brightest; stagnant sectors of the economy that offers low wages and insecurity and an anemic middle class. One factor that impacts wealth creation and class mobility is credit, which increasingly determines one's access to: higher education, housing and investment capital. Credit scores not only directly effect economic outcomes, but are also indicative of general patterns of financial behavior. Unfortunately credit scores reflect the general ethnic order of: Asians, Caucasians, Hispanics and African-American, which is even seen within the same classes. Thus the growing number of individuals with low credit scores will translate into increased operating expenses, greater regulation and diminished demand in various sectors of the economy, most notably housing.

Further evidence that demographic trends will increase economic inequality is found when we analyze the population compositions of various states:

-The most economically equitable states were also more homogeneous than the national average: Utah, Alaska, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Hawaii, Idaho, North Dakota, Montana & Maine.

-The least equitable states were generally more diverse: DC, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, California, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia.

Regarding educational outcomes:

-The states with the highest percentages of adults with a high school diploma are more homogeneous than the national average: Wyoming (91.9), Minnesota (91.6%), Alaska (91.4%), Montana (91.4%), New Hampshire (91.2%),  Vermont (91.0%),  Utah (90.6%), Iowa (90.3%) and Nebraska (90.3%) and Maine (90.2%).

-Those with the lowest percentage of high schools graduates are a mix of diverse states and mostly white, historically poor Appalachian ones: Mississippi (80.3%), Texas (80.4%), California (80.8%), Louisiana (81.6%), Kentucky (81.7%), Alabama (81.9%), West Virginia (82.6%), Arkansas (82.7%), New Mexico (83.1%) and Tennessee (83.2%).

-The figures regarding college graduation rates were far more ambiguous, appearing to be more related to the presence of major urban hubs and college towns, that on hand boast a large number of college graduates and on the other hand have a large presence of uneducated residents. For example, Washington D.C. has the highest per capita presence of college graduates (50.5%), while also having an abysmal record on the number (58.6%) of high school students graduating within 4 years. Hence, such areas also tend to have the least equitable distribution of incomes.

Perhaps the state that offers us the most insight into the effects of demographic transformation is California. On one hand California boasts the 12th highest per capita income of any American State and is home to a wide array of highly innovative firms. On the other hand, California has witnessed a decline in some categories. In 1970 it was the state with the 7th lowest percentage of adults without a high school diploma, by 2008 it had the third highest percentage of adult workers without a high diploma. In 1970, it possessed a middle (25th) rank of economic inequality, but by 2008, it was less economically equal (6th) than even Texas and Mississippi. Given its strong progressive vein, we cannot reasonably attribute these changes to policy, but rather to population changes. Hence, I believe that many Americans are uneasy about demographic change, not because of racism, but because of legitimate social and economic concerns, many of which are progressive in nature.

Contrary to the alarmist rhetoric of paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan, I anticipate very little direct political conflict between whites and other groups. Rather, demographic change will merely increase the already present polarization between liberals and conservatives. The Democratic Party will continue to be a coalition between a mostly white, urban, elite; government workers; and the growing number of diverse, working class communities. Middle and working class whites will continue to form the core of a diminished Republican Party, but no more than a handful of politicians will promote white ethno-political activism. Their ire will neither be focused on diverse populations nor on demographic change, but rather on the political elites who have engendered the transformation, against the democratic will of the majority. The reason being is that broad sections of the political elite have ignored polls that demonstrate a clear preference for reduced levels of legal immigration and enforcement of existing laws. Lou Dobbs best sums up the seemingly paradoxical sentiments of being critical of immigration policies, while not harboring animus against immigrants themselves, in the following lines: "I've said for some time that the only rational actor in this entire immigration crisis, illegal immigration crisis, is the illegal alien, trying to benefit himself, herself and better their lives. But illegal employer is acting against the national interests, acting against the law in every respect. How can we get to the employer who is so shamelessly exploiting the illegal alien and so shamelessly flaunting U.S. law?" Given the willingness of much of the Democratic and Republican Party to forgo the Rule of Law for ethnic identity politics and to meet the desire of businesses for cheap labor, I would not be surprised if a growing number of  mostly white conservatives gravitated towards third parties and grass roots movements, in the coming years.

Most white conservatives will focus on preserving their interpretation of traditional, Anglo-American Culturethat is open to people of all races, and use the universal language of fairness to reject affirmative action and amnesty. Others will push for greater decentralization and self government, for state and regional cultures can be just as pronounced as ethnic ones. With the vain hope of attracting diverse voters, Republicans will increasingly turn to charismatic, conservative Latinos, such as Marco Rubio and South-Asians, like Bobby Jindal. Perhaps, the strong taboo against any expression of white group interests will lose its hold and it will be expressed in some states and localities. The left will howl in protest, but it will not take the form of rabid fascism, rather it will resemble the activism that every other ethnic group is encouraged to pursue via organizations like: Voto Latino and the Black Congressional Caucus. I anticipate that politicians will express less concern for the plight of African-Americans in communities with a minimal white presence, like Los Angeles. The reason being is that few Latinos and Asians share the sense of guilt for slavery and the historic abuse of African-Americans, that most educated whites do, nor feel an imperative to make the neighborhoods and institutions that they dominate, more "diverse" or "representative".

One casualty of greater diversity will be a diminished concern for the commons, such as the promotion of environmentalism, public transportation, parks, art and culture. Ironically, but not by chance, the most progressive cities in the United States are among the whitest: Burlington, VT (88.9%), Iowa City, IA (82.5%), Madison, WI (78.9%) and Portland, OR (76.1%). The reason being is that in diverse localities, more energy is spent on competing in an ethnic spoils system, rather the broad community interests. And unfortunately, people are generally more willing to submit to higher taxation when they feel the beneficiaries are racially and culturally similar to them. While only political demagogues feed the lesser beasts of our nature, like intolerance and chauvinism, it is a great act of folly to ignore them and treat man as a tabula rasa. Good politics is the art of understanding and accepting man for what he is, while still striving for greater. This can only be accomplished through honest debate and the end of the great silence.

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