When I went in for my first cataract surgery, the nurse handed me a medical questionnaire. Among the boxes to be checked was the one that often gives me pause. Was I white or Hispanic? I never know what to do with these labels. (Blog 8/8/17) In the end, I checked the “white” box as my mother is Spanish Basque and my father’s relatives hailed from Germany, though some mongrelizing occurred on both sides. My mother has a bit of Toltec in her veins, which for some irrelevant reason, makes me proud.
In my day-to-day life, I give little thought to race, though I’m counting on a growth in minority populations to turn the politic spectrum of this country to the left. I’m not the only person to anticipate this sea change. Newscasters, politicians, sociologists and the Klu Klux Klan are among those who have made the same assessment. Unfortunately, that assumption may be flat-out wrong, writes John B Judis. (“Redoing the Electoral Math,” New Republic, October 2017, pgs. 16-17.)
According to Judis, a funny thing happens on the way to being assimilated in this country. “History shows that as ethnic groups acclimatize to American culture, they increasingly identify themselves as ‘white’.” (Ibid pg. 16.) Being white, he insists, isn’t a matter of race but of economic status. He points out that people we think of as white today were non-white yesterday: Irish, Italians and Jews. He quotes a letter Harry Truman wrote to his cousin in 1918 after his visit to New York to make his case. “750,000 of ‘em are of Israelish extraction. (400,000 wops and the rest are white people.)” He also points out that in the 2010 census 53% of Latinos identified as white as did Asian Americans. (Ibid pg. 17.)
According to Judis, being a Latin doesn’t make a person a democrat. Cuban-Americans in Miami square off with Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles. Asian-Americans don’t vote in a block either. (Ibid pg. 17.)
What does this information bode for the future of American politics? According to the author, appealing to voters according to their ethnicity Is a losing game. What holds the country together is a belief in equal opportunity and the right to pursue happiness. When the democrats court voters of any ethnic background, that’s the equality they should promise to defend.