By now it’s clear that the current administration has whipped up fears – that were already there lurking under the surface – and, anger – about the decline of whites as a percentage of the U.S. population (and, by extension, the decline of white’s perceived cultural power). Witness that two weeks ago, just as Trump’s “fixer,” Michael Cohen, fingered his boss as an co-conspirator in a crime to get elected, the President’s fixation was about the Criminal Mexicans – his favorite refrain – coming across the border to kill white people. It just so happened that as Cohen was singing, it was learned that an undocumented worker had killed a woman in Iowa. Guess which was the top story on Fox news that week?
A New York Times opinion piece by the fantastic Thomas Edsall suggests that the rise of Trumpism came along at just the time when projections showed a declining white majority and a rising non-white population (the way these are phrased are important in how threatened people feel about these demographic changes, as it turns out).
Some of those I contacted suggested that only Trump and his fellow Republicans have the power to change the anti-immigrant, anti-minority tone of the political conversation. Nathan Kalmoe, a political scientist at Louisiana State University, argued, for example, that
“Politicians and other opinion leaders play an important role in helping citizens make sense of the threats and opportunities they face. I expect the views of many white Americans would shift if President Trump and other leaders who deploy ethnonationalist messages collectively changed their tune, at least in terms of attitude intensity and priority.”
In the highly unlikely event that that happened, “prejudices wouldn’t vanish, but they would be less politically potent for most people.” More realistically, Kalmoe wrote, “as long as prominent leaders continue to mobilize white fear and anger on the issue, citizens who trust them will follow.”
Having a leader with a more inclusive – and less incendiary – view of race and demographic changes in the U.S. would help to mitigate some of the anti-immigrant and anti-white animosity, but it wouldn’t completely erase it (Edsall doesn’t say that it would). It’s a problem we’ve been bumping up against for the entire history of what we call the U.S.
Edsall also surveys many other academics regarding demographic changes in the U.S., covering issues such as who identifies as white – a growing number of people with mixed heritage think of themselves as white – and whether the U.S. Census binary non-Hispanic white-minority division may be stoking the anxieties of whites fearful of a majority-minority America.
The bottom line is what I’ve been expressing for years: America has a race problem. What we’ve learned in the past three years is, a leader who tells white Americans “the other” coming to kill their daughters, take their jobs, take their prestige, only makes the problem worse.
Regarding the Iowa woman who was murdered, Mollie Tibbits, the family is fed up with anti-immigrant mouthpieces using her daughter’s murder to score political points, calling them “heartless and despicable” and racist. Where’s the reporting on that, Fox News?