CRB: The browning of America

We continue with our preview of the new (Winter) issue of the Claremont Review of Books. It should arrive in the mail just in time for Spring. You can subscribe here for $19.95 and have immediate online access thrown in for free.

In Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West, Weekly Standard senior editor Christopher Caldwell looked into Europe’s dire future. It is an eloquent and prescient book that makes no concessions to the imperatives of political correctness.

In his CRB review “The Browning of America,” Caldwell turns his gaze to the United States. He sees our refusal to face the unpleasant possibilities presented by our fast-changing demographics. “In days when people spoke more freely about such matters,” Caldwell writes, “dramatic change in the dominant population of the world’s dominant power would have been occasion for speculation and worry”—a far cry from today’s enforced public cheerfulness.

Caldwell outlines his thoughts on our demographic shifts in his review of Brookings Institution demographer William Frey’s recent book, Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics Are Remaking America. While Caldwell faults Frey for his generally rose-colored view of the subject, he credits him for his acuity in identifying likely future conflicts.

Where might these conflicts arise? We already see signs of an increasing racial divide in politics, as whites increasingly tend to vote Republican, while nonwhites continue to record even higher levels of Democratic support. “Our politics,” says Caldwell, “as rejiggered by civil rights laws and affirmative action, assumes a mainstream culture, and the ebbing of the white majority in the United States is going to present genuine governing problems….Affirmative action has become such a lucrative source of privilege that lobbying has made it impregnable, even in a country that has shown, by twice electing a black president, that it has no need of it. But our regime of affirmative action requires a majority sensitive to pangs of conscience…[O]nce whites are a negligible part of the electorate, whose incomes (or life expectancies, or college achievements) are aggrieved ‘minorities’ to be contrasted with?”

What will follow the current affirmative action regime? “The transition will be more complicated than we assume. Should whites cease to be the majority, they will then become, by definition, just another subgroup. They show signs of following the interest-group logic that, since the 1960s and especially in the last decade, has ‘racialized’ the politics of all other subgroups….A racially polarized democracy is a terrible prospect.”

“Diversity” has become a shibboleth and a “sacred term,” questioning of which is sure to bring down our most opprobrious terms of abuse. Few of our political leaders appear capable of the statesmanship that would compel us to take a clear-eyed look at the coming challenges of “diversity,” or propose that we might want to rethink the course we’re on. Caldwell’s piece serves as a corrective to their—and our—myopia.


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