Shifting Demographics, Attitudes, and Those Left Behind

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According to this NY Times article, more Hispanic folks in the US are identifying as white. This may seem a bit odd, and I will not get into a discussion, just click the link and it will explain. The whole affair reminds me off other times in our nation’s history that a demographic was able to get a place at the big table. For decades, the better part of a century really, Irish were not considered “real” white people. This held true of Italians as well, who came later and gained acceptance later. What happens next, what very well may happen next for so many Hispanic Americans, is kind of sad.

Once a group gains acceptance, once they taste that privilege they defend it tooth and nail, with all the vigor their one time oppressors did. They hold up the “fact” that they made it out of the quagmire of racism as proof that other groups can do and they just need to pull them selves up by their bootstraps. Ignored is the fact that attitudes shifted about them, very slowly, and that for decades after their acceptance into the “white people” club, they were still treated as tokens at best and unwanted dinner guests at worst. They still faced job discrimination, housing discrimination and other aspects of institutionalized racism until their “betters” finally deemed them “fully” white. So, yeah, I worry about this when it comes to how these folks are identifying themselves.

It also reminds me of the struggles of the LGBT community, or more importantly the struggles of everyone who is not a gay, white cis man. Which is not to say there are not still struggles for them, but in the midst of their growing acceptance, many of them seem eager to throw the rest of us under the bus. One need only see how quick they are to accuse trans women of being “too sensitive” when we ask folks to please think twice before using “humor” that feeds into attitudes that make us valid targets for violence.

I have said it elsewhere that a sure sign of a group being respectable in the eyes of the dominant culture is their willingness to accuse the oppressed of forcing political correctness down their throats. How better to show your straight, white, cis male betters that you will behave than punishing those that need to learn their place? When you have yours you do not have to worry whether or not your neighbor has any, at least that is what people like to believe.

They like to believe it, but it simply is not true. I have also mentioned here and elsewhere that identity politics are economic politics are environmental politics and so on. They all interact and even if you have a privileged position economically or environmentally (yes, that is a thing) it hangs by an unraveling thread.  The fact that the economic elites, that are, yes, straight, white, cis men almost to a single one, can hang the rest of our situation over our heads means they can manipulate us into working for less, and living in worse conditions because we are desperate. The more desperate people there are, the easier it is get all of us to jump the way they want, regardless of what that does to us long run.

So whether you are an Italian or Irish American whose parents or grandparents were told they were not real Americans, a Hispanic American who wants to be viewed as white, or a gay, white male sick of the struggles for acceptance and happy to finally find some, remember those left behind. Remember because our oppression is a yoke around  your neck to. Fight for us, as many of us have for you, if for no other reason than enlightened self-interest. Or do not, and do not act surprised by what happens next.

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