Is the white race facing an existential problem?
Dr R Balashankar
Creating A New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiculturalism, genomics, and the Young can Remake Race in America, Jennifer Hochschild, Vesla Weaver & Traci Burch, Princeton University Press, Pp 260 (HB), $28.75.
WILL the ‘white’ race come to an end in foreseeable future, given the conundrum of multiracism emerging in the world? The question is of course central to America, which as of today, in the West is the most receptive country for immigrants. And what does this emerging multiracism do to the social, economic and political fabric of the country? These are some of the issues raised and discussed threadbare in an interesting book Creating A New Racial Order-How Immigration, Multiculturalism, genomics, and the Young can Remake Race in America by three authors Jennifer Hochschild, Vesla Weaver, and Traci Burch.
Since the 1960s’ civil rights movement in America, transformations are occurring, the authors say, “in locations and laws, beliefs and practices.” The word race itself is beginning to get difficult to be defined as a large population of people share more than one racial affiliations. A survey threw such responses as “gay Jewish Cuban American.”
The authors use statistical data to go right into the problem of racial disparities of the past and demonstrate how the transformations are narrowing these disparities, albeit slowly. The figures on educational qualifications, the dropout rates, the employment opportunities and other social parametres have been considered by them. “We see four main impediments to the creation of a new order. First, some people will be harmed by or feel great loss as a consequence of change that weakens racial boundaries, even if—or perhaps because—such a change benefits many members of their group. Second concerning poverty, unemployment, poor education, and incarceration may prevent residents of some communities, especially Blacks, from benefitting from the changes occurring elsewhere. Third, wealth disparities among groups contribute to the maintenance of traditional relative group positions even though education and income gaps have narrowed over time. Finally, along the horizontal dimension of inclusion-exclusion, the United States may be inventing new pariah groups; unwanted immigrants and possibly Arabs and Muslims, are taking over the status of unwanted outsiders.”
People also like to have racial affiliations as it gives them a feeling of rootedness, a sense of belonging somewhere and at times a sense of social security. For instance, the Jews have clung to their faith, household rituals, endogenous marriages and self-contained communities.
The biggest challenge that America faces today in terms of racial issues is the disproportionately large number of young black male in jails. It seems to have gotten into a vicious circle, one spawning the other. The three authors have paid a lot of attention to this aspect, comparing the relative figures from other communities. This is an aspect which has been written about extensively, without an apparent or easy solution.
Post 9/11 the Muslims too have come under scrutiny as a ‘race’. The Americans have an ambivalent view about them, with some willing to co-opt and others wanting to isolate. It is an issue that is bound to come up repeatedly in the coming years, given the level of deteriorating relationship between the Muslim world and America.
The transformations have several negative fall outs too, point out the authors and have suggested some pleas. They conclude: “Whether Americans create a new racial order will depend to a considerable degree on whether voting and other forms of political participation change….Political action by new participants, in short, is both an effect and a cause of further transformation of the American racial order.”
It is an interesting book that deals with a tough issue, for, racial questions have no straight answers. Pro-active action to protect one groups may act to its disadvantage. But politically necessary. The social-political-economic aspects of racism, multiracism need to be understood to even begin sorting it out. The book is well-researched, well-analysed and the case well-presented without the personal biases, if any, of the authors.
Jennifer Hochschild is the Henry Labarre Jayne Professor of Government Harvard College Professor at Harvard University, Vesla Weaver is an assistant professor in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia, and Traci Burch is an assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University.
(Princeton University Press, 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08540)