Is America a white country? Well, it was founded by white people (Europeans), especially Englishmen. But it imported, particularly in the South, large numbers of African slaves, who were later freed and made full and equal citizens. It also added territory in the South (Texas), which was originally largely Latino in population.
On the other hand, until the 1960s, it deliberately limited its immigration almost exclusively to Europeans – English, Scottish, Irish, Italian, Polish and so on. While it blended these diverse people groups in its cultural melting pot, it did not generally attempt to integrate non-Europeans (or non-Christians except Jews) before the 1960s.
Even in the 1970s and 1980s, Americans (including African Americans) were still debating whether racial integration was the right model. There were disputes over busing (the policy of driving black children to majority white schools), for instance, which Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden has been getting caught out with (having supported the wrong side).
America has always been majority white, though not in every city and region. The legacy of European, especially English, culture has dominated, but other cultures have made their mark. So, no, America isn’t purely white.
It is naïve to think American culture would remain the same if it’s demographics were to be radically altered.
But it is mostly white, both in culture and demographics. It is the dominance of English and European culture, blended with a strong dose of black and Latino culture, and a smattering of others, that has given form to America, as we know it today.
It would be naïve to think this American culture would remain the same if the country’s demographics were to be radically altered.
Conservative Latino voices rightly point out that America, and Texas in particular, has always had a large Latino population and that as a result Latino culture is part of Texan and American culture. But this doesn’t mean, as some seem to imply, that America should be indifferent to a large increase in its Latino population, particularly as most of the newcomers will not be naturalised.
If a large number of (non-naturalised) Latinos settle in Texas, the result will be that Texan culture will shift in a markedly Hispanic direction. Such a change, especially if occurring in a short space of time, will create tensions with anyone attached to Texan and American culture as it is, white or otherwise.
Many naturalised Latinos may also be wary of repercussions to the Latino community if it comes to be viewed as a source of unwanted cultural and demographic change. Blindness to the ingredients of good race relations is not a virtue, even if done in the name of anti-racism.
America is at a crossroads. Fifty years after the cultural revolutions of the 1960s the country is coming under huge pressure from internal forces to become indifferent to its racial composition, and thus to sit very loose to its understanding of what constitutes American culture. Racial identity politics has already felled statues and transformed ‘too white’ history courses across the country. It threatens much more.
If America is, as the progressives demand, to become ever more racially diverse then its culture will become ever more contested, fought over by competing factions all claiming to be under-represented within it. The danger of this kind of division and conflict for a strong and cohesive nation should be clear to all.
(Dr Will Jones is a maths graduate with a PhD in political philosophy and author of Evangelical Social Theology: Past and Present [Grove, 2017]. He blogs at Faith and Politics)