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Opening Arguments

The white stuff

I was thinking about doing a post about how silly the fuss is over the percentage of babies born to "minority" parents being greater than those born to "majority" parents for the first time. But Ronald Bailey at reason.com did a much better job that I could:

The first question should be, who cares? The categories of the ethinc groups constituting what counts as minority and majority are arbitrarily defined by Federal law. In my earlier column, The Silly Panic Over a Minority White Nation, I pointed out that for many early 20th Century nativists lots of other ethnic groups did not qualify as "white." I specifically noted: 

...the classic 1922 anti-immigration screed by Saturday Evening Post correspondent Kenneth Roberts, Why Europe Leaves Home: A True Account of the Reasons which Cause Central Europeans to Overrun America. “The American nation was founded and developed by the Nordic race,” asserted Roberts. “If a few more million members of the Alpine, Mediterranean and Semitic races are poured among us, the result must inevitably be a hybrid race of people as worthless and futile as the good-for-nothing mongrels of Central America and Southeastern Europe.”

Nativists like Roberts did not think that Italians, Jews, and Slavs, etc. were "white." So I did some rough calculations looking at percentages of Americans who are descended from those earlier "minority" groups, and I found: 

...adding up all of the “non-white” groups, one finds that they and their descendants now total 184 million out of 313 million citizens, constituting nearly 60 percent of the country’s current population.

The evolution of our demographics should be reason for celebration. This has always the Mongrel Nation, happily absorbing cultures from everywhere with the result that exactly what it means to be an American is always changing. But we have far too much pluribus and not nearly enough unum these days, focusing too sharply on what makes us different and not enough on what we have in common. We can't even talk about this stuff without perverted mental gymnastics that require us to change "majority" and "minority" from their simple meaning of "the most in number" and "the least in number" to "white" and "ain't white." There is no more twisted phrase in English than "minority majority," yet people write it without pause.


Fri, 05/18/2012 - 2:29pm

I couldn't agree more, and I am again pleasantly surprised that Libertarians hold pretty much the same view as I. How do you feel about Republicans (the social conservative Teabaggers, not the Libertarians) who obsess over race and ethnicity (I'm thinking Pat Buchanan and his ilk)?

I have no formal training in biology or anthropology, but I read a good bit about them. The consensus is increasingly that "race" is mostly a social construct, with little or no meaning in biology. The whole concept of race seems pointless to me, except perhaps as police shorthand when describing the guy who just robbed a bank.

I can hardly wait for Tim to weigh in.

Tim Zank
Fri, 05/18/2012 - 4:36pm

Wait no longer my marxist friend! In my experience, the only time "race" comes up or seems to be an issue is when a Democrat/Socialist/Progressive/Marxist (whatever the he** you guys are this week) brings it up.

Conservatives really don't bring it up, don't dwell on it, and don't exploit it like lefties do, it's the first thing lefties do. 

Christopher Swing
Fri, 05/18/2012 - 4:58pm

Of course most conservatives don't want to bring up race; they want to pretend they live in a post-racial world.

They also don't want to admit that straight white male is still the lowest difficulty setting there is.

(And read the follow up before coming back with something already in the FAQ.)

Tim Zank
Fri, 05/18/2012 - 6:10pm

Thanks Swingy but I'll pass on your link, and followup. (and anything of you put forward actually)

Sane people understand my point and agree that by and large race is not an issue except when Democrats want something, then it's important.


Christopher Swing
Fri, 05/18/2012 - 8:17pm

"Thanks Swingy but I'll pass on your link, and followup. (and anything of you put forward actually)"

So why are you posting a comment at all? To profess your ignorance? Just to make an ass of yourself?

If you really wanted to (or could) ignore me, you wouldn't respond to me at all.

But there you go. :D

Tim Zank
Fri, 05/18/2012 - 8:26pm

Just bein' courteous....

Christopher Swing
Sat, 05/19/2012 - 12:00pm

Insulting isn't courteous, Zank. But look at all your latest replies... you just can't resist me. Everyone can see it.

You're in love, aren't you? ;)

But in any case, at least the people Scalzi had to Mallet in that post's comments were generally brave enough to try and read the post. Well, except for:

[Deleted because inasmuch as the author of it admits to not reading the entry at all, anything he has to say will be aside the point for the thread -- JS]

Because the Child's Treasury of Deletions is comedic in its own right.

Tim Zank
Sat, 05/19/2012 - 7:39pm

Heh, No insults from me, must be an interpretation issue on your end.

Christopher Swing
Sun, 05/20/2012 - 7:50am

Really? "Swingy?"

And you still can't stop yourself from replying... Come on Tim, everyone can tell you're in love. Just admit it to yourself! XD

Sun, 05/20/2012 - 6:56pm

Enjoyed the deletions list, Christopher. Have you visited the dungeon over at P.Z. Myers's Pharyngula blog? It's very amusing. In fact, I wouldn't be surprized if Tim is in there.

Mon, 05/21/2012 - 3:44pm

Christopher is a little sensitive about his name.  Swingy is a perfectly legitimate word that could be substituted for his nom de plume "Captain Swing". Now if I had been Tim, I probably would have used  "Swinger" which is a little less effeminate.

But now that Tim knows how to effectively pull the chain, Mr. Swing can expect new and exciting name-calling.


Christopher Swing
Mon, 05/21/2012 - 5:38pm

I said Zank was trying to be insulting, I didn't say he did a good job of it, "gadfly." XD

Tim Zank seems to be the only person getting anything yanked - he can't seem to stop replying even after he posts just to claim he's ignoring me, after all.

But then again, gadfly, you appear to be a long-running local joke, so no one really expects you to get it. :D