Death of White Christian America?

Death of White Christian America? November 18, 2016

Is Trump’s election the death rattle of white Christian America? Philip Jenkins doesn’t think so. It’s true that, if trends continue, the US will be a minority-majority nation by mid-century, with no single ethnic group having more than half the population. Mid-century America will be a more diverse place than it is today. But Jenkins makes the commonsensical observation that not all minorities are equal.

White Americans will still constitute 45%+ of the population; not a majority but, as Jenkins says, “an enormous plurality.” Jenkins estimates that the Latino population will be just under 29%, and the black population, even though bolstered by African immigration, in the teens.

More subtly and importantly, ethnic boundaries aren’t fixed. Intermarriage between whites and Hispanics, and between whites and Asians, has become common, and it’s unlikely that their children will consider themselves outsiders to “white America.” “Whiteness” has proved to be flexible over time, “gradually extending over various groups not originally included in that constituency.” Jenkins says that a “great many U.S. Latinos today certainly think of themselves as white.” Silicon Valley companies have been attacked for their lack of racial diversity, companies whose work force is as much as one-quarter Asian. Jenkins wonders if this is a sign that Asians, like the Irish and Italians and others, are on their way to becoming “white.”

The increasing ethnic diversity of the US won’t change the fact that the majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians: “One great effect of the 1965 Immigration Act was to expand vastly the range of ethnic groups in the U.S., who were overwhelmingly Christian in origin [emphasis added]. That is true obviously of Mexicans, but also of Asian-Americans and Arab-Americans. . . . The American Islamic population, for instance, was and remains tiny as a proportion of the national total, and it will continue to do so.”

In short, “In 2050, this will be a much more diverse country religiously and ethnically. But if you are waiting for the White Christian Apocalypse, you may have the wrong millennium.”

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