‘I’m from here.’ How a more diverse population will change America.

Originally Published in The Washington Post

Rachel Hatzipanagos – August 31, 2021

About US asked: What do you think will change in the United States as the country becomes more diverse?

Riya Goel poses for a portrait Aug. 26 in Edgemont Memorial Park in Montclair, N.J. (Bryan Anselm for The Washington

Riya Goel is already seeing the more diverse America reported in the 2020 Census.

At her West Orange, N.J., public library, the 17-year-old college student has noticed more books centering on people of color. Restaurants with new cuisines have popped up in her neighborhood. And unlike just a few years ago, it’s not unusual now for an Asian American protagonist to lead a sitcom.

It’s “definitely subtle, but I think it will make a long-lasting impact on our next generation,” Goel said.

Gen Z already is more ethnically and racially diverse than any generation before them. Goel, whose parents immigrated to the United States from India in 2004, said that the rise of social media has helped make her generation become more culturally aware even if they live in a homogeneous area.

“I think being able to educate yourself very easily on social media … is invaluable,” Goel said. “And I don’t think it’s anything that any other generation has had to date.”

Demographers are predicting that by 2045 the United States will no longer have a racial majority. Hispanic and Asian populations are expected to approximately double in size between 2015 and 2060. About US asked readers: What do you think will change in America as the country becomes more diverse?

Some, like Goel, expressed hope that the demographic changes will result in a more inclusive America, with people of color who have been historically excluded from power and prominence gaining equality. Others feared that the shifts could result in an increase in racial resentment among the current non-Hispanic White majority, whose population dipped below 60 percent for the first time according to the 2020 Census, and a resistance to change.

“When people see my last name, I have always been asked, ‘Where are you from?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m from here,’ ” said Mary Anne Enriquez at her home Aug. 26 in Des Plaines, Ill. (Youngrae Kim for The Washington Post)

Mary Anne Enriquez, who identifies as multiracial Hispanic, hopes that as the nation diversifies, people will be more understanding of those who have different backgrounds than their own.

“When people see my last name, I have always been asked, ‘Where are you from?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m from here,’ ” Enriquez, 65, said.

But she also worries that the nation is becoming more divisive, and the non-Hispanic White majority will resist change and that “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

“If you can teach your children to be accepting and have an open mind about everything, then we’ll have a great, great future,” Enriquez said. “However, not everybody thinks like me.”

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Some responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity.

Tina DaCruz
Bayonne, N.J.
Tina DaCruz. (Tina DaCruz)

“White Americans will become more fearful, police violence and the prison pipeline for Black and Brown Americans will continue, and the governing bodies at the local, state and national levels will become more segregated. In other words, we will become a more apartheid-like state. It is unlikely that the White male political leaders will give up their power, and through gerrymandering it will become more difficult for POC to participate fully.”

Sarah Reynolds
Los Angeles
Sarah Reynolds. (Sarah Reynolds)

“My hope is that unions get stronger, wages higher and leadership much, much more diverse. That we take seriously the lives of the working class and make this a country for all people. I hope we center diversity initiatives as the way forward rather than a PR exercise of the well-meaning liberal. I hope that White folks (myself included) will unlearn a worldview in which we are both pinnacle and center; the truth is at the margins.”

Chris Marks
Bellevue, Wash.

“I cautiously hope that racial distinctions will have diminishing significance.”

Toni Mathewson
Greenbelt, Md.
Toni Mathewson. (Toni Mathewson)

“My hope is that we, as Americans, will develop a greater understanding of cultures and commonalities. We will be introduced to more ethnic foods and philosophies. However the realist in me sees more hate and division.”

Ciarra Joyner
Durham, N.C.
Ciarra Joyner. (Ciarra Joyner)

“I work in higher education, and I see that our young people are aware and prepared for the shift. I am trusting in the next generation to challenge the systems we have and truly work toward equality. It’s going to take time because it took time to get here. However, honestly, the tanning of America will cause us to take a good look at our country and start to heal. Young people are not going to allow it to move too slowly, they are going to demand change, encourage diversity and strive for commonality.”

Valerie Muroki
Haiku, Hawaii

“Living in Hawaii I know how a multicultural society can live … but mainland U.S.A. is a different thing. I suspect racism may intensify at first. We should see in the next few months, after this census report came out. I would wish that my adult son, who’s an ethnic combination of Japanese, Middle Eastern and European, could be accepted in every state, wherever he’s traveling as a professional musician. In NYC he was accused of being responsible for the 9/11 disaster; in Georgia he had trouble getting served in a restaurant. Perhaps more interracial marriages is the answer!”

Patricia Kenny
Old Town, Maine
Patricia Kenny. (Courtesy of Patricia Kenny)

“Diversity is the lifeblood of a healthy nation. We only have to look to the natural world to verify this fact. Streams with no fresh (new) water source become stagnant and die. Diversity in farming creates healthier soil to continue to produce our food. Diversity of culture brings new ways of thinking and problem solving. It is not a surprise that many of our Nobel winners and inventors are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Look at our Olympic champions; diversity breeds success. I have always felt that America’s diversity was the true source of its strength.”

Patricia Brennan
Collinsville, Ill.

“Hopefully it will result in a realization that we are all a mixture of races. I’d like the question of which race do you identify with to include a choice: human race.”

Ralph Hernandez
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Ralph Hernandez, right. (Ralph Hernandez)

“As more Whites marry non-Whites, it’ll be a slow progression toward acceptance. l do believe it’ll take several generations for diversity to become a fact of life. When I was 24 years old, I married my current blue-eyed, blonde wife. In the late ’60s it was frowned upon by both Whites and Hispanics. Our two children, one blue-eyed and our son brown-eyed, see themselves as Americans with a German and Mexican lineage. All of our six grandchildren except for one have light skin and are cognizant of their heritage and are proud of it. So in essence, it’ll be a slow melting pot with ups and downs.”

Bob Reiss
New York City

“If people primarily identify by ethnic group, we will fracture into components and end the American experiment. If people regard ethnicity as secondary to national identity, we will flourish in a fairer place.”

Stephanie Downie
Phoenix
Stephanie Downie. (Stephanie Downie)

“I still vividly recall my shock the first time I heard decades ago Pat Buchanan so publicly using the rhetoric of the ‘browning of America’ as a political weapon to fire up White, Christian conservatives. The fact that his 2011 book, ‘Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?,’ has an average 4.7 Amazon review score and continues to earn high marks from recent readers makes it pretty clear there’s still a pseudointellectual audience for that nonsense that I predict will ramp up as White Americans feel even more threatened by the idea of no longer being the majority. That’s inevitable. It’s probably just as inevitable that eventually, that noise will fade into the background over the decades and as the definition of what it means to be ‘American’ further evolves. The ‘melting pot’ metaphor of not just cultural but also physical homogeneity will become irrelevant. And that’s a good thing.”

Peter Dodds
Plymouth, Mass.

“I think it will become more divided than ever, as an increasingly White ‘entitled’ minority tries to fight back.”

Alison Loris
Bremerton, Wash.
Alison Loris. (Alison Loris)

“White supremacists — even those who don’t think of themselves that way — will become more angry and terrified, and more violent in rhetoric and deed. This is exactly what they’ve always been afraid of! On the plus side, young people of color growing up may stop receiving and internalizing the message that White = normal, and that they, therefore, are ‘other.’ For all of us, White and non-White, there’s a chance that we will begin to focus less on race and more on our common humanity. There are so many ‘multiracial’ people now, all over the world, that the whole concept of race looks increasingly ridiculous. May we all see that, and stop counting race as a primary part of personal identity! That doesn’t mean we forget or despise our ancestry. But it’s more complicated than it used to be. As Tiger Woods once said to the people who insisted that his identity was Black, ‘Which three of my grandparents do you want me to deny?’ We can all be proud of our ancestors at their best, grow and learn beyond their worst.”

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