NPR logo The Countown: Day 23: "Majority-Minority" America

From Farai

The Countown: Day 23: "Majority-Minority" America

I don't have the zen to accept every moment of my life for what it is. Right now, I am having a hard time avoiding fear, specifically fear of the racial ugliness bubbling up during this election.

I've interviewed Klanspeople and other white supremacists; dealt with the inevitable slings and arrows of being a black woman in America; even found out at one point that one of my supervisors told a white employee that I took his job because of affirmative action.

It's just part of the game, right?

Well, it still stings. Seeing a guy wave around a Curious George doll at a McCain event is one thing. You can chalk that up to gleeful racist mischief... i.e., mean, but stupid.

Seeing Meet the Press, which actually has a black contributors, pretzel itself this week trying to discuss race without any guests of color was tougher.

It's not that black people (or Asians, Native Americans or Latinos) are the only folks who can talk about race. Far from it. It's just that having an all-white panel during a turning point week in the discussion of race in America is a sign that we in the media still need a little help.

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Discovery Channel's Ted Koppel pauses as he listens to moderator Tom Brokaw, during a taping of 'Meet the Press' on October 12, 2008 in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong, Getty Images for 'Meet the Press' hide caption

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Alex Wong, Getty Images for 'Meet the Press'

The discussion would have been stronger with a good black commentator. (The clip from guest Ted Koppel's documentary "The Last Lynching," which airs tomorrow on the Discovery Channel, was intriguing though.)

It's nice that the term The Bradley Effect has become, once again, a key part of the American political lexicon. But that term has, over time, come to underplay the strong and irrational currents of emotion that exist around race and, dare I use the word, change.

Despite the polls trending in one pro-Obama direction, the outcome of this race is not written yet, nor should it be. I'm not just talking about the change that a black President could bring. I'm talking about the ongoing demographic change that will bring America, by the Census's latest estimates, a nation without a racial majority circa the year 2042.

In some ways, it's that change that undergirds this nation's fears and insecurities. The year that America becomes "majority minority" may be off, but that change of demographics is going to come.

Nearly a decade ago, I wrote a book called The Color of Our Future that charted that change (predicted, back then, to happen in the year 2050). I talked to teens because I find teens refreshingly unguarded compared to older adults when it comes to talking about race, and also because many of them will be alive when this demographic shift occurs. The cultural shift is occurring far ahead of the actual demographic shift ... and that's got some folks in full flip out mode.

I just found out that my book is going to be excerpted, yet again, in a college reader. It's gratifying to know that although the statistics I talked about have changed, the underlying question of how we will react to the idea of a nation where white Americans are no longer a majority is more pressing than ever.

How will we will evolve emotionally and spiritually as we evolve politically and demographically? Are we prepared to open up, or will we devolve into name calling and a blame game about our problems?

The face of America is changing, but are we ready and are we willing to communicate freely and respectfully during this transition? That's a question that won't be answered on November 4th.

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