Bloggers' Roundtable: The 'Browning' of America Three leading bloggers discuss new data that suggests whites are becoming more of a minority in America, the increase in black women choosing interracial marriages, and Sen. John Edwards' racial handicap in his White House bid.

Bloggers' Roundtable: The 'Browning' of America

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And now our Blogger's Roundtable. The blogosphere is this buzzing this week with the news from, believe it or not, the Census Bureau. According to a new study, whites are now the minority in 10 percent of all U.S. counties, and black women are marrying more men of other races. Plus, we've got more on Elizabeth Edwards, who says her husband's whiteness is a disadvantage in the 2008 presidential race.

We've got freelance writer and blog consultant La Shawn Barber. Her political blog is "La Shawn Barber's Corner." Jim Collier writes the blog, "Acting White" and is finishing a new book on race, and L.N. Rock, otherwise known as the "African American Political Pundit." He's also a member of the Afrosphere bloggers group. Welcome, folks.

Ms. LA SHAWN BARBER (Blogger, "La Shawn's Corner"; Freelance writer; Blog consultant): Thanks for having us.

Mr. L.N. ROCK (Blogger, "African American Political Pundit"): Hello, Farai.

Mr. JAMES COLLIER (Blogger, "Acting White"): Thank you.

CHIDEYA: So, La Shawn, I'm going to start with you. So we've got this new census data; white folks make up less than 50 percent of the population in America's 100 biggest cities for the first time in history, and the changes have been fueled by immigration and higher birth rates among African Americans and Hispanics. Do you think that this is a move towards the right direction of diversity for America?

Ms. BARBER: Well, in my opinion, no, considering that the increase is fueled by illegal immigration. I can't and won't celebrate any kind of increase in diversity when it's based on that. I mean, we've seen the tension over the past year or so between blacks and Hispanics, and - particularly low-income blacks who say that illegal aliens are taking their jobs. And we've had this brutal killing in Newark, New Jersey, where the suspects are illegal aliens. So I think when people think about the whites being a minority and the increase of so-called brown people, this is what people are thinking about, and they don't think it's good news, at least I don't.

CHIDEYA: But, La Shawn, there's a difference between what people think about and the numbers. I mean, most immigrants are not entering the country without papers.

Ms. BARBER: Well, yeah, there are some that are overstaying their visas but still, whether you're jumping over a border or you're in the United States legally and then overstay your visa, thereby rendering your status illegal. People are upset about it. And until, you know, there's some kind of meaningful immigration reform, it's going to stay that way. And I personally don't see it as good news. I think the number of people we have now aren't assimilating into American society the way they should. The way we believe they should. And that's...

CHIDEYA: Well - oh, please go ahead and finish it.

Ms. BARBER: Oh, I'm finished. Go ahead.

CHIDEYA: All right. L.N., really connecting to what La Shawn was saying, there is a lot of undocumented immigration in the New Orleans area. And the biggest change, in terms of population, was in Orleans Parish, Louisiana. Non-Hispanic whites grew from 27 percent in 2005 to 34 percent in 2006. The share of blacks dropped. You have Latinos rising. What do you think this might mean for New Orleans culturally and politically?

Mr. ROCK: Well, I'll tell you. Are we really shocked? We knew that New Orleans was going to change dramatically. Particularly when it came to the influx of Latinos, Hispanics. And the outflux or the move of African Americans out of New Orleans.

And I'm not surprised. I would expect that it will be 100 percent at some point. A hundred percent of the folks that used to be there that were African American are going to be gone. And 100 percent of the folks that are exchanged are going to be Hispanics, to do the types of jobs that blacks did at one time.

CHIDEYA: That's a very severe reading of the situation. Do you really think that it will be that profound?

MR. COLLIER: It's going to be that profound. In fact, it was projected by many black political analysts over the past couple of years, since the Katrina disaster. That was the strategy. That was the plan. That was the outcomes that were expected. And the outcomes are being realized.

CHIDEYA: Jim, pulling back out to the big picture. America has a sort of milestone coming up in about 50 years, where the total U.S. population will very likely be a plurality of Latinos and people of color. Is this something America is prepared for?

MR. COLLIER: Well, Farai, I mean, I think that some people will definitely say, oh, my God, they're taking over. And I guess that's normal. But for me, what really bodes poorly is the failure of large swath of blacks and Latinos to aggressively, and I'll use La Shawn's word, assimilate advancing attitudes and behaviors towards education.

CHIDEYA: So tell me more about your blog "Acting White." What exactly do you mean by "Acting White" and why is that the title of your blog?

MR. COLLIER: Well, "Acting White" is sort of a catch-all that starts with the notions around academic performance. But, really, I believe it covers a much wider sort of territory. And so, the book is really about the role of heredity, geography, evolution, and culture, and how that really influences and drives a black plight in America.

CHIDEYA: La Shawn, I'm going to come back to you. Moving on to another topic. This really has the blogosphere buzzing. When we talk about these changes in America's demographics you're also talking, in many cases, about changes in how people marry and how people have kids. And so, the new census data also revealed that more black women are now marrying men of other races. There's still a gap with more black men marrying outside of the African-American community than women. But there's plenty of visible interracial couples. We've got David Bowie and Iman; the former Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, married to Janet Langhart, a former model and BET correspondent; R&B singer Robin Thicke married to actress Paula Patton. Why do you think that black women are rising in terms of the numbers who marry outside of the race?

Ms. BARBER: I think that black women, particularly black women over 30 who want to get married and have children, feel that options in the black community are limited whether they're looking for a black man who has the same level of education, the same level of social skills, or whatever they're looking for. I think more women are finding that they can't find a match. And, for the first time they're, maybe reluctantly, looking outside of the race. And I'm sure that some of these women are being labeled as traitors and being disloyal. But, you know, when you're looking for someone to spend the rest of your life with - I mean, the thing you want is to have things in common.

Let's say you're a Christian. According to the Bible, Christians are to marry other Christians. It doesn't say anything about not marrying outside your race. So I think for a lot of black women, they're looking for more things in common socially, professionally, as far as faith is concerned. And they're expanding their options. And I think it's terrific news.

CHIDEYA: L.N., do you think that folks that you might know, black men, should be or are threatened by this or are folks like, you know, to each his own?

Mr. ROCK: Well, I'll tell you. This is - it's an interesting question because I - when I heard La Shawn talk about some people look at as traitor or disloyal, most of my friends - male, black - would say, yes, those folks that would be engaged in that are traitors and disloyal.

CHIDEYA: Do you believe that?

Mr. ROCK: That's just the way it is.

CHIDEYA: Do you believe that?

Mr. ROCK: Do I believe it?

CHIDEYA: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROCK: Yeah.

CHIDEYA: Oh, no.

Mr. ROCK: In many ways, I sure do. Because here is the challenge, is that when you get involved in mixed relationships and I'm not, you know, saying that no one shouldn't, I'm just saying that it creates challenges for the babies. For those folks that would grow up in this challenged, racist society, how are those kids going to adapt or are they going to have issues when they grow up?

CHIDEYA: Well, don't we all have issues no matter where we come from? I just don't know that...

Mr. ROCK: Oh, but they got major issues - major issues of adaption.

Ms. BARBER: You know, I agree with that, but that's no reason not to, you know, get together and marry someone of a different race. That's society's problem and it's just the way you have to raise your children to be able to cope with that. I mean, there are lots of things in life you have to cope with. That's just one more unfortunate thing.

Mr. ROCK: And as you said, unfortunate. Correctomondo(ph).

Mr. COLLIER: Well, but that...

CHIDEYA: Well, we'll...

Mr. COLLIER: I agree with La Shawn, though. You know, historically when women are in short supply, you know, men compete vigorously for them. You know, however, when men are in short supply, you know, polygamy shows up. And some people would say, you know, the work kind of slows down. This is really the only tactical option, for black women to expand their pool of potential mates. I'm all for it.

Mr. ROCK: You're all for it?

CHIDEYA: Well, Jim, let me...

Mr. ROCK: You must be married to another person.

Mr. COLLIER: A black woman.

Mr. ROCK: Oh, shock me.

Ms. BARBER: Woo.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: The guys are getting personal. But, Jim, before we move on from this topic, let me just spin it one more way. There was a Terry McMillan novel, "Disappearing Acts," that dealt with a white-collar black woman who dated a blue-collar black man, and the ups and downs of their relationship. One other possibility is that you would have people marrying within the race, but across class lines. Why do you think that's not happening as much?

Ms. BARBER: Oh, I don't know who - that's (unintelligible).

CHIDEYA: I was trying to toss it to Jim but, La Shawn, why don't you step in?

Mr. COLLIER: Oh, I'm sorry.

Ms. BARBER: Well, I'll just say quickly that - that's the case, I think, you know, you have more black women in college and going on to get professional degrees. You're going to have that class differential going on. And I think, you know, for black women, that's like over 30, professional degree, she probably will have to marry across class lines if she doesn't want to marry a man of her status. I mean, men like her - black men like her, are already married. They're already taken. You know, people grab them up in college. You know, so if you are far beyond college, it's going to be tougher, I think, to meet a black man who is also a professional like you are, and who's available and straight.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, I want to move on to...

Ms. BARBER: I think, it - yeah.

CHIDEYA: ...another topic. Still having to do with race because there's a lot of territory there. Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, has made some pretty provocative statements last week. She spoke with Ed Cone of CIO Insight - it's a business Web site - about the use of the Net in politics. But she didn't just stick to that, she said, in some ways, it's the way we have to go. We can't make John black. We can't make him a woman. Those things get you a lot of press, worth a certain amount of fundraising dollars.

Now, it's nice to get on the news, but not the be-all and end-all. She was talking about the Net, but she really said, we can't make John black. We can't make him a woman. He was disadvantaged in her mind. What do you think of that, Jim?

Mr. COLLIER: Well, I really think that, you know, this sounds like - you know, backdoor sort of complaining. You know, before the race started, you know, I don't recall Edwards, you know, offering to trade all his, you know, truckload of white-guy money, you know, with all the other candidates. So I really think it's just a matter of shouting from behind.

CHIDEYA: La Shawn, what do you think?

Ms. BARBER: I think it's a matter of sour grapes also. I mean, let's face it, Democrats tend to run on racial issues and, you know, an Obama-Hillary dynamic is much more exciting than an Edwards, you know, squeezed in there. Anyway, you have the, you know, is Hillary black enough? Is Obama black enough? That's exciting for people. That makes news. So I think it's, you know, sour grapes on her part.

CHIDEYA: L.N., is this a case of, you know, looping it back to the beginning where America's changing demographics are frightening to some people?

Mr. ROCK: I think so. In fact, she is from the South and those issues are coming up, as well of - as the fact that - La Shawn, you're from the South as well - but I think the issue is, is that she has become really the hatchet woman. No one wants to touch her. She is - has the issues of her health, and no one wants to say anything negative about her. But the reality is, that was a hatchet job. She should have never said it. The black blogosphere or the Afrosphere has been lit up about the particular issue. I know Jack and Jill Politics and the folks over at - angry independent and others have been talking about it and very insulted by it. I am too.

CHIDEYA: Now, La Shawn, when you look at this, do you think that these issues are going to really solidify for some people how race is playing out in the campaign? There's been a lot of effort, for example, by Senator Obama's campaign to just say, you know, I'm a uniter(ph) for everyone, and that race doesn't matter. Does it still matter?

Ms. BARBER: It does. And it's a controversial topic and it's a hot topic. We'll always talk about it, no matter how much we try to get away from it, and you know, have color-blind relations. The only thing we can hope for is to have color-blind government policy. But as far as, you know, campaigning, all of these concerns, it's going to be focused on something that makes a candidate stand out.

Now, as far as Obama is concerned, he can't get away from race. You know, is he a true black American? His ancestors weren't slaves, yada(ph), yada. So it's going to stay front and center. And you know, as far as Hillary is concerned, definitely her sex is, I think, one of the keys to her popularity.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, we're going to have to end it there. Thanks folks.

Ms. BARBER: Thank you.

Mr. COLLIER: Thanks, Farai.

Mr. ROCK: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Freelance writer and blog consultant La Shawn Barber. Her political blog is La Shawn Barber's Corner. L.N. Rock, otherwise known as the African American Political Pundit, is a member of the Afrosphere Bloggers group. Both were at our Washington, D.C. headquarters. And Jim Collier writes the blog, Acting White. He was at the studios of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

And you can find links to their blogs and ours at

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