Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Mexico Third Among States in Speed of Ethnic "Diversification" What Does This Mean?

The Brookings Institution in Washington DC has posted an interactive map of the US, showing each county's racial and ethnic makeup by age group.  The map compares the proportion of the population 19 and under to the population 65 and over as an indicator of the speed of change.  You can find it here. You can see an arc of change beginning on the East Coast and following the coast Southward to the US-Mexico border region then along the coast all the way up to San Francisco.  Most of this dramatic shift is due to the increasing presence of Hispanic citizens in these regions.

New Mexico has long had the least proportion of white Non-Hispanic citizens.  Now it joins Nevada and Arizona as the states with the speediest trends in "diversity."  While all counties in New Mexico appear to be experiencing this change, the most dramatic shifts appear to be in the most urban counties:  Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Dona Ana, San Juan, Lea, Chavez.  This follows the classic American tendency for minority groups to congregate in larger urban areas, where jobs are more readily available, services are more widespread, and acceptance of diversity is greater.

What does this mean for New Mexico?  Will it affect the political agenda?  Do Hispanic citizens in New Mexico identify as a group?  Is the goal of most Hispanic or Native citizens eventual assimilation?  Will Anglos end up losing some of the political or economic power they now hold?  The future social structure in New Mexico, and to some extent the quality of life, 50 years from now, depends on the answers to these questions. 

I have told my students for many years that in New Mexico, ethnicity is an element is virtually all elections, and New Mexicans quietly talk about ethnicity (almost exclusively among members of the same ethnicity), and in elections often activate ethnic sentiments.  But you do not talk about it in public.  Why is there this taboo, which seems firmly embedded as part of a shared cross-cultural value?

The Chicano movement in New Mexico, which lasted for roughly a quarter of a century until the late 1990s, broke the taboo, openly addressing social inequalities toward Hispanics, creating a political agenda for action, and suggesting stronger ethnic identity among Hispanics as a partial solution.  But the term "chicano," imported by the Left from other states, never caught on with many Hispanic citizens in New Mexico, in spite of Anglo acceptance of the term, and the term "hispanic" gradually replaced "chicano" in popular language.  Now the taboo appears to have returned, at least in part, reaffirming its cultural strength and resilience over time.

The term "diversity" is also sensitive.  As the backlash against affirmative action grew stronger in the past two decades (sometimes with the support of the Supreme Court), the term "diversity" became increasingly popular among Liberals to suggest that the value being espoused in affirmative action is not social justice (addressing rigid social inequalities across racial and ethnic lines), but rather the simple act of enhancing cosmopolitanism (that is, having people of different races and ethnicities interact with each other) in an increasingly global society:  bring Black Americans (or Indonesians, Peruvians, and Trobriand Islanders) into the classroom (or the halls of corporate America) not to equalize racial outcomes in life, but to enhance the inter-racial learning opportunities for both black and non-black individuals in the classroom or boardroom, as a value in itself, justifying preferential treatment of certain applicants for admission to prestigious venues.  Bookings, a Liberal (Progressive?  Speaking of taboos, there appears to be a backlash against the use of the term "Liberal," often shared by liberals and conservatives alike) organization, uses the term "diversity" rather than "racial and ethnic composition."

No comments: