Note: The following is based on chapter eight of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s excellent book, “Racism Without Racists” (2010). This post presents his best guess as of 2010, but without all of his scholarly mights and maybes.
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, professor of sociology at Duke University and expert on colour-blind racism, says the US seems to be moving towards a Latin American model of race.
Whites are set to become a minority. They could try to remain the majority through immigration laws and broadening the idea of what “white” is. Bonilla-Silva thinks that is unlikely: most Asians and Latinos are not assimilating in the same way Europeans did a hundred years ago.
The three-race model: Instead, the US seems to be moving towards something like this:
- Old whites (Wasps, Jews, Italians, Irish, Germans, etc),
- New whites (Russians, Albanians, etc),
- Assimilated white Latinos,
- Some multiracials,
- Assimilated (urban) Native Americans,
- A few Asian-origin people.
- “Honorary Whites”
- Light-skinned Latinos,
- Asian Indians,
- Middle Eastern,
- Most multiracials.
- “Collective Black”
- Dark-skinned Latinos,
- New West Indian and African immigrants,
- Reservation-bound Native Americans.
That list is not complete. It has no Samoans, for example.
It is also based on early data on income, interracial marriage, housing segregation and racial attitudes. So Filipinos, for example, might move up to become honorary whites, while Middle Easterners might move down to collective black.
Asians and Latinos are:
- Creating a third space between Whites and Blacks.
- Stratifying by skin colour, with the lighter skinned (Cubans, Koreans, etc) generally doing better than the darker skinned (Dominicans, Hmongs, etc).
Porosity: Colour lines will become “porous”. So, for example, a light-skinned middle-class Black man married to a White woman might count as an honorary white.
Race mixing will become more common as people try to lighten their children to give them a better chance in life.
Racial inequality will, if anything, grow worse. Blacks will continue to make a big deal about racism, but they will be increasingly dismissed with answers like:
- “We are all Americans!”
- “The US is beyond race.”
Class, not race, will likely be blamed for racial inequality – even while racial discrimination with a smile becomes the order of the day.
The government may well stop counting people by race. If so, civil rights laws will become harder to enforce and racism easier to deny. It could get so that bringing up race will be in bad taste.
Whites will continue to be colour-blind racists: “not seeing race” while acting racist and benefiting from racial inequality. They will face fewer challenges to their power based on race, remaining more firmly on top than now.
Honorary whites, just like Malcolm X’s House Negroes, will be more pro-white than whites themselves, defending a system that discriminates against them, acting as a buffer between whites at the top and collective blacks at the bottom.
Collective blacks, the country’s Field Negroes to continue the analogy (mine, not Bonilla-Silva’s), will believe more of the stereotypes about themselves. Colourism may get worse too. But most of their top people will remain race conscious and not sell out. It will become harder, however, for them to challenge racism in a US that is “beyond race”.