What Does “Now” Mean?

We all saw the reports that one in ten counties in the U.S. is now minority-majoritySome of us are excited.  Others, not so much.

I’m looking at this map, though, that goes along with the story and wondering, what does ‘now’ mean?

ap_minority_070809.gif

Just for a second, look at the Southeast.  See those counties that are “now” minority majority?  Take a look at this map from 1890.  With the exception of Florida, doesn’t that look very similar?  Shoot, take a look at this map from 2000.  See what I’m saying?

Those counties have been majority non-white for 150 years, if not longer.

Now look at this map from 1980, showing where the heaviest populations of Hispanics were twenty-seven years ago (I found this map from 1990, as well).

Here’s the Census bureau’s own map showing in 1990 the Native American population density.

Do you see my problem?  When you say “now,” you kind of insinuate that there was some point in the past when white people were the majority in these places and that a major, recent shift has taken place.  Now, there are some counties, like Exador’s, which seem to have really seen a demographic shift.  They used to be predominately white and now are not.  But, even in Exador’s case, it’s not as if the whole state of Georgia was lily-white ten years ago and Exador woke up yesterday to discover African Americans and Hispanics sprung fully formed out of the earth.

There were blacks and Hispanics in his county and in the surrounding counties, even if they didn’t yet make up a majority.

Also, America, please sit back and have a good laugh with me at this notion that I should be panicked that Hawaii is “now” minority majority.

In other words, this information is useless because it gives us nothing to compare it to except white people’s vague recollection that there used to be a whole lot fewer non-white people at some point in the past that we can’t exactly nail down.

“Now” in this context tells us nothing except that there’s a whole lot of white panic in this country.

10 thoughts on “What Does “Now” Mean?

  1. Do I love you? Yes. Yes, I think I do. It cracks me up that people in Georgia are shitting their pants about being minority-dominated when the colony was over half African (and 30% Indian) in 1776. Lowcountry SC was as much as 90% African until well after the Civil War. Much of the American Southwest and California was, I hate to point out, Mexican land filled with Mexican citizens and Spanish-speaking Indians when Whitey 2.0 arrived. And Hawaii! Hoo boy.

    Here’s where having such a piss-poor sense of their own history (and the bleaching of civic memory) gets Americans in trouble.

  2. Ginger, just think if this catches on how easy it will be for us to fudge our ages.

    “Oh, when were you born?”

    “Um, well, you might say ‘now’.”

    Woo hoo! Bridgett loves me. It was worth it as a post just for that.

    Here’s what I don’t get. I’m no journalist. It took me a total of five, maybe ten, minutes to find those maps, just because I was curious. Is there no journalist who is also curious? No editor who’s like “wait, what do we mean by ‘now’?”

  3. Oh honey, it was love at first read. (“Dear Penthouse, I never believed that the stories in Forum were true until one day I was reading a blog…”)

    The story that sells papers at the moment (particularly in the South and West) is some version of “white crisis.” What’s the demographic profile of the consumer who buys what the AP is selling? (I don’t know but I have my guesses. C’mon J-School people, who buys newspaper and why do they buy them?)

  4. Pingback: Volunteer Voters » Mapping Demographic Change

  5. Stories like this always startle me because there turns out to be more white people than I thought. Only 10% of counties don’t have a white majority? I honestly didn’t realize this nation was that pasty.

  6. It cracks me up that people in Georgia are shitting their pants about being minority-dominated when the colony was over half African (and 30% Indian) in 1776.
    To be fair Bridgett, it doesn’t really matter if you’re the minority when the majority can’t vote. So way back then may not really count.

  7. Whenever I see one of these stories my reaction is “…and?” I don’t see why it’s a problem or an issue over the genetic makeup of the country. America isn’t America because it’s run by white folk. It’s America because it is governed by a specific constitution and bill of rights (in theory).

    I live in Hawaii. Hawaiians make up something like 7% of the population, and most of them on Oahu are stuck out on the west side where almost everybody’s poor, and oh yeah, toxic waste dumping.

    Most of our population is Asian. So HI women tend to be prettier, and our food tends to be better. Neither of those things are exactly hurting the general populous.

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