US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Minorities on the way to becoming majority

By Father Tom Joyce, CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The worst nightmare of racists and nativists is that nonwhites will "outbreed" the “the real Americans,” meaning whites. Actually that’s happening already, and the cross-over date when the minorities of today – black, Asian, Hispanic -- will be the majority and the whites the minority is no further off than the middle of the 21st century. That generates all kinds of fears and nurtures the anti-immigrant sentiments of the tea partiers and assorted right wingers.

Sojourners Magazine once described "America's original sin” as racism, as applied in the founding of our nation to our unique institution of black slavery. The second sin – if we follow the parallel of Genesis, that’s Cain doing in his brother – I have always thought was xenophobia or what historians call “nativism” This emerged soon after slavery, though it wasn’t sanctioned by laws until just before the Revolution. Then some in Pennsylvania wanted to restrict, if not get rid of entirely, the Germans and Scotch-Irish. The years before the Constitution there were "Alien Sedition Acts." But from the 1830s anti-immigrant feeling was organized into successive movements to restrict immigration, and to many minds if the nation didn’t, “the inferior peoples” – like Germans and “diseased” Irish first, then the Poles, Italians, Jews and other Eastern Europeans – would outbreed us. A special fear was of the “Yellow Peril”,  and the U.S. did enact laws that limited or excluded the Chinese and other Asians. Much of the moral offense of the immigrants was their religion.

Now a study of birth over the last year indicates that 48 percent of all births in the U.S. have been to minority women – black, Asian and Hispanic. Hispanics were the largest number, since they are the largest number of child-bearing women (see New York Times article ). Within a very short time such births will have surpassed those to white women. The nativists’ worst nightmare will have been realized – and these new babies will be American citizens. The march to a transition in population is inexorable, as it was after 1890 in the Great Migration that brought Jews, Italians, and Poles in large numbers to the U.S.

Arizona bishops protest discriminatory immigration bills
The three Catholic bishops of Arizona have roundly condemned bills in the state legislature that would criminalize the presence of undocumented immigrants under state trespass laws (see Catholic News Service article). These laws would also authorize police to stop anyone they think is here illegally and make assisting them in any way a crime. One bill has passed the state Senate and another has yet to be acted on in the House. Meanwhile immigrants and immigrant advocates are demonstrating in the streets of Phoenix (see Arizona Republic article ).