01 Apr 2001 Unify and Flourish, by B.B. Robinson, Ph.D.
A New Visions Commentary paper published April 2001 by The National Center
for Public Policy Research * 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web http://www.nationalcenter.org.
Reprints permitted provided source is credited.
Because you had to fill out those confusing forms last year, you are probably aware that the U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be conducted by the government every ten years. You are probably also familiar with the importance of the census results.
States that increase in population between censuses gain additional seats in Congress while states that decrease in population lose seats. Just as important, the census determines how federal tax revenues are apportioned to states. Those with greater populations receive more revenue, while those with fewer citizens receive less. These are the fundamental reasons why the census is performed.
Consequently, with the government’s recent release of the results, one must question the recent media emphasis on highlighting the ethnic distribution of the population reflected in the 2000 Census. Why is it so important to emphasize that Hispanics have nearly surpassed African-Americans in the population? Is it earth-shattering that more and more citizens are classifying themselves as multi-ethnic? Is it critical that European-Americans in California realize that they have become a "minority?"
It is important to ask these questions because particular views on the questions portend potentially disturbing results. For example, if African-Americans believed that being the largest "minority" in the U.S. is important, animosity might develop among some toward Hispanics due to their surge in population growth and a leadership spot at the head of the "minority" line. Similarly, European-Americans may develop negative emotions and behavior toward the burgeoning population of African-, Asian- and Hispanic-Americans and multi-ethnics if they believe that becoming a "minority" in the U.S. or, say, California will result in adverse outcomes.
In a society in which every fact has economic or political implications, highlighting and emphasizing how the U.S. population has changed in the last ten years could result in certain groups feeling diminished. A normal reaction, under these circumstances, is to look unfavorably on those causing the displacement.
Historically, the U.S. has been known as the "melting pot." Although it may, in reality, be likened more to a slow cooking broth, the fact is that more ethnic groups live side-by-side in this country than in probably any other nation on earth. It is crucial that all ethnic groups get along and grow together. In many respects, the American melting pot concept has been a big sccess.
Conspiracy theorists, however, would argue that the emphasis on ethnic population outcomes is another case of "divide and conquer." I say that it is a misplaced effort to inform. Whatever the reason, it is important to realize that some information becomes poison when presented in an inappropriate manner.
As we move forward into the 21st century, information takes on new meaning. It is very important that we remain informed, but it is critical that we be informed appropriately. Surely we can be informed about how the U.S. population has evolved over the past 10 years in a way that unifies the nation instead of dividing it, and allows us all to grow and flourish together in peace.