Skip to main content

Meet America's emerging minority group -- whites

By David Anderson, Special to CNN
updated 8:16 AM EDT, Thu August 22, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • David Anderson: America sees diversity in many forms
  • He says few realize that whites in America will become a minority group in 3 decades
  • Anderson says some may react well; others may mourn loss of privileged status
  • He says Americans have the choice to extend grace to each other, realizing MLK's dream

Editor's note: Dr. David Anderson, founder and senior pastor of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Maryland, hosts a daily radio talk show in Washington and is the author of several books on race, including "Letters Across the Divide" and "Gracism: The Art of Inclusion". Follow him on Twitter: @AndersonSpeaks

(CNN) -- While on a television program several years ago, I recounted a story about moving with my family into a new home in the suburbs of Washington.

As a black family, we were welcomed to the neighborhood with a shocking sight. My mother and I looked out the kitchen window the morning after we moved in to notice that someone had driven across our new lawn, skidding over mom's cute dogwood tree, and placed a cross there to intimidate us. Not being wanted in this neighborhood based on the color of our skin made a fearful and lasting impression on me as a 9-year old.

About a week after the show a letter came to my office. Penned by a man who identified himself as a "White Fundamentalist Supremacist Christian," the letter was a fiery missal responding to my television appearance and underscoring his disdain for black people and his glee over the fact that I had a "burning cross" (I never said it was burning) in my front yard.

David Anderson
David Anderson

I have this letter posted on the back of my office door with a note I wrote across it with a black sharpie: "This is why God has called us to be gracists and ambassadors of reconciliation!"

As whites become minorities in America, traditional minority groups like mine will be called upon to graciously build bridges to help whites adjust to their new minority status without malice or vengeance.

Diversity is an ever-evolving, rotating movement of new people and new perspectives in America. While the term may have been largely about blacks at one time, and more recently, Latinos, we find Koreans, Chinese and Filipinos filling up the melting pot. In some areas of the country, as in Michigan, it's the burgeoning Muslim population, or in Minnesota and Ohio, the growing populations of Somalis. Diversity is here to stay. Welcome to the realization of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream.

Yet, when King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech, I wonder if he ever envisioned a day when whites in America would actually be the minority. Judging people by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin is altogether as important as it is for blacks. This will become increasingly the case in the decades to come.

Integrating whites into the mosaic of American society is an important ideal to embrace, because integration has always been construed as mixing other minorities into a white-dominated world.

Whites will become a minority within three decades, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. If this happens as predicted, within little more than one generation, whites will be the largest minority group in America.

In the United States we are in for a new age of diversity that all Americans should be aware of with eyes wide open.

For the first time in U.S. history, the majority rule of whites will be threatened, which means the concept of rugged individualism that worked so well for whites in America in centuries past may be threatened. The rules of personal responsibility and relational networking (some call it the "good old boy" network) as an avenue for success will no longer be sufficient in a multicultural and global society.

I predict the new minority whites will break into at least two groups: diverse whites, those who are culturally aware and multiculturally proficient, and reverse whites, those who will fight doggedly to hold on to whatever superior status they can.

Other minorities, especially blacks, have a choice to be what I call "gracists," people who extend favor, kindness, forgiveness and grace to others regardless of, and sometimes because of, color, class or culture.

Whites will have the choice of retreating into fear and loathing or embracing their new status with understanding and grace. The integration of whites is not their sole responsibility. Gracism is the powerful assertion that each group should extend grace toward other groups, including minorities extending it to their former oppressor and whites extending it to others rather than protectionism out of fear.

The more perfect union will become a reality if that union of gracists will realize that the dream of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. extends to all multicultural configurations and presupposes the coming together of all people as equally human. The factional system of dysfunctional diversity, where power structures are reserved for a majority race to dominate others, is being dismantled one generation at a time.

The mosaic of more Americans sharing power beyond one or two dominating racial groups will demand new partnerships based on sociological-political ideas that will drive robust debates, giving birth to innovation and collaboration.

The ugly beast of race baiting and power hoarding will not easily die, at least not without a vitriolic fight. In the not-so-distant future, we can expect that diverse whites and reverse whites will be at odds. Gracists must be present to step into the divide and integrate them both. Reverse whites who want to go back to the way things were will still write letters applauding fear mongering. White interest groups may subversively advocate for sustaining institutional structures that perpetuate inequality. The fear of loss of racial dominance may give birth to a growing number of whites feeling cultural disequilibrium. But diversity is here to stay.

Immigration is our history. Unity has a chance at being our destiny. If we enter into this brave new world with a spirit of grace, our success as a multicultural, multi-ethnic nation will be a dream realized.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Anderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Stuart Gitlow says pot is addictive and those who smoke it can experience long-term psychiatric disease.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gabby Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones say "Between 2001 and 2012, more women were shot to death by an intimate partner in our country than the total number of American troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Alan Elsner says Secretary Kerry's early cease-fire draft was leaked and presented as a final document, which served the interests of hard-liners on both sides who don't want the Gaza war to stop.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Vijay Das says Medicare is a success story that could provide health care for everybody, not just seniors
updated 2:18 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Rick Francona says Israel seems determined to render Hamas militarily ineffective.
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
S.E. Cupp says the entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner thinks for himself and refuses to be confined to an ideological box.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
A Christian group's anger over the trailer for "Black Jesus," an upcoming TV show, seems out of place, Jay Parini says
updated 4:28 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Carol Dweck and Rachel Simmons: Girls tend to have a "fixed mindset" but they should have a "growth mindset."
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:09 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT