Skip to main content

Meet America's emerging minority group -- whites

By David Anderson, Special to CNN
August 22, 2013 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
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
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
As a woman whose parents had cancer, I have quite a few things to say about dying with dignity.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
David Gergen says he'll have a special eye on a few particular races in Tuesday's midterms that may tell us about our long-term future.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
What's behind the uptick in clown sightings? And why the fascination with them? It could be about the economy.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1301 GMT (2101 HKT)
Midterm elections don't usually have the same excitement as presidential elections. That should change, writes Sally Kohn.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
ADVERTISEMENT