This little essay is about voting rights, but let’s start by looking at this national population chart from the 2010 census. The chart shows that America is more and more a multiracial and multiethnic country. More than a quarter of Americans now say that they are something other than simply “white.” Blacks are no longer the largest minority group; Hispanics are.
Since the last census in 2000, the Hispanic population has grown by 43%, and the Asian population has grown by 43.3%. The black and white populations are growing much more slowly, at 12.3% and 5.7% respectively.
And it’s interesting that the number of Americans who identify themselves as belonging to “two or more races” has grown by 32%. That percentage doesn’t count those Americans who, like our president, are of more than one race but who for whatever reason declined to identify themselves in that way on the census form.
I start with this table because it shows how increasingly untenable it is for our national policies to divide individuals into racial and ethnic categories and to treat people differently based on which box is checked. It is divisive to rank the claims that all the various racial and ethnic groups might make for redress. It is dangerous to encourage identity politics. And it is unworkable to try to calculate a politically correct level of representation for each group and subgroup and ugly to define the blood requirements for each category.
Instead, the focus needs to be on common standards by which we must all abide if our multiracial, multiethnic, immigrant-rich nation is to continue to thrive. We are undeniably a diverse nation, but if we are all to study, work and live together happily, we should concentrate our celebration less on that diversity and more on what we hold in common.
So it is a bad idea to hire people and award government contracts and admit students into universities on the basis of race — and it is likewise a bad idea to gerrymander voting boundaries along racial lines to ensure a certain number of “majority-minority” districts. Alas, the latter has become the principal use for section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.