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The United States Faces a Fork In The Road
Time To Choose What We Have Pretended To Be
It might be cliché to say that the United States is at a fork in the road. Just look around. I believe we are in the midst of the most historic and important change culturally, politically, and demographically of any time in our history. The next 10 to 15 years will be key to how well we hold together as a nation and as a culture. And there is a clear fork in the road just ahead of us.
Let me start with demographics because that is the key element driving the changes we are seeing. Consider these two statistics:
1. The percentage of white Christians in the United States has dropped below 50%. It stands currently at around 44%. This happened in 2017 just at the end of President Obama’s administration. (from PRRI Research, 2021)
2. The percentage of whites in the country has now dropped to roughly 61% according to the 2020 census. To give some context, when I was born in 1955, that percentage was around 85%. Analysts didn’t predict this to happen as quickly as it has, so the decline is accelerating. At this rate, the United States is predicted to be below 50% by 2045 if not sooner. (from United States Census Bureau, 2020)
The MAGA followers of Donald Trump feel these changes happening and interpret them as “losing our country.” Their vision of the future is that of a minority-ruled country controlled by white people, and more specifically, Christian white people. The policies they promote such as voter suppression, bans on books and teaching difficult subjects in schools, and anti-LGBTQ policies show the degree to which they want to retain what America has been in the past: A white Christian culture and a political system that caters to whites as a privileged class.
Here is the truth: We have always been that type of country.
The monumental decision and change that we face is one that has been centuries in the making. We are now at the inflection point of deciding what kind of country we will be.
We get to choose.
And just like the founders did in the 18th century when they chose a white-dominated, slave system that denied rights to women and Indigenous people, here is the choice we get to make:
Retain the status quo that has been around since 1619: a Christian, white-dominated culture and political system that only pretends to be a Democracy,
Become a true, pluralistic, multicultural Democracy where everyone shares the same level of rights and power. We have never had this before.
We have never really been a pluralistic-multicultural nation that enshrines equal rights for all…not once in our history did this happen. It is something that has never existed, but because of the changing demographics, we are going to be forced to decide this within the next decade or so.
If we don’t choose to move toward a pluralistic-multicultural political system, we will end up like South Africa prior to the changes there in the 1990s. We will have white minority rule and an apartheid system that creates enclaves of minority whites who will control the levers of power. But we all know how that ended. That really is not an option that we can well afford. It requires that we stop pretending to be a Democracy and in fact, change the structure and processes of government and the Constitution to reflect that we are an oligarchy, or worse, a theocracy.
The other option would represent a true and transformational event in American history. We become something we have never been but have only aspired to be. A real pluralistic-multicultural Democracy that doesn’t just pretend that people are created equal, but truly builds that type of society and system. We tried to do this shortly after the Civil War during the Reconstruction era. It failed.
The reason this would be so transformational is that it will require the death of white supremacy which has been the baseline of our culture, politics, and society since the inception of the country. What we know about history is that white supremacy will not die easily or quietly. We saw that in vivid color on J6.
Circumstances now do not give us the choice of failure.
To not become what our highest ideals call us to, we will degenerate into the worst version of ourselves that has been around for centuries. Only worse. We will have the most unequal, bigoted, and minority-governed system the world has ever seen. If you think MAGAism is ugly, just wait until 2045 when we are a white minority country.
The good news is that, according to a PEW research survey taken in 2021, around 61% of all Americans say this change isn’t bad nor is it a good thing. In other words, they are neutral about this demographic shift. Around 15% say it is a somewhat good or very good thing, while 22% say it is a somewhat bad or very bad thing.
The 22% in that survey are likely MAGA followers who chant “Jews will not replace us” or defend voter suppression laws to keep non-white folks from voting.
In any case, we have some major decisions to make over the next decade or two. We’ve already seen the white supremacist backlash over the past 8 years. Conspiracy theories abound about “Q” and the “Great Replacement.” The push to end abortion rights is in part tied to the desire to see more white babies born. The culture warriors are out to ensure that white history is taught in schools and that white moms still get to decide morality for everyone else.
That is one road we can travel as we approach the fork in the road. I would suggest this will not end well. Just as in South Africa, an oppressed majority will not long suffer such degradation or denial of rights.
The other fork in the road will take us to a completely new place where we have never gone before. It is a place where we can become what we have only pretended to be in the past. A true Democracy that ensures the rights and participation of all people regardless of any label or difference among them.
It can’t be a Christian-privileged Democracy, but one where all religions are afforded the same respect and status that Christianity currently enjoys. It can’t be a white-supremacist Democracy which is what we’ve had for over 200 years. We will need to replace these vestiges of an earlier era with a vision for a new beginning where compassion, tolerance, respect, equality, and cooperation replace the crass opportunism and competition of our earlier history.
This truly is a historic moment in time. But the time to prepare for it is now.
We can’t wait until 2045. We need to come to terms with the reality that the nation is in fact changing. Because of that, we need to dismantle the structures of racism now. We need to teach all of America’s history, not just the white-guy parts. We need to end the power of large corporate interests in the political system and start making government more accountable to all the people, not just the white ones. It is time to begin to shape an economy that focuses on the needs of everyone regardless of race, religion, or class.
And perhaps most of all, each of us needs to come to a reckoning with our white supremacist past and build a new ethic in our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren. It will be a humanistic ethic that embodies all people and sees each of them as equals. It isn’t a loss of privilege, but an expansion of opportunity for everyone, which in the end, benefits everyone.
Lastly, let me say a word to my MAGA friends. I understand that these changes are threatening and scary. I understand that you believe it is somehow God’s will that the United States be a “Christian nation” ruled by and for white people. And I understand that you know what is happening and can see it coming. That is the reason you are so loud and aggressive.
But please know that as we become more diverse you will not lose anything in terms of well-being and rights. You will still have Christianity if you so choose. You can still participate in the government and all levels of society. The only thing that will change is that your religion and status as a white person won’t continue to give you the privileges and perks that you’ve been used to. Those privileges and perks will simply be extended to everyone…yes, even those who don’t look like you or worship like you. But rest assured it will be okay because one thing I know. Non-white people will not treat you the way you’ve treated them over the centuries.
Let’s get ready for this change.