Saturday, November 17, 2018 -
Print Edition

Who is a minority?

I DON’T remember the year. Maybe it’s 2030 or maybe 2050. That’s the year when the Caucasian race is predicted to become a minority in the US. Upon reading this projection, I, a Caucasian, asked myself: What will it feel  like to be a minority in this country?

Over the past few months, I’ve said to myself. I do not need to wait until 2030 (or whenever). I already know. I don’t have to be a statistical minority in order to feel like one. Like my Dad used to say, “I don’t want to be a millionaire, I just want to live like one.”

People of other races are changing the tone of the country. To this, I’ve had a few initial reactions, and then, upon reflection, one most disturbing reaction.

Initially, I had five reactions:

1. This will be interesting. People have suffered in this country for  a couple of centuries due to their minority status. I will see what it  feels like to be on the other side of the coin (sort of; no one will actually enslave me or ban me from a public accommodation).

2. The entire world is becoming racially mixed. The US is simply joining the crowd. Not to mention, the whole concept of fixed races is becoming increasingly irrelevant due to marriage between the races.

3. The Jewish community is hardly exempt. It used to be utterly astonishing if a black Jew walked into the room. While this is not common, it is no longer eyebrow-raising. Not to mention, while many Diaspora  communities (such as Denver, for example) have no statistically significant Sephardi Jewish population, Sephardi Jews make up a substantial portion of the Jewish community worldwide.

4. People of different races only rarely have trouble understanding  each other individually, but as members of groups many people find race to be relevant and difficult. It strikes me that one cause of the breakdown in political cohesion in the US is the fact that we have a minority president, that  minorities are empowered by that, and that other races, by and large, find this new and strange. Puzzlement precedes affirmation.

5. Whatever my race, I, as a Jew, am a minority. As Rabbi J. J. Schachter has trenchantly observed, the entire population of world Jewry is but the margin of error in the Chinese census.

UPON reflection, my disturbing reaction was this:

If it is true that, mentally at least, those of the Caucasian race sense their coming minority status, this does not remove the sense of minority status felt by others. Everybody is coming to think of himself  as a member of a minority.

This is potentially divisive.

To be minority is to carry no inherent stigma. According to both the  principles of the Torah and of the US constitutions (as duly amended by  the 14th and 15th amendments), it should make no difference whether one is  a minority or not; skin pigmentation should be an irrelevancy.

But for  historical reasons — mostly slavery, but also many Hispanics’ sense of being indigenous to the American southwest, undeserving of minority status at all — to be a “minority” in this country has entailed unfairness, discrimination and suffering.

Thus, as the racial balance in the US shifts, and as everyone,  regardless of race, comes to carry a sense of being a minority, complaint will rise and dominate.

It is one thing when whites complain of racial set-asides and racially  tilted college admissions policies; it is quite something else when, on the  basis of these same racially compensatory public policies, whites foresee themselves exploiting these policies for themselves.

If everybody comes to feel like a minority, every group is more likely  to fight the other. Everybody will feel like a victim and nobody will take responsibility for his own, or his own group’s, dilemmas.

A very disturbing prospect.

Solutions? None, really, beyond the usual simplicities: tolerance;  color-blindness; growth in the capacity to absorb different cultural  signals; self-responsibility.

Not to mention: pride in that permanent minority status of Jew.



Hillel Goldberg

IJN Executive Editor | hillel@ijn.com


Leave a Reply