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
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 2129 GMT (0529 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
April 13, 2014 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1906 GMT (0306 HKT)
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
April 12, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1839 GMT (0239 HKT)
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1143 GMT (1943 HKT)
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1926 GMT (0326 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT