The future is here. And it speaks Spanish.
On Nov. 9 1984, farm workers leader Cesar Chavez delivered a visionary speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The Latino wave was gathering speed – thanks to immigration laws approved in 1965 and the demographic growth of Hispanics – and Chavez had realized those factors would eventually change significantly the place where he lived.
“We have looked into the future and the future is ours,” he said. “History and inevitability are on our side. The farm workers and their children, and the Hispanics and their children are the future in California.” He only missed “and in all the United States.”
What Cesar Chavez saw as inevitable is what the U.S. Census Bureau just confirmed: that there’s more Latinos like us every day, that the white population is shrinking and that the United States is destined to be multi-ethnic and multi-racial.
That is the new face of the United States.
It’s not that the country is going to change. It’s that it already changed. The numbers are impressive.
Right now we are more than 62 million Latinos in the United States. That’s an increase of 23 percent over 10 years. And we’re still growing, because of immigration and birth rates that are higher than the rest of the population. Today, almost one out of every five people in this country (18.7 percent) is of Hispanic origin.
And that has enormous implications. If we’re 18 percent of the population, we should have at least 18 U.S. Senators. But we only have six. Aside from Sonia Sotomayor, we should have another Hispanic on the Supreme Court. Hollywood movies and Netflix series should have more Latino actors, producers and directors. We could fill an entire page with things that should change because of our growing presence in U.S. society. I am not asking for quotas, just the space that is ours. We are at a point of transition. We are moving from big numbers to a small bit of power.
The United States is our country. Even though we speak Spanish, were born in Latin America or arrived recently. In fact, this country is looking like us more and more.
It is not a white country.
For the first time since the 1790 census, the white non-Hispanic population shrank. In a single decade, whites went from 63 percent to 57 percent of the total – 191 million people. The same Census Bureau calculations indicate that by 2044 we will all be minorities in the United States.
Of course, this has made white supremacists very nervous. But in reality, the change is already happening. The census figures clearly show that in a country with fewer whites, no candidate can reach the White House or other important posts without the Latin vote. Joe Biden owes his victory, in part, to the 16 million Hispanics who voted in the 2020 elections. Without the Latin vote, there would be no President Biden. Or President Barack Obama. The future seems like more Obamas and fewer Trumps.
There will be fewer whites and more Latins, Asians and members of other minorities. If fact, the Census figures showed that more than 33 million people in the United States identify themselves as being members of two or more races. That’s why it’s so important to talk about diversity and respect our differences. Diversity is not just a word tirelessly repeated in the political agendas of liberals. No. Respect for the cultural, ethnic and racial diversity is the only formula we have for moving ahead in this country. There is no other way.
The American experiment is doing well.
We are diversifying domestically, and continue to be open to the rest of the world. There are not many countries like that. We come from many places and, despite resistance and prejudices, the idea of helping, accepting, integrating those who come from abroad always wins out.
Look at what is happening on the southern border, for example. In July, more than 212,000 migrants who entered illegally from Mexico were detained. It’s the highest number in 21 years, despite urgent warnings from the Biden administration that the border is closed.
Of course, this situation is not sustainable over the long run. But what’s interesting is that these migrants – fleeing from hunger and violence in Central America – are paying no attention to the “don’t come” message from Vice President Kamala Harris. On the contrary.
They see and hear on social networks, on the news media and from their own relatives, that this is a a country increasingly diverse and open, and they head north with their families. The results of the census – the diversity – only reinforce their decision to come.
These potential immigrants have more faith in the United States than many Americans. If that was not true, how to explain the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border this year? The parents are sending what they most love – their children – to a country they trust completely. That’s an impressive show of faith. And it reflects a nation that, at the most basic level, works. And the numbers from the census prove it.
Cesar Chavez was right. The future is here, and it is ours. Now we have to care of it.