Saturday, August 14, 2021

How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm?

 The Census Bureau's 2020 count shows a continuation of the trend noticed a century ago when Sophie Tucker and Eddie Cantor were singing "How Ya Gonna Keep 'em Down on the Farm After They've Seen Paree?" after the end of the First World War.  

Many rural counties lost population over the past decade while the population of metro areas (cities and suburbs) increased. It's notable what happened within specific segments of the population. White people, who made up 63% of the population ten years ago now amount to 57.3%, continuing a demographic trend that will make white people a minority. The percentage of people identifying as Latino, Asian, or multiracial increased, while the percentage of Black people remained constant.

Strikingly, the actual number of white people decreased in the count by 5 million, which can be accounted for by the deaths of older white people and a reduced birthrate among younger white people unable to afford having children in the current economy. 

We can expect these numbers to add to the fears and resentments of older white people, already apprehensive about the diminution of their political and cultural influence, and they will surely stimulate efforts to exploit that fear and resentment. The efforts by some Republicans to maintain white political power by making voting more difficult for minorities would, if successful, amount to an American version of apartheid. And the weight given in the Senate by members from what H.L. Mencken called "the cow states" could contribute to the success of that project. 

White panic, the dark mutterings of white supremacists, and the desire to reconstruct some nostalgic version of the 1950s--Blacks at the back of the bus, women in the kitchen, gays in the closet--are political realities of the day, but there is no reason to think that they will prevail, despite making a great deal of noise. Demographic trends are in motion that are not likely to be reversed. Even South African eventually had to give up apartheid. 

Better to make the most of an increasingly diverse nation, which will also be a more interesting one.