I'm white, and except for our housekeeper, everyone I knew in my hometown in the Southeast was white. It was a white world with white actors on TV and white models and white teachers and a white president. There were a few Cuban kids in my private high school, but just a few.
My parents, both Ivy League grads, never uttered a word of prejudice in our home. Perhaps our insulation avoided such comments, or perhaps, having grown up in more diverse Northeast, they were aware of racial issues. After all, we claim an ancestor on my father's side who fought in the Civil War, for the Yankees.
It's safe to say that, while on American soil, I have never suffered from prejudice. That I haven't a clue what it would be like to be in the minority. That as a white woman who was raised in a white community, I take many social or economic issues for granted.
Yes, thankfully, my world has grown to embrace people of many different ethnicities and cultures. And the world has changed too. My kids attend much more diverse schools. And well, we have Obama, to my surprise and utter delight.
Honestly, though I sent money to his presidential campaign in 2008, I feared he could not win. I was happy to be both right, that he would make a fine president, and wrong, that color blinds our voters.
Whites will remain a majority for some time. However, the trend is clear, considering the aging white population, and the median age of Latinos in their peak fertility years.
There's no doubt about it, my progeny, if they are white, will be in the minority. A lot has been said about what this change will mean to the economy. In fact, if we depended on white births alone, the country would eventually be dead.
For now, I want to explore issues of identity. In my award-winning young adult dystopian novel, Revealing Eden (Save the Pearls Part One), I imagine a post-apocalyptic world in which whites are an oppressed minority called the Pearls. When the ozone layer is depleted, deadly solar radiation kills off most of the race because whites have low amounts of melanin in their skin to protect them from skin cancer. The remaining population is forced to live underground and Coals, or dark-skinned people, become the ruling class.
Our young heroine, Eden Newman, blond, blue-eyed, slender and 17, considers herself ugly, worthless, the dregs of society. Her dismal mate-rate of 15 percent, bottom of the barrel, confirms her lowly status. In fact, if she doesn't find a mate before she turns 18, she'll be left outside to die--her own romantic apocalypse.
Is this a likely future scenario? I wonder.
In Revealing Eden, the depleted environment brings about extreme social change. However we get there, eventually, the majority will be non-white, and the actors, models, teachers and politicians will reflect the new status quo.
Perceptions of beauty also will likely change. Access to jobs and education will probably shift too. And possibly, past cycles of prejudice may replay... with the tables turned?
I don't harbor fears that the existing minority races are waiting for the day they can take revenge on whites. I hope that we are as a whole more evolved, and have learned vital lessons during the Civil Rights era.
However, I think it's important to imagine how you would feel if you wore the proverbial other shoe. If you knew that, in your lifetime, things would change, would you act differently? What would you do to bring about more equality in the here and now?
Would you speak up against prejudice, any kind? Or fight for a more diverse student body, perhaps with a higher scholarship rate, at your kids' school? Or go out of your way to befriend that minority kid on scholarship?
I like to imagine a caramel-colored future where racial lines are indistinct and issues of prejudice a thing of the past. Where inner beauty and character are valued over a pretty face. Perhaps, because I'm in the majority, I can ponder such issues with what some may say is naïveté. I would call it hope.