Tuesday, August 21 , 2018, 3:34 pm | A Few Clouds 76º


Harris Sherline: Thinking About Minorities

America's melting pot continues to simmer, but it's not just about race anymore

With all the talk about minorities in this country and the heat that is so often generated by the topic, have you ever thought about where you fit? Are you a member of some minority group and, if so, how has it affected your life, your beliefs and values, your perceptions of others, your friends and associates, your job or profession, your expectations and, of course, your day to day activities?

Harris Sherline
Harris Sherline

Even if you have never thought of yourself as a member of a minority group, chances are, when you examine the details of your personal circumstances, you’ll find that you are. Consider just some of the many and varied categories that apply.

» Ethnic: Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Indian, East Indian, African, etc.

» Race: White, Black, Asian, other

» Gender: Male, female, gay

» Religion: Christianity (about 33 percent of the world’s population, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Oriental Orthodoxy, Latter-day Saint, Seventh-Day Adventist, Nestorianism, etc.), Islam (about 20 percent of the world’s population, Sunni and Shia), Hinduism (13 percent), Chinese fold religion (6.3 percent) or Buddhism (5.9 percent). Atheists and other nonbelievers are about 14 percent of the world’s population. Other religions, such as Sikhism, Judaism, Baha’i, Janism, Shinto and others, each represent about one-half of 1 percent of the world’s population. There are many more types and categories of religions and religious beliefs, but this illustrates the multitude of those that most people generally follow.

In the United States, we seem to have elevated the issue of minorities — who is and who is not part of a minority group — to a major if not the primary consideration in a wide variety of choices. Decisions, such as college entrance and employment criteria, employee relations, customer relations, housing, business associations, friendships, pretty much every aspect of American life.

Our laws have become such a labyrinth of complex considerations that we are forced to navigate in making decisions about hiring, firing and disciplining employees, making public statements, and membership in service clubs and other groups, among others. All decision making, personal, public and business, must be processed through a minefield of potentially risky options, with the consequences of making a poor or incorrect decision ranging from loss of one’s position or status to being sued to public approbation.

The New York Times reported in an Aug. 14, 2008 article, “William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, said that by the 2028 presidential election, racial and ethnic minorities will constitute a majority of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 for the first times ... When the first census was conducted in 1790, about 64 percent of the people counted were white ... By 1900, about nine in 10 Americans were non-Hispanic white, most of European ancestry.

America.gov noted in August 2008, “By 2050, minorities — those who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or mixed race — will account for 54 percent of the U.S. population ...”  And, U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that about 10 percent of the nation’s 3,000-plus counties have already reached the point where they are more than 50 percent minority population.

Almost everything in American life is influenced by minority status and, up to now, the primary characteristic of majority-minority status has been based on race, which has been dominated by whites, who have outnumbered all other groups. But, what happens when the current minority becomes the majority? This is already the situation in California, which has been heavily impacted by the influx of Hispanics from south of the border. Furthermore, population projections indicate that by the year 2023 the majority of all American children under the age of 18 will be so-called minorities, and by 2039 minorities will comprise the majority of all working-age Americans.

So, what happens when whites are in the minority? Will they then qualify for favored treatment under our laws? Will they be given preferential treatment in college admissions, employment, housing and other matters? Should they?

Will we ultimately reach the point where a white minority demands the same legal advantages and benefits that have been woven into the fabric of our society in the effort to level the playing field and make amends for past wrongs? We are already seeing some evidence of this in lawsuits for reverse discrimination. The Liberty Lounge recently reported, “The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday it would hear the reverse discrimination case appealed from lower courts by 20 New Haven firefighters who claimed they were denied the opportunity for a promotion because of their race.”

We will undoubtedly see many more of these types of cases as the current majority continues to move further toward minority status.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his own blog, Opinionfest.com.

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