America has always been a white man’s country.  From the beginning white people were the majority and whiteness represented the absolute prerequisite for leadership.  People of color were kept in their place a place quite apart and subordinate to those who held the reins of power.  African-Americans and Native Americans, Asians, Mexicans, etc., were relegated to the margins of society as were legions of newcomers (viz., the Irish; later the Italians) initially  perceived as not actually white.

Until recently white rule went unchallenged except for one brief period in the past..  That occurred in portions of the post-Civil War South during Reconstruction.  Blacks were now free and, given the vote, might have used that leverage to gain office and unseat white politicians, many of whom had been disenfranchised because of their support of the Confederacy.  White response to this potential threat was swift and devastating.  The fear of black “rule” led to repeated acts of intimidation and violence and, given the inability of the Federal Government to protect black citizens, to continued white dominance throughout the region.  Southern whites would not be challenged again for over a century. 

Lately, however, the landscape has been shifting.  Census reports confirm that the non-white population is advancing steadily and is likely, at some not too distant point to surpass White American totals (already the case in California).  When this happens could white power be threatened,and whites displaced?  The ascendance of Barack Obama has led to such predictions, especially given the decisive majorities he received from African-Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics in 2012.  The defeat of Mitt Romney in that election heightened this sense of unease, especially since many of his supporters (including a strong majority of white voters) insisted upon the need to “take back America”.

Will the growing numbers of non-whites in America lead eventually to their occupying the seats of national power?  Such projections appear far-fetched.  People of color have but a limited presence within the various command posts from which whites exercise their authority.  While there have been gains across academia, the professions, in the armed forces, and among unions , none are especially dramatic or transformative. Colored Americans have moved in large numbers into America’s business sector; almost all, however, involved in smaller enterprises.  Access to the corporate boardrooms of the nation have not proceeded much beyond tokenism.  The prominent positions people of color occupy in the fields of entertainment, media and sports are not without consequence and has had a notable impact upon the American Cultural scene, still the presence of such high  visibility personalities has not led to collective actions or sustained influence.

Where their numbers are more noteworthy, and the possibility of greater influence now real, is in the political arena (whether white or colored, each person has but one vote).  But remember, even when in office, few politicians exercise free well – most are beholden to powerful outside interests who shape the agenda and extract concessions.  President Obama, a man of color, has done little to disturb the foundations of white power.

And, finally, even if white Americans slipped into the minority, examples of long-standing minority rule abound.  Consider the Sunnis in Iraq (until recently), the Alawites in Syria, the Catholics in Vietnam before the Northern conquest, and the white settlers in South Africa, Rhodesia (and wherever else across the world Imperial Powers moved in).  Tight knit, organized minorities can be most adept at maintaining their authority and keeping majorities (who often are divided among themselves) at bay.  So while “taking back America” might represent a useful though insidious political rallying cry, it is a slogan that plays to fears and has little basis in facts.  And remember, just as certain ethnic groups  not originally viewed as  white, in time were reclassified as such (helped along by intermarriage and acculturation).  Expect that many colored Americans will “lighten up” and be counted among the majority  whose power will thus scarcely be diminished.

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