THE COMING WHITE MINORITY: California and America's Immigration Debate by Dale Maharidge

THE COMING WHITE MINORITY: California and America's Immigration Debate

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Pulitzer Prize winner and Stanford journalism professor Maharidge assesses the complex and melancholy condition of race relations in the state that so often proves a testing ground for America's future. Maharidge begins with the startling fact that whites will account for less than half of California's population by the end of the century. Most of the country sees racial division along white-black lines, but blacks are only the fourth-largest group in California, with Latinos second (and growing most rapidly) and Asians third. This demographic profile will fit the nation as a whole within a few decades, since California is the port of entry for immigration that will inevitably spread eastward. To find the human element within the statistics, Maharidge focuses on four Californians who routinely encounter the politics of race: a Latina legislator, a white suburban community activist, a Chinese-American undergraduate at Berkeley (where 41 percent of freshmen are Asian and affirmative action is a matter of bitter controversy), and a black deputy sheriff who runs a mentoring program for poor youth. The book's core is an account of the successful campaign for the anti-immigrant ballot initiative Proposition 187, which Maharidge describes as ""a peaceful white riot"" in reaction to the Mexican immigrants on whose cheap labor the affluent suburbs rely. A self-described liberal, he lacerates ethnocentrists who give the right easy targets and decries the failure of progressives to channel working people's anger against each other into a movement against an ""unbridled multinational capitalism."" Despite grounds for pessimism in the persistence of residential segregation, Maharidge sees hope in the fact that in much of the public sphere, especially the workplace, Californians generally get along well. He also sees the children of today's immigrants assimilating into America's materialistic culture just as previous waves of newcomers did. A perceptive and sane study.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Times