The demographic shift in The United States of America is undeniable. Since the Hart Celler Act of 1965, the demographics of the US have shifted from a vast majority Caucasian population to an ever growing diversified population.
According to a Pew Research Center Study from 2015 it is estimated that by 2050 those of European Caucasian decent will be a decided minority in the country that was founded by their European ancestors.
There are many perspectives on this demographic shift. Some are overjoyed by the thought of the “melting pot” nation being absorbed into a majority of “diversity .” Then there are those like myself, who find ourselves concerned with the idea that the country we call home may become something that is unrecognizable to our children, and then perhaps even unbearable for our children’s children.
Is a different America a better America?
As I young white woman I see the constant barrage of celebrated diversity through television and media telling us and our children that “diversity is what makes us strong.” We are reminded daily that it is”stunning and brave” for those who are of a different ethnic background to honor their heritage, but yet somehow inappropriate for the rest of us to be proud of who we are. The main narrative being pushed seems to be this: something different from what we are is not just different, its better.
This begs the question: what makes America?
Some argue it is the Constitution that makes the country what it is. Some say it is the ambiguous concept of “American Democracy”. While others simply state ” American values” are what makes America as we know it.
Regardless of what makes America what it currently is, as demography shifts what will America become? As the native population of America becomes very different from what it once was, is the coming change only skin deep?
Some argue that this is the case. They claim United States will always be what it was intended to be by the Founding Fathers because those that come here seek to adopt the “American way of life.”
What constitutes American Values, and from where are these values derived?
According to a poll taken and published by a private college (Andrews University) when asked what “American Values are” and where these values come from, a large portion of the respondents cited the United States Constitution as what American values are based on.
I would assert that very few citizens of the United States of America can recite every amendment of the Constitution. However, I would argue that most American citizens know very well, and hold in great value the First and Second Amendments.
Additionally, I would argue that they should. As the US is one of the few countries in the world where as a citizen you have the constitutionally sanctioned right to both on a firearm and speak your mind.
In fact, according to an article by Business Insider in 2017, only three countries in the world grant their citizens the constitutional right to own firearms: The United States, Mexico, and Guatemala. Of course there are other countries such as Switzerland and Austria where legislation allows gun ownership, but not a constitutional guarantee. And still there are others where gun ownership was a right at one time, but is no longer.
Freedom of speech is another right not every country enjoys. In fact, even though several countries do protect freedom of expression in their constitutions. It should be noted that due to the adoption of “hate speech laws” in most European countries, their are no other citizens that can speak as freely as those in the United States.
Could changing America’s demographics and therefore the core values, lead to changes the freedoms that US citizens enjoy ?
Is it the people who make the culture what it is, or the culture who make people what they are? If the demography of a culture shifts, will the values shift as well?
I would argue that these are questions worth exploring, and that some of the following data and statistics from Pew Research and the Cato Institute offer interesting insight on this topic.
The first chart is from Pew Research, this illustrates how the demographic groups in the United States have very different opinions regarding gun control.
- It appears as though white individuals support less gun legislation and control, with 60% saying they prefer fewer restrictions on firearms or more gun rights for citizens and only 40% supporting more control of firearms or fewer gun rights for citizens.
- Moving into the Latino/Hispanic population it can be noted that the views held are very different. With about 70% of the Hispanic population in America supporting more gun control laws with only about 30% in support of more gun rights.
- The African American population appear to be in support of more gun laws and opposed to more gun rights well. It can be observed that 78% of the African American population would support more restrictive gun controls and only 20% would like to see more gun rights.
What does this mean for the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms?
Is it reasonable to surmise that as the demographics that oppose gun rights become a larger portion of the population those rights will become less valued? I would argue that indeed it is.
It is only natural for groups to vote for representatives and political officials that echo their groups values. I would assert as those populations that do not support the Second Amendment have more political power, the Second Amendment is likely to be altered or perhaps done away with completely.
Is some speech more “free” than others?
When the First Amendment refers to free speech, does that really entitle every American citizen to speak freely regarding ANY topic they so choose? In June of 1969 the Supreme Court addressed this question. The case of Brandenburg V. The State of Ohio called into question the right of a Ku Klux Klan member to make a speech at a clan rally. The State of Ohio had ruled that giving a hateful speech at a clan rally was not protected by the First Amendment. However, the Supreme Court overturned that ruling, finding that ALL speech is protected speech. The only caveat being 1) speech that is “directed at inciting or producing imminent illegal action” 2) speech that “is likely to produce an imminent illegal action.”
While only a handful of the population will ever desire to give a speech at at a Klu Klux Klan rally, I would argue that every last one of us should have the right to do so. I would also argue that every American citizen should have the right to give a speech at a Black Panther, or La Raza rally as well.
The First Amendment was not created so that we could discuss our favorite color, or the best brand of laundry detergent. The founding fathers wanted us to have the right to speak our minds about topics that might be unpalatable to those around us, and with that in mind I feel strongly that we should be permitted the right to use it.
Many Americans share my sentiment, and value the American right to speak our minds. However, when this topic is explored in depth observations can be made regarding differing levels of support for free speech, with one very pertinent factor being race and ethnicity.
The following study from the Cato Institute titled: Freedom of speech and Tolerance in America depicts the varying perspectives regarding free speech and the classification of some speech being “hate speech.”
The question that was asked was “Is hate speech a form of violence?”
Now, before delving into the poll results, I ask you to consider that question. The question is essentially asking:”is saying something hateful about a person or group the same thing as committing a violent act against that person or group?”
Less than half or 46% of White individuals surveyed said that yes “hate speech” is an act of violence. While Almost 80% of both Hispanic( 72%) and Black (75%) populations felt that Hate Speech is an act of violence.
That means that four out of five individuals included in the Hispanic and Black populations feel that speaking hateful words equates actions of harmful violence. With this in mind it is not far fetched to assert that these same individuals would support legally sanctioned consequences for what they deem to be “hate speech.” Now I ask you this: When laws are passed to make “Hate speech a crime” …..Who will get to define what constitutes “Hate speech”?
Who will decide what the penalties are? Some might answer: “The government of course?” And I would respond: “Do we really want a government so vast that they can pick and choose the verbiage we are allowed to use? ”
“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have”~ Thomas Jefferson
The size and power of the United States government is a concern for many of it’s citizens. Many of us do not desire a vast array of ABC agencies overseeing every aspect of our lives. Nor do we desire endless government funded services, or the sizable tax bill that accompanies such services.
Pew Research explored how different groups of American citizens felt regarding the size of government. Again, we can see that clearly the demographics are very divided on this topic.
As the study shows only 27% of Whites desire a large government with more services, while 59% of Blacks, and 71% of Hispanics would like the government to be larger.
But nothing will change as long as we have the Constitution right?
This is a frequently argued point by those who feel that as long the United States has the Constitution , the rights they enjoy will remain the same. But is that an accurate assumption? Will the Constitution truly protect the rights that Americans value if the demographic and cultural makeup of that population shifts?
One final article from Pew Research provides a thought provoking look at the idea of shifting the way the Constitution is interpreted. The titles reads: “A Growing share of Americans say Supreme Court should base its rulings on what Constitution means today.”
The article then goes on to state that “55% of Americans feel that the Supreme Court should apply the constitution as “it means today.” It does not detail the different views of the racial makeup that those who feel the Constitution should be a viewed as a living document that changes with the times. However, Pew Research did detail the political leanings of those who felt this way. When separated by political affiliation only 30% of those who identified as “Republican/Leaning Republican” feel that the Constitution is fluid. While 78% of those who identified as Democrat/Leaning Democrat would like The Supreme Court to apply the United States Constitution and the Amendments therein, in a way that changes depending on how the current culture interprets the documents contents.
Interesting to note the demographic makeup up of those who align with the two parties:
This illustrates that 96% of those who are registered republican voters are demographically White, while only by 6% are Hispanic and 2% are black.
Applying this knowledge to the previous information that showed overwhelmingly those who identify with the republican party are those who feel strongly the Constitution should be applied in the context it was originally written, as well as the very first graph that showed how the racial makeup of the country will soon see whites become a minority one can come to this conclusion:
The demographics of the populations who support altering the interpretation of the United States Constitution are on the rise. With the growth of a population who as whole do not support the First and Second Amendments, and desire to have a larger more intrusive government it can be argued the the United States of America is on the cusp of immense cultural and legislative changes.
This should be concerning for all Americans who aspire to continue to to enjoy their rights as they currently do, and for those who hope that their children and grandchildren have the opportunity to do the same.