The Slipperiness Of Whiteness

by Patrick Appel

Ta-Nehisi makes an point that isn't raised enough:

I am semi-skeptical of demography which predicts the coming white minority. Whiteness has proven to be an amazingly protean concept, absorbing whole groups that it once shunned. It's not clear to me that Latinos, or at least some Latinos, can't be absorbed too. I'd suggest a middle ground. Some Latinos absorbed. Some not. How that breaks down, I don't know. But I think the notion that all Latinos, in 2028, will be nonwhite is flawed. As I recall, the majority of Latinos, right now, check "White" when asked about race. It's been suggested to me that that says more about the census forms, then about Latinos. Maybe.
The only group whiteness has proven incapable of absorbing are blacks. This makes sense. In America, whiteness doesn't depend on Italians, Jews, Asians or Latinos--it depends on blacks. The whole point of the Civil War wasn't simply to protect slavery, but to protect a kind of "nobility for the masses." As long as blacks remained a bonded class, white people--slave holders or not--always had a peasantry beneath their feet. To be white was to have the latest Jordans. If everyone had Jordans, they'd be pro-Keds.