As the face of Texas changes, it's time to rethink how we see diversity

Photo by Jennifer Whitley

Nowadays in Texas, it’s possible for a young woman in Houston to have one set of grandparents from Vietnam, another grandparent from New Jersey, and a fourth from Nigeria. This same Texan could be born and raised here, but let’s say she also has a Colombian stepmother and half siblings, and she grew up bilingual. And Jewish.

So when she meets a born-again Anglo boy from Austin and they settle down to raise a family in Odessa, what on earth would their children be?

Well, Texans for one.

But they'll be Texans who also think of themselves as racially, ethnically, culturally, linguistically, religiously and geographically mixed. They are the true Texas vinaigrette in the best sense of the word. And that’s where we’re all headed.

Texas is riding the crest of a demographic wave, and like the many waves that have preceded it, this one is sure to change the way we view our state and ourselves. Texas became a majority-minority state almost 10 years ago, and the United States is projected to be majority-minority by 2044. This population growth is multidimensional — and the people who make up the face of Texas and America will not only look different but also think and feel differently. This shift will have significant implications for Americans of all ages and races.

It’s not just that the demographics of the country are changing. It’s also how they are changing us that are important as well.

Texas is currently what the United States will look like in the future. How America changes with this population growth will also change our perspectives because how we see diversity today in Texas will be how we see diversity in the United States tomorrow.

The United States has seen decades of booming growth among Latinos and an increasingly diverse racial and cultural shift across the nation. From a national perspective, there’s another factor on the horizon that will have significant impact on the face of America. Asian-Americans are poised to become the largest immigrant group in the United States by 2065. As Asian-Americans pass other foreign-born nationalities in population numbers, they will bring with them a “modern immigration wave” of 59 million new people to the United States.

It’s easy to see how we are becoming a nation of people with multiple identities. In the coming decades this means that most if not all of us are going to think of ourselves in the polyglot mix of culture, race, heritage and nationality that was once the exclusive purview of first- and second-generation immigrants.

Essentially, demographic trends are expanding the immigrant narrative and sense of identity to everyone. It is estimated that nearly 22 million Americans are considered “multiracial,” meaning that they have at least two races in their background, including their parents or their grandparents. There was a time in Texas when a person had blood relatives and ancestors from a single ethnicity — so it was easy to just think of oneself as an Anglo or a Latino. But now it’s getting more and more common to find people that are navigating a confluence of multiple identities.

By 2044, the students who are in school now will be adults in the workforce. When they form opinions and perspectives about the world they live in, they will do so through a set of eyes that filters information through several layers of identity. As a society and as a state, we need to embrace this plural sense of ourselves — because like it or not, that’s the future.

With that in mind, it’s high time we started to address a whole host of issues, from segregation to school reform to social acceptance to anti-discrimination policy. As a majority-minority state, Texas gives us a unique picture of what our country faces in the future. How Texans overcome lingering prejudice and de facto segregation in the face of this shifting sense of diversity will be the model for the rest of the country.

We owe it to our future generations of multilingual-Afro-Latin-Eurasian Texans to get this one right.

Mustafa Tameez

Political consultant