Changing Colors

America’s shifting demographic landscape requires seeing beyond black & white.


A friend who is a professor tells the story of a student protest over services at the University of California at Santa Cruz. At one point, leaders directed the students to cluster in smaller groups — African-American, Native American, Asian-American, Hispanic, and white. As they headed for their designated areas, however, an audacious young woman, the daughter of an East Indian and an American Indian, refused to go along. To the assembled, she boomed, “The mixed-blood group meets here.” For a moment, everyone paused, considered her, and then kept walking.

That pause can only grow as our demographic and political landscape transforms. As Tiger Woods has come to symbolize, America is changing colors. More and more of us are of mixed ancestry. And biological definitions of race are, scientists tell us, specious. So it is ironic when progressives staunchly defend racial categorization (including the “one-drop rule” definition of blackness championed by Southern slaveholders), as well as race-based affirmative action (co-opted by Richard Nixon to divide labor from civil rights groups). In “The End of the Rainbow,” Michael Lind argues that such a strategy is politically disastrous. He advocates a class-based alliance capable of challenging a new multicultural right.

Nonetheless, the dismantling of affirmative action threatens the delicate balance we have achieved in our schools. Classroom diversity is not only better for the country, but also educationally valuable. Students and teachers at Boston Latin School, which has spent two decades reconciling academic excellence and diversity, tell Bebe Nixon, in “Race to the Top,” both what troubles them about the weakening of their affirmative action program and what is enduring about their school.

Art Spiegelman also addresses troubling questions, in “Getting in Touch With My Inner Racist,” when his 4-year-old son makes a disturbing announcement. Are our children condemned to repeat our mistakes?

In “A Brave New You,” Walter Truett Anderson suggests perhaps not.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate