Why do we get so worked up over the N-word?

ABOVE PHOTO:  Bill Maher, right, appears with professor and author Michael Eric Dyson during a broadcast of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” in Los Angeles. Many African Americans expressed disappointment on June 2 when Maher uttered the N-word on his late-night cable television show. (Janet Van Ham/HBO via AP)

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

TV host Bill Maher intemperately uses the N-word. Then a pack of Black celebrities and academics feverishly debate the propriety of it. And then everyone within and without earshot is off to the races, endlessly chattering about it. I’ve seen this so often that it’s almost ritual. A White celeb, politician — or in the case of Maher, a talk show host — tosses out the word and the public’s blood pressure rises. The debate over it gets especially heated among Blacks. Some defend it. Some rail against it.

I remember a few years back during yet another round of hot debate on the word there was a momentary national campaign by Black activists to ban the use of the word. There was even a website that hawked T- shirts, DVDs and exhorted Blacks, especially young Blacks, to solemnly pledge not to use the word or patronize anyone who puts out products that use the word. Presumably, that was aimed at rappers    and a popular comic strip writer — who turned the N-word into a lucrative growth industry.

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The anti-N-word campaigners then and now are both right and wrong in assailing the N-word. There’s no disagreement that the term hurled by White bigots is vile, offensive and hate-filled. And that it has caused much personal pain and suffering. But that’s where agreement ends. Many rappers have made a mighty effort to stand the word on its head, and take the hurt out of it. Their effort has some merit, and is not new. Dick Gregory had the same idea some years ago when he titled his autobiography, “Nigger.” Black writer Robert DeCoy also tried to apply the same racial shock therapy to whites when he titled his novel, “The Nigger Bible”. Richard Pryor, before his epiphany on its use, for a time made the term practically his personal national anthem.

Though words aren’t value neutral and are often used to promote hate, they in themselves don’t trigger racial violence, or psychologically destroy Blacks. The N-word did not stir the century of Jim Crow violence, segregation, disenfranchisement, and poverty that Blacks suffered. That was done to preserve White political and economic power, control, and privilege. But even in those days, when a White person, especially a celebrity, athlete or public official, slipped and used the word or made any overt racist reference, Black outrage was swift and ferocious. The NAACP even pushed Merriam Webster dictionary to purge the word.

The word in and of itself is not a code sign for discrimination, or a trigger to commit racial violence. The outcry, however, pointed to the double standard far too many Blacks apply to whites. In the past, a small band of activists waged war against the use of the word by Blacks.

They have been the exception. Blacks have been more than willing to give other Blacks that use the word a pass. The indulgence sends the subtle signal that the word is hardly the earthshattering, illegitimate word that many Blacks and whites brand it.

Maher didn’t publicly say it, but he probably could have, and that’s that his Black friends routinely use the word. A hip-hop record producer who weighed in on the controversy partially backed him up, and said that the word had lost some of its sting since White hip hoppers use the word and do not mean any offense by it. It was self-serving ploy by a defendant grasping to paint himself as bigotry-free. But the point was a good one.

That’s not the only reason the N-word debate is suspect. Put bluntly, don’t we have more important things to worry about? Trump, and all he represents, failing inner city public schools, the near Depression level unemployment among young Black males, the more than one million Blacks that pack America’s jails, the surging homelessness numbers, which Blacks make up a disproportionate share of, the wholesale assault on public education, affordable health care, the gut of voting rights, civil rights and labor protections, and the continuing cycle of crime and violence, hopelessness, desperation, that wracks some poor Black communities. Yet, there are few impassioned panels, pulsating websites, marches and demonstrations by Blacks demanding action on these crisis problems.

Then again, it’s just much easier and more fun to generate passion and heat over a word, than to generate passion and heat over real crisis problems. Putting Maher and the N-word on trial won’t change that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is author of “Cosby: The Clash of Race, Sex and Celebrity” (Amazon Kindle). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.

The Emerging Republican Majority

Now that the Democrats lost all four of the special House elections (or maybe three given the sketchy trustworthiness of voting machines in Georgia) we now know that Trump’s “disapproval” rating that MSNBC commentators have been flogging for months is politically meaningless. Republican voters hate Democrats far more than they “disapprove” of Trump.

Since 1969, when Kevin Phillips wrote “The Emerging Republican Majority,” we’ve seen the GOP successfully flip the once “solid” Democratic South to Republican, and add the Midwest, Mountain states, and in 2016, even the Rust Belt to construct a national majority.

The Ossoff-Handel race in Georgia’s 6th district, at an estimated $57 million, became the most expensive House election in U.S. history. There was a great deal of media coverage on the money angle but little mention of “Citizens United” and how since 2010 it has skewed elections in favor of Republican candidates, or the fact that Ossoff was outspent by out-of-state right-wing SuperPACs.

The more U.S. elections rely on money the more the Republicans win. That’s the reason why Mitch McConnell (then the Senate Minority Leader) was so gleeful when the Supreme Court handed down its Citizens United ruling that he went over to the courthouse to attended the announcement. Good Ol’ Mitch knows that this alone was enough to cement a Republican advantage. Our new normal became historic levels of political corruption thanks to the Republican majority on the Roberts Court that will stand for generations.

Throw in the 2013 “Shelby” case, which struck down key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act thereby streamlining voter suppression against African Americans, Latinos and other groups, the five Republicans on the Supreme Court further tilted the playing field in the GOP’s favor. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, people literally died fighting for the Voting Rights Act. And with the rise of Trump, Stephen K. Bannon, and the Pepe the Frog brigades the nation has experienced a resurgence of racist violence. Yet the Roberts Court concluded in “Shelby” that the Obama election proved that the United States has become a racial Utopia no longer needing laws and provisions that ensure African-American voting rights.

Bita Honarvar / Reuters

But the quest for a permanent Republican majority didn’t stop with “Citizens United,” McCutcheon, and “Shelby;” it coincided with the most scientific gerrymandering of congressional districts in U.S. history. Following the 2010 census, Republican state governments drew up highly partisan districts using “Maptitude” software and other computer programs that target social media profiles and other mega-data to draw partisan boundaries for state and federal districts that will probably remain in place for decades.

It’s highly unlikely that after the 2020 census the state governments of Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are going to be under Democratic control. And since Democrats in California, Washington, New York, and Illinois do not have the guts to gerrymander the way the Republicans did in 2011, it’s also unlikely “blue” states will balance it out by engaging in their own partisan gerrymandering. After the structural changes the Republicans have already made to campaign finance, voting rights, and redistricting the only way the Democrats could retake the House of Representatives would be to a have a Democratic sweep in states where the party is in decline.

It could happen. The “Resistance” appears superficially strong. But once you factor in the built-in Republican advantages of money, propaganda, voter suppression and chicanery, as well as control of the Justice Department and the Congress (with all the benefits of incumbency) the Democrats face a steep climb.

Besides, even if the Democrats by some miracle were able to take the state governments of those Midwest and Rust Belt states that went for Trump in 2016, their majorities would be so slender that they would probably be just as gutless and weak as ever. In fact, gutlessness and weakness you might say are intrinsic to the Democratic “brand.”

They’re gutless and weak because they choose to be gutless and weak. The party leadership, ever since the hapless “Democratic Leadership Council” days of Bill Clinton and Joe Lieberman, want to stay on the sweet side of the banks and corporations and have therefore done precious little for labor unions over the past thirty years. And without strong and growing labor unions there is no “Democratic Party.”

We also learned during the Clinton and Obama years that the Democrats would turn against their own base in a heartbeat. Elevating a bunch of women and people of color (who all went to Yale or Harvard) is a good thing but it doesn’t do much to mend the disconnect that Trump exploited between the Democratic leadership and the 70 percent of Americans who don’t have college degrees, let alone from Harvard or Yale.

It’s ironic (if the word has any meaning these days) that at a time when the Democratic party under Clinton and Obama was growing more diverse in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity (which is a good thing) it grew more homogenous in terms of the class background of its leaders.

A Little Recent Midterm History

The party in power usually loses seats in the first midterm election, which makes the first midterm facing any new administration very important. Midterm elections are base elections therefore it’s incumbent upon the party in power to energize its base going into that first midterm. Republicans know this fact; Democrats pretend they don’t.

So in 1994, Bill Clinton took the Democrats into his first midterm by triangulating against the party’s base by wasting “political capital” on passing NAFTA over the vociferous objections of workers, labor unions, environmentalists, and consumer activists; in short, the Democratic base. Clinton’s centrist bullshit going into the 1994 midterms resulted in a 52-seat Democratic loss, ignited the Gingrich Revolution, and ended up creating the Republican majority that impeached his ass.

Things were far different in the 2002 midterms. This time around a Republican administration that didn’t even win the popular vote faced its first midterm. But did George W. Bush triangulate against his party’s base? Hell no. He and Karl Rove (working with the Republican Congress) in October 2002 forced many of the Democratic leaders, including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Joe Biden, and Chuck Schumer, to vote in favor of his war against Iraq even while people representing the Democratic base marched in the streets against it. This betrayal on the part of many Democratic leaders showed cowardice on their part and that the Democrats stood for no principles whatsoever even regarding war and peace. The result was an energized Republican base and a dispirited Democratic one. The GOP held on to its majority in both chambers of Congress. (Going into 2018, Trump and Bannon might seek to follow a similar script forcing a split between the leaders and base of their opponents and the Democrats might sheepishly oblige.)

In 2010, Barack Obama faced his first midterm so of course he did all he could to energize his party’s base, right? Not. He appointed Arne Duncan Secretary of Education who continued the teacher bashing Bush policies of “No Child Left Behind” thereby discouraging just about every public school teacher in America (a feminized profession and among the most reliable parts of the Democratic base). Obama also did nothing to help the millions of underwater mortgage holders who got scammed. Instead, he followed the advice of Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner to use foreclosures as “runway foam” for a safe landing for Wall Street. Obama didn’t jail one Wall Street financial officer even after they ripped off workers’ pensions and brought the whole economy down. He also escalated the war in Afghanistan with 30,000 additional soldiers. The Democratic base limped into 2010 with the predictable result being the “shellacking” of losing 63 House seats that followed. Obama became a lame duck the day John Boehner was sworn in as Speaker of the House.

In 2018, like 2002, there’s a Republican president who lost the popular vote facing his first midterm. We’ll see how Trump and Bannon play this out. One thing is certain: unlike the last two Democratic presidents they’re going to do all they can to fire up their party’s base over the next sixteen months.

This history suggests a kind of Kabuki dance where one party (as if prearranged) purposely stumbles to worsen its chances because its leaders have more in common with their opponents than their own base.

The “Resistance”

We’ve grown far too accustomed to hearing Democrats constantly apologize for their “San Francisco Values” (one of the areas of attack against Jon Ossoff). Instead of standing by their support of government as a force for social good, or their calls for an economy that serves the interests of the vast majority of working people, or their desire for banks and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, and so on, they turn against (as Ossoff did) a $15-an-hour minimum wage and universal health care.

When was the last time you heard a Republican politician apologize for his or her worldview? Even with a pussy-grabbing con artist as their party’s leader they apologize for nothing.

The “Resistance” has so many structural hurdles to jump. The gerrymandering alone has guaranteed that the Republicans control the House of Representatives probably for the next 50 years. And the Senate is terrible because vast windswept states with more antelope than people, like Wyoming, Idaho, the Dakotas, and Montana, will always have their two senators thumping their bibles and trashing Big Gov’mint. With a little voter suppression in the cities, college towns, and liberal suburbs the Republicans can easily win in states like these and will continue to do so.

George W. Bush and now Trump have shamelessly stacked the federal judiciary with far-right ideologues from the Federalist Society. Good Ol’ Mitch has been working overtime on stacking the federal bench with little media attention. Like the Roberts Court, we’ll see countless lower courts rule in favor of corporations over consumers, environmentalists, and workers. It’s a fait accompli.

All of these neat Republican tricks – flooding the political system with money, partisan gerrymandering, voter suppression, stacking the judiciary – have already restructured the “playing field” of American democracy in favor of oligarchy. By the time Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Good Ol’ Mitch get done the country is going to be in deep doo-doo.

It’s kind of ironic (if we can use that word anymore) that the GOP has also garnered a marked advantage in Internet savvy and social media propaganda. As we learned in 2016, the Republicans are expert at using firms like Robert Mercer’s Cambridge Analytica and others to target voters through social media and marketing techniques to tailor specialized propaganda directly to voters based on household on-line behavioral data.

The guys who founded a lot of the cool stuff about the Internet like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg thought they could help humanity in some little way by their efforts. Ha! Instead they’ve turned over a powerful molder of public opinion to oligarchs and plutocrats, authoritarians, white supremacists, and neo-fascists! (Sometimes I think American democracy would be better off if we never moved beyond rotary phones and bulletin boards.)

And it’s foolish to think we can turn to liberal billionaires to save us. As far as “progressive” politics go (although I prefer Tom Steyer over Robert Mercer) there’s not a lot of difference between liberal and conservative billionaires. A billionaire is a billionaire – about as far removed from the lives of the average American worker as a newly discovered life-form on an exoplanet a thousand light-years away.

Today, the Republican Supreme Court is poised to turn the whole nation into a “right to work” country. That means that not only workers, but consumer activists, environmentalists, and civil rights advocates are all going to be pushed back on their heels as corporate power further consolidates. The only thing we can be certain of after Trump signs a budget is ever larger pockets of extreme poverty growing throughout the country and levels of income and wealth inequality worse than we’ve ever experienced as a society. Welcome to the new normal.

Another bummer is that we’re just one mass-casualty attack away from a police state. Although corporate media will never broach the topic virtually all of the terrorism we see today in Europe (and coming soon to a neighborhood near your) is blowback from decades of misguided bipartisan imperial policies.

“But, but Obama got elected . . .” you might say.

Yes. But he was elected before “Citizens United,” “McCutcheon,” and “Shelby;” before the partisan gerrymandering and Kobach’s voter suppression; before the Mercers, fake news, “alternative facts” and Pepe the Frog. And long before anyone in their right mind thought Trump could ever become president.

An Act of Hate Toward an African American Family in Manhattan Beach Brings History Full Circle

When the past is the present

June 22, 2017

Malissia Clinton was on a business trip in 2015 when she received a disturbing call from her husband, Ronald.

Someone had thrown a burning car tire at their Manhattan Beach house, igniting the front door. After getting their three children to safety, Ron doused the flames with a garden hose. Repairing the scorched entryway and smoke damage cost more than $500,000, but the toll was far greater.

The Clintons are African American. “It was clear we were being targeted because of our skin color,” says Malissia, a lawyer who’s lived in the area with her pharmacist husband for more than a decade. Although Manhattan Beach has been home to famous African American residents like Tiger Woods and Shaquille O’Neal, it’s not exactly a bastion of black life.

It never was, though Charles and Willa Bruce tried to make it one when they moved to Manhattan Beach in 1912. The first African American residents to buy land on the beach, they purchased lots between 26th and 27th streets. In 1915, they set about building a resort with lodgings, a dance hall, and a café that served African Americans near a patch of private shoreline. They called it Bruce’s Lodge, and it was soon after dubbed Bruce’s Beach. This was big. African Americans were banned from most L.A. County beaches. “Manhattan Beach had virtually no minority population, and it remained that way for a long, long time,” says local historian Jan Dennis.

Bruce’s Beach

Via the Manhattan Beach Historical Society

Life wasn’t easy for the Bruces. KKK members harassed them, along with any African Americans who went beyond the ropes marking the beach’s boundaries. There were reports of at least one cross burning, abusive phone calls, and bogus restricted parking signs, but the Bruces held on. Then in 1924, the city condemned the property and began proceedings to claim it through eminent domain. Though the Bruces sued, they ultimately lost the property and moved to South L.A.

Recounting his family’s story in a letter to the California Coastal Commission, their grandson, Bernard Bruce, wrote, “My grandparents moved here from New Mexico. They worked on the railroad. They saved their money…. They lost everything when the city took Bruce’s Beach. How would you feel if your family owned the Waldorf and they took it away from you?”

A bather at Bruce’s Beach

The Shades of L.A. Collection, Los Angeles Public Library

What remains is a stone marker in a three-acre park along the Strand that was renamed Bruce’s Beach in 2006. “I felt a connection to it before they even tried to burn down our house,” says Malissia. “Bruce’s Beach represents the black experience, and you don’t need a fire to know the black experience and to be pained by it but to also see the strength in our people.”

She and Ron considered moving but changed their minds after witnessing an outpouring of support, including a $35,000 reward raised by neighbors and a candlelight vigil that attracted hundreds. “It sent a message to us that we were not going to be run out of town because of one stupid act,” says Malissia, who’s given a TED Talk on the topic. “Instead we wanted to teach our kids to stay and fight racial hatred.”

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The perpetrator was never found, so the Clintons donated the reward money to support multicultural programs in the school district. And they donated their charred door to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture for safekeeping.

Rev. William Barber: ‘Voter Suppression Hacked Our Democracy’

… to address systemic poverty, racism and the war economy … charged that they targeted African Americans with "almost surgical … lost. They included many African Americans born in segregated hospitals … the effect of diluting African American voting strength in … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

When Prejudice is Holding a Gun

Philando Castile, an African-American man from St. Paul, MN, died in a hospital on July 6, 2016, from a gun wound inflicted during a traffic stop by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony (MN) police officer.

CC 2.0 by Tony Webster via Flickr (cropped)

CC 2.0 by Tony Webster via Flickr (cropped)

This past Friday, on June 23, 2017, a jury acquitted Yanez of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.

Video of the immediate aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed on social media by Philando’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. The video, which showed a bloodied and dying Castile, went viral and further fanned the flames of tensions over a rash of highly publicized incidents of police shootings of African-American men.

Officially, Yanez pulled Castile over for a broken tail-light. However, in a call to an officer in another squad car, Yanez made note of a physical similarity he noticed between the driver (Castile) and a suspect in an earlier armed robbery: a “wide-set nose.” For many observers, this detail raised the specter of racial profiling–or at the very least, stereotyping. If Yanez acted on a stereotype—that stereotype would prove deadly for Castile, an elementary school cafeteria worker who had his four-year old daughter in the car—and who had nothing to do with an armed robbery.

A year ago, this incident raised public consciousness about the consequences of systemic prejudice in policing. And it spurred calls, once again, for systemic change.

The day after Castile was killed, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton asked, “Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white?” His own answer was. “I don’t think it would have.”

Dayton was pointing out the problem of prejudice. We’re all prejudiced. But when that prejudice affects something as serious as police work and when lives are at stake—when prejudice is holding a gun—the results can be tragic.

In Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson point out that prejudices are natural results of human information processing. The mind sorts out data and experiences into categories. Categories, they say, is just a “nicer” synonym for stereotypes.

Stereotypes are “energy saving devices” which

Allow us to make efficient decisions on the basis of past experiences; they help us quickly process new information, retrieve memories, identify real differences between groups, and predict, often with considerable accuracy, how others will behave or think. We wisely rely on stereotypes and the quick information they give us to avoid danger, approach possible new friends, choose one school or job over another, or decide that that person across this crowded room will be the love of our lives. (75)

Stereotyping is natural and inevitable; we’d have a difficult time living in a complex social world without them. And we’re hardwired to split up the social world into categories, positioning ourselves (myself and my group) in relation to others. Tavris and Aronson assert that “Us is the most fundamental social category in the brain’s organizing system…” (76).

The downside of categorizing is that that stereotypes don’t always work and they can be downright false. False stereotypes are perpetuated through socialization and the false narratives we tell each other, even in the face of contradictory evidence.

Research performed through the Yale Child Study Center recently showed that preschool teachers are biased to expect bad behavior in black children more than in white children. As researcher Walter Gilliam put it,

“What we found was exactly what we expected based on the rates at which children are expelled from preschool programs,” Gilliam says. “Teachers looked more at the black children than the white children, and they looked specifically more at the African-American boy.”[1]

The study reveals the pervasiveness, effectiveness, and troubling consequences of implicit bias. In this case, the expectation of bad behavior in black boys led them to “find” that bad behavior precisely where they expected it, even though their actual behavior did not differ from that of the other children in the study. No wonder black children are 3.6 times more likely to be expelled than white children. The expectation, the bias, creates the reality, which leads to a vicious cycle of confirmation—with unintended but unfortunate outcomes.

Those who unreflectively rely on stereotypes live in an “us versus them” (or “us versus not-us”) world, accepting uncritically the categories that have been created and handed down. Their prejudices emerge from and serve to confirm the way the social world has been categorized and narrated.

When enough people with similar prejudices, overlapping false narratives about the “us” and the “them,” have designed the architecture of an “us versus them world,” genuine differences are flattened out and those who have been designated the “not-us” often find themselves swimming upstream, on the out, or looking at the barrel of a gun that should never have been pointed at them.

To stop and think reflectively on inherited stereotypes takes time and energy. Such reflection raises the prospect of “cognitive dissonance,” when our natural assumptions, beliefs, and prejudices bump up against alternative evidence and counter-examples. The tension created by the input of new (often better) information is a cognitive dissonance that will only be resolved by either ignoring the new information and retreating to the old stereotype, or by changing one’s perspective.

To be fair to the situations that police officers sometimes find themselves in, they don’t have the time and energy, in the heat of a potentially volatile moment, to do that critical work. There isn’t often time or energy for cognitive dissonance.

That work must be done before that moment. Prejudices, biases, “self-delusions,” and so on, takes time, intentionality, and work to deal with as individuals. Imagine the kind of work it will take to change a flawed system.

But that’s exactly what Tavris and Aronson suggest, as they point as an example to the project of a law professor, Andrew McClurg, who proposes a plan for training law enforcement rookies which utilizes the research on cognitive dissonance and which calls on,

Their own self-concept as good guys fighting crime and violence. He proposes a program of integrity training in dealing with ethical dilemmas, in which cadets would be instilled with the values of telling the truth and doing the right thing as a central part of their emerging professional identity (199).

If an officer can be motivated to act on the basis of his or her “own self-concept” as a good person, then any action that would run counter to that (thereby raising cognitive dissonance), such as shooting an innocent person for no good reason, should be avoided at all costs.

As part of preparation for being a good officer, one should also seek to make untrue and false biases known and to correct them with better information and more adequate narratives.

But, on its own, that proposal seems naïve and perhaps shifts too much of the burden to the police officer. If implicit bias runs that deep into the subconscious, can we really expect that anti-racism and other bias-uncovering training can solve the systemic problem? Such efforts need to be accompanied by other more drastic and material measures, including stricter gun control legislation, a de-militarized police force, and more systematic incorporation of mental health care and social health care workers in situations of crisis and potential conflict.

The system needs change. It needs to reckon with the innate human ability to create stereotypes and our propensity to act on the basis of those (false but unchecked) stereotypes. And it needs to account for the tragic consequences that too often occur when prejudice is holding a gun.

[1] “Bias Isn’t Just a Police Problem, it’s a Preschool Problem” (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/09/28/495488716/bias-isnt-just-a-police-problem-its-a-preschool-problem)

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White population grows least as US becomes more diverse, Census says

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is growing older and more ethnically diverse, a trend that could strain government programs from Medicare to education, the Census Bureau reported Thursday.

Every ethnic and racial group grew between 2015 and 2016, but the number of whites continued to increase at the slowest rate — less than one hundredth of 1 percent, or 5,000 people, the Census estimate shows. That’s a fraction of the rates of growth for non-white Hispanics, Asians and people who said they are multi-racial, according to the government’s annual estimates of population.

President Donald Trump’s core support in the racially divisive 2016 election came from white voters, and polls showed that it was especially strong among those who said they felt left behind in an increasingly racially diverse country. In fact, the Census Bureau projects whites will remain in the majority in the U.S. until after 2040.

“Even then, (whites) will still represent the nation’s largest plurality of people, and even then they will still inherit the structural advantages and legacies that benefit people on the basis of having white skin,” said Justin Gest, author of “The New Minority,” a book about the 2016 election.

AN AGING NATION

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The Villages

FILE- In this Sept. 21, 2008 file photo, William LeBeau, 86, right, sits in his golf cart in a parking spot at the main square in The Villages, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Phelan M. Ebenhack

The Census Bureau reported that the median age of Americans — the age at which half are older and half are younger — rose nationally from just over 35 years to nearly 38 years in the years between 2000 and 2016, driven by the aging of the “baby boom” generation.

The number of residents age 65 and older grew from 35 million to 49.2 million during those 16 years, jumping from 12 percent of the total population to 15 percent.

That’s a costly leap for taxpayers as those residents move to Medicare, government health care for seniors and younger people with disabilities, which accounted for $1 out of every $7 in federal spending last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. By 2027, it will cost $1 out of every $6 of federal money spent. Net Medicare spending is expected to nearly double over the next decade, from $592 billion to $1.2 trillion, the KFF reported.

Sumter County, Florida, home of The Villages, a large retirement community, had the highest median age increase, rising from 49 years old in 2000 to 67 years old in 2016. Over that time period, 56 U.S. counties showed a median age increase of 10 years or more.

The Nation's Median Age Continues to Rise[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

BOOM IN YOUNG PEOPLE

The Census report also showed that children in the U.S. born from 2001 through 2016 were the nation’s fastest-growing age group, with a 6.8 percent jump in the year beginning July 1, 2015. Other age groups either lost or gained population by less than a percentage point, according to the Census Bureau.

That means more demand on taxpayers for schools, bilingual education and accommodations for English language learners, as well as recruiting a corps of educators that reflects the nation’s students. Robert Hull, executive vice president of the National Association of State Boards of Education, said a majority of students in the U.S. are not white, but that 82 percent of teachers are white.

“It’s not just the services offered or what we do for the students but who is delivering those services,” Hull said.

The number of English language learners in U.S. public schools was about 4.6 million in the 2014-2015 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

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Barry Tomasetti

This photo taken July 21, 2014 shows Kennett Consolidated School District Superintendent Barry Tomasetti meeting with young students in teacher Jane Cornell’s summer school class at Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center in Kennett Square, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Matt Rourke

FACE OF A NATION

All race and ethnic groups grew in the year before July 1, 2016, the Census reported.

The Asian population and those who identified as being of two or more races grew by 3 percent each, to 21 million and 8.5 million, respectively. Hispanics grew by 2 percent to 57.5 million. The black population grew by 1.2 percent to nearly 47 million.

The number of non-Hispanic whites grew by only 5,000, leaving that population relatively steady at 198 million of the nation’s 325 million people.

A Pew Research Center analysis of the Census’ current population survey found that white turnout increased in the 2016 election, while black turnout dropped and the nonwhite share of the U.S. electorate remained flat compared with the 2012 election.

“Any sort of impact on politics may be several decades in the future,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research for the Pew Research Center.

California had both the largest number of whites and non-white Hispanics in 2016, 30 million and 15.3 million, respectively.

Texas had the largest numeric increase in both the white and non-white Hispanic populations.

As for the share of a state’s overall population, New Mexico had the highest percentage of nonwhite Hispanics at 48.5 percent. Maine had the largest percentage of whites, nearly 97 percent.

Population growth statistics at a glance:

  • The Hispanic population (including all races) grew by 2.0 percent to 57.5 million.
  • The Asian population grew by 3.0 percent to 21.4 million.
  • The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population grew by 2.1 percent to 1.5 million.
  • The American Indian and Alaska Native population grew by 1.4 percent to 6.7 million.
  • The black or African-American population grew by 1.2 percent to 46.8 million.
  • The white population grew by 0.5 percent to 256.0 million.
  • Those who identified as being of two or more races grew by 3.0 percent to 8.5 million.
  • The non-Hispanic white alone population grew by 5,000 people, remaining at 198.0 million.

Physical fitness, sleep, eating properly key to healthy living

The Army is well-known for its physical fitness standards, but for Lt. Col. Devon “Dru” Roberts, a program analyst and action officer with Army Warrior Care Transition, being physically fit is a personal endeavor.

“My father was a Type 2 diabetic. He smoked for 30 years and drank Pepsi every day,” Roberts explained. “Although he was a Vietnam veteran and career Soldier, the retired Master Sergeant hated drinking water and exercising—particularly after retiring. He also suffered from kidney cancer and failure. My mother drank Dr. Pepper every day and ate heavy foods (fried and southern inspired). She suffered from high blood pressure and was a chronic smoker for 40 years. She survived a brain aneurysm in 2001. She also suffered from (arterial derived) dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, lung and kidney cancer.

Growing up around physically active siblings and a near 20-year career in the Army prompted Roberts to put his health front and center.

“I’m an avid soccer player,” said Roberts. ”I played for the city, high school, intramural league and the military while deployed. In college, I participated in the Reserve Officer Training Program, so running and weights were statutory. I worked out five to six days a week, 45-60 minutes each day. Although I no longer lift weights, I started calisthenics six months ago and I still work out five to six days a week, 60 minutes each day and attempt to walk at least 10,000 plus steps a day. Physical fitness was a critical component in my success in the ROTC program and is now a part of my everyday life,” said Col. Travis Richardson, a board certified internist at Fort Belvoir, Va. and chief, Clinical Liaison Division, Warrior Care and Transition.

“Being active and physically fit is essential for good health. We know from reliable research that there is an inverse relationship between physical activity/fitness and health. In other words the more physically active a person is, the lower the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and obesity.

“This is especially vital within the Army as Soldiers must be fit in order to maintain readiness and to perform all of the required tasks to fight and win the nation’s wars. Programs within the Army such as Move to Health and the Performance Triad assists Soldiers in this effort.”

The military’s Performance Triad consists of sleep, activity and nutrition. A system Roberts says he found as a key to keeping fit.

“Earlier in life, I ate relatively well but didn’t really adjust my diet until college and beyond,” Roberts aid. “I reduced my bread and sugar intake and stopped eating pork. I gave up milk and beef after researching its impact on African-American men.

“Currently, my diet consists of fish and poultry and lots of vegetables. I also consume organic vegetable-based protein drinks to ensure I receive the proper amount of protein my body requires to maintain and build muscle along with taking a daily multivitamin. The body knows what it becomes accustomed to. I become tired and lethargic whenever I
ate foods that were fried, excess in sugar and fatty. My body lets me know within 24 hours just how wrong I was in my eating decisions.”

According to medical officials with the Defense Health Agency, adopting attitudes such as Roberts’ that foster healthy lifestyle choices are beneficial. While men and women have many of the same health concerns, men may be affected differently than women. In addition, there are some conditions which are unique to men. Familiarity with men’s health issues, regular screenings and prevention are essential to maintaining good physical wellness.

“Those components are extremely important.
Army medicine has been changing the conversation to move from health care and managing chronic diseases to a system for health that
is designed to prevent disease and injury, restore health, and improve health through education and self-empowerment, “Richardson said. “This is especially important for men as the life expectancy for men is about six to seven years less than women.

“There are several reasons for this difference but one of the reasons is cardiovascular disease, which can be impacted positively by healthy behaviors and activities.”

“I believe my family’s history was a blueprint for my healthy life style,” said Roberts.

“Whether you’re in the
military or not, you’re only given one life and one
body—it’s essential you take care of it.” n