Let me first open this blog post up with a positive - Happy Filipino American History Month! And Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month! Here are some interesting Filipino-American and Latino-American reads. Bet’cha didn’t know that ‘boondocks’ originated from a Tagalog word, or that the first admiral of the US Navy was a Spanish American. Now you know.
Onto more pressing matters, we’re currently on Day 11 of the #GOPShutdown. If you have been following the news then you know that 19,000 children don’t have access to Head Start, $1 billion in business loans are unavailable for small businesses, 9 million women and children are cut from food aid, over 400 parks are closed, and over 800,000 workers are furloughed. See, this is why I wanted to start with a positive. How did we get to this point?
This will seem like a tangent, but it is related. Trust me. This month the National Geographic featured New York-based photographer Martin Schoeller in an article titled, “The Changing Face of America”. Schoeller, known for his “hyper-detailed close ups”, captured the breathtaking faces of our post-Black-White country. The images sparked me to write this piece; to ask the question of where are we as a nation now that the racial lines are blurring at a rapid pace. Since the late 18th century, human beings were classified into five categories - red, yellow, brown, black, and white. But Schoeller’s photographs beg us to redesign these antiquated classifications of a human being.
Though America has made significant strides, I argue that we aren’t living in a post-racial society (ex. Trayvon Martin and Dr. Prabhjot Singh). However, we also aren’t living in a society that can be solely defined by the Black-White binary paradigm. So where are we? At a moment in history when we have our first Black president and a growing People of Color population, what is our new paradigm? Is it time for the New American Majority to break the old-school racial relations model?
In order to answer this question, we need to address what the Black-White binary paradigm does highlight - that the power of color exists, and we must realize its full potential. This is still true today. If we look at just political power, the New American Majority lacks parity. Let me illustrate in a state like North Carolina. Currently, its People of Color population composes 36% of the state’s population. However, 81% of the state legislature is Caucasian.
For an even bigger picture, 35% of the total US population is People of Color. But in the 113th Congress, People of Color hold less than 18% of the seats. Out of the 7383 state legislator seats, People of Color electeds make up only 14%. If the power of our government lies in the hands of individuals who do not speak for, understand, or represent our communities, then it is no wonder as to why we’re in this current situation of a #GOPShutdown (and a laundry list of crazy state policies being passed around the country that hurt our communities). The power of color does exist, and the New American Majority must find a way to grab hold of its equal share to be included and valued equally in society.
And with that, I leave you with this thought. Despite the fact that renowned artist Martin Schoeller can photograph, display, and be featured in magazines about the drastically changing faces of America, our nation’s politics do not come close to including this realization. Will it take more art and culture for us to “see” this newer racial relations model in all intersections? Or will this realization just plainly be viewed as ‘art’?