June 14th, 2007 09:16 EST
Black America and the Numbers Game
Given our unique history, one would expect African- Americans to be more supportive of undocumented workers, many of them filling the low-paying jobs once held by Blacks. Like many Whites, Blacks are quick to say the estimated 12 million immigrants who entered this country illegally should be deported.
But that's not realistic, as many of the blowhards on Capitol Hill already know. A study by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, found that expelling undocumented workers would cost from $206 billion to $230 billion over a 5-year period. Taking the low figure, that would be $41.2 billion a year. Even worse, the effort would reach only 20 percent of illegal immigrants.
That reality doesn't stop politicians from grandstanding for the folks back home. Consequently, both President Bush and Democrats looked silly when Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Some African-Americans are clashing with Latinos. There are gang wars on the streets of Los Angeles, prison inmates are dueling, and some poor Blacks are angry that many once all-Black neighborhoods have be taken over by Latinos. There is no denying that those tensions exist. But underneath the friction, there is one element driving the gulf between Blacks and Latinos, two groups that should be allies: a numbers game.
Comparing Blacks to Hispanics is a false equation. Latinos are not a race - they are an ethnic group. In fact, they can select their race on Census forms and more than half identify with being White. Therefore, Hispanics can't be "White" and a "minority" at the same time. Let me rephrase that: they shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways.
The Census Bureau reported a month ago that people of color now number 100.7 million in the United States, a figure larger than all but 11 countries. People of color are the majority in four states and the District of Columbia. Hawaii leads the way with 68 percent, followed by D.C. (68 percent), New Mexico and California (each at 57 percent) and Texas (52 percent).
"Hispanic remained the largest minority group, with 44.3 million on July 1, 2006 - 14.8 percent of the total population," the Census Bureau said in a press release. "Black was the second-largest minority group, totaling 40.2 million in 2006. They were followed by Asians (14.9 million), American Indian and Alaska Native (4.5 million) and Other Pacific Islander (1 million). The population of non-Hispanic whites who indicated no other race totaled 198.7 million in 2006."
Let's look at that again. There are 40.2 million Blacks and 44.3 million Hispanics. But that's not where the fear factor kicks in. Another Census release show that the Latino population will double as a percentage of the U.S. population, from 12.6 percent in 2000 to 24.4 percent in 2050. The White population will decline during that period, from 69.4 percent to 50.1 percent before slipping to minority status less than a decade later.
While most of the public attention is focused understandably on the phenomenal Latino growth, it's not like African-Americans are doing a disappearing act. The Black population will grow from 35.8 million in 2000 to 61.3 million in 2050; it has already reached a record high 40 million. As a share of the total population, the Black percentage will rise from 12.7 percent in 2000 to 14.6 percent in 2050.
People of color are projected to have a combined annual spending power of $3 trillion in 2011, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. By then, Hispanic buying power would have jumped from $212 billion in 1990 to $1.2 trillion in 2011, a 457 percent increase.
Again, Black dollars will be nothing to sneeze at. Black spending power, which stood at $318 billion in 1990, will rise to $1.1 trillion in 2011, a 237 percent increase in 22 years. White buying power is expected to grow by only 175 percent over that same period. As a percentage of total buying power, the Black share will increase from 7.4 percent in 1990 to 8.7 percent in 2011. That means that within four years, African- American consumers will account for almost nine cents of every dollar spent in the U.S.
Black buying power is even greater in certain states, according to the Selig Center research. From 1990 to 2006, African-Americans represented 31.1 percent of total buying power in the District of Columbia, 24 percent in Mississippi, 22 percent in Maryland, 20.5 percent in Georgia, 20.3 percent in Louisiana, 18.4 percent in South Carolina, 17.3 percent in Alabama, 14.6 percent in Delaware, 14.5 percent in North Carolina and 13.1 percent in Virginia.
The reality is that Latinos are growing faster than any other group. But African-Americans shouldn't fear that spurt. Both our numbers and dollars continue to increase beyond today's level. And if Blacks and Latinos really work on mending political fences, both groups would enjoy greater political clout. Combined, the numbers are awesome. Divided, it's still the old divide-and-conquer numbers game.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com.