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Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America
Princeton University Press
Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government
Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard College Professor
Lecturer at HKS
The book analyzes changes in the American racial order since the late twentieth century; it encompasses politics, economics, demography, social practices, laws and policies, history, and public opinion. We include original data analyses, but nothing beyond what a person with ordinary arithmetic skills can readily understand. The book is replete with striking quotations or revealing anecdotes mainly culled from recent events.
The American racial order associated with the 1960s’ civil rights movement, opening of immigration, and Great Society is undergoing a cumulative, wide-ranging, partly unintentional and partly deliberate, transformation. If that transformation persists, it will benefit the United States as a whole and most residents. It may, however, harm some Americans and it will probably leave some out.
We define the components of any racial order. We then use those components to examine how the American order is changing because of the combination of four forces: immigration, multiracialism, genomic science, and generational change. Cumulatively, these forces increase heterogeneity within each racial or ethnic group, and decrease the distance separating groups from each other; those are the crucial mechanisms of change. Individuals are moving across or breaking down group boundaries; more people reject conventional racial categories; genomic science challenges the whole concept of race. Economic variation within groups is increasing, and the traditional hierarchy of whites on top and blacks on the bottom is breaking down. Demography is reshaping political choices and strategies.
Above all, young adults understand and practice race differently from their elders; their formative memories are 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Obama’s election, not civil rights marches, riots, or the early stages of immigration. Other factors inhibit transformation or harm some Americans: wealth disparities among groups, incarceration, the declining status of undocumented migrants and Muslims, and the harms attendant on declining group solidarity. Americans’ political and personal choices over the next decade will shape the extent of transformation, its beneficiaries, and what kinds of people are left out or harmed. We envision not a post-racial America but a different racial America, in which race and ethnicity still matter but in ways chosen by individuals rather than constitutive of life chances.
"This is a wide-ranging exploration of how America looks, thinks, and lives in terms of race as we go into this new millennium. Bridging political science, sociology, and the burgeoning study of DNA, the authors show us that racial order remains one of the most reliable ways of organizing our past and present as Americans, even as that order is dynamic and indeed transformed over time.”
—Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard University
“It is not often that one reads a book that changes how we think the world works. Creating a New Racial Order is replete with original, and sometimes surprising, insights and evidence on the forces that are generating rising racial heterogeneity in the United States. The authors’ compelling analysis of the ongoing transformation of America’s racial order is a must-read.”
—William Julius Wilson, Harvard University
“Showing how historical trends have produced an unprecedented complexity and fluidity in racial meanings, classifications, and identities in the United States, this book argues that the American racial order is changing for the better and explains why this is happening. Bold and provocative, this book is a game changer.”
—Claire Jean Kim, University of California, Irvine