By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
More diverse than ever
The word “diversity,” like almost every word in 2022 America, has become weaponized, dense with culture war baggage. As with every word or term caught in the crossfire of our polarized philosophical trench-warfare, where both sides refuse to budge or negotiate – or even listen, or even recognize the shifting world around them.
Do those who hate or feel threatened by diversity fear it in the big picture, global or national sense or in the individual, personal next-door-neighbor sense?
Lack of diversity is an entirely different dynamic.
According to the most recent census, 2020’s least diverse county was Starr County on the Texas-Mexico border – with a population that was 98% Hispanic.
I’m not sure if non-diverse counties like Starr County are what opponents of “diversity” have in mind, but it fits their ideal in numbers if not in spirit.
Whatever it is that some seem to believe we ever were, or should be in the future, the demographic reality is that the literal face, tone and texture of America is changing. Our sports to our cultural high holy days – like Superbowl Sunday – were, like many towns and cities across America, becoming more and more diverse, until they, like most NBA teams (and Superbowl commercials), took on a less and less diverse appearance – numerically speaking.
And of course, less and less white.
Not so different from Oscar nights, congressional delegations – and more and more neighborhoods.
Demographically speaking, “diversity” is unavoidable and undeniable.
Based on recent census numbers, every state and Washington, DC became more diverse between 2010 and 2020.
The non-Hispanic white population share dropped in every state, but increased in Washington, DC.
To no one’s surprise, the Hispanic population share grew in every state.
Equally unsurprising, the Asian population grew in all but one state, Hawaii, where it has been, and remains the largest demographic group.
The word “diversity” in other words, is not the correct term that captures who and what we are in the 2020s.
You can see the fine print on American diversity here: https://usafacts.org/articles/us-diversity-2020-race-ethnicity/?.
Least diverse states
As a whole, nationwide, whites compose 57.8% of the population.
But that group has decreased from 63.7% in the last decade, while the multiracial population has increased from 9 million people to 33.8 million in the last 10 years – a 276% increase.
But, as always, averages are never specific.
Some states are far less racially diverse than others, falling well below the national average of 61.1%, according to the Census Bureau’s diversity index
The least diverse state of the 50 United States is Maine – which is 90% white. That means, even in the least diverse state, one of ten citizens is not white.
You might not think of Vermont and West Virginia as having much in common – but they both come in as tied in second place when it comes to (lack of) diversity, at a shade over 89% (89.1% to be exact.)
Wyoming is a few notches down at 81.4% white.
Most diverse states
Hawaii is, by far, the most mixed. Here’s some numbers: 36.77% Asian, 24% mixed, 21.57% white, 10.74% Hispanic, 10% Native Hawaiian or Islander and 2% black.
Hawaii is the third most economically diverse state – meaning there’s a huge gap between the rich and the poor – and very few in the middle. When it comes to religion, 3% of people in Honolulu are Buddhist.
And diversity is reflected in food; if you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you’d know this is also a melting pot of cuisine. There’s poke, poi, pineapple, spam musubi, laulau, plate lunch, and of course, shaved ice.
Coming in at second place is California.
California (as of 2020) is 36.51% white, 39.09% Hispanic, 14.6% Asian, and 5.44% African American.
While most people assume California’s diversity stems from its Hispanic population, in fact, it’s the Asian population that’s fueling and sustaining the majority of the growth here. California has the nation’s highest Chinese population. California also has the most foreign born residents – 27% of California’s population (in 2020) was born outside of the US. In contrast, in West Virginia, that number is 1%.
And then there is Texas
Demographics are changing Texas. 41.38% are white, 39.44% are Hispanic, with the other 20% black or Asian.
Maryland is the second least white state after New Mexico. Here, half the population is white. About a third are African American, about 10% are Hispanic, and about 7% are Asian. Baltimore is the biggest reason Maryland has such a high black population. Baltimore is 63% black, which makes it the 5th most African American city in the country.
As an indicator of how cities change, back in 1940, Baltimore was 80% white.
You can see details on the percentage of recent immigrants to American cities here: https://backgroundchecks.org/cities-largest-immigrant-population.html.
Some of those I know that rage about “diversity” don’t care about diversity at all – they just want to maintain a familiar social system and a racial balance where everyone knows (and stays) where they belong – and nothing changes – at least for themselves. Their worst nightmare is a rapidly destabilizing power structure.
People of color who hold political power, or are seen in the pages of school textbooks drive some to distraction.
These fears are drawing many into unlikely alliances.
I know some people who support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for example, precisely because they see Russia as taking a stand against the liberal/multi-cultural/Western decadence best represented by the United States.
This mindset is spreading across the USA in an unlikely place – the Russian Orthodox Church. You can see more on this convergence of trends here: https://www.npr.org/2022/05/10/1096741988/orthodox-christian-churches-are-drawing-in-far-right-american-converts?.
I’ve always been intrigued by how some people define diversity. Is it those of a different race or religion? Place of birth? Nationality? Length of time within our borders?
Our duplicity about “diversity” and even immigration are laid bare by the flood of assistance for Ukrainian refugees. The support and assistance for Ukrainian refugees far outweighs aid for those from Haiti, Sudan, Syria, El Salvador and a dozen more. Is it because Ukranians, with their blond hair and blue eyes don’t match our model of “immigrants”?
What happened to families?
And, according to the 2020 Census, Americans are getting older and more of us are living alone.
Besides housing costs, housing expectations are changing. As are building codes, zoning and neighborhood regulations.
The standard 2-3 bedroom home is not suitable – or affordable for singles. And co-housing arrangements of various sizes (and designs) are ever more popular.
From tiny homes to something like urban dorms, this is not your father’s housing market.
Immigration made up 62.3% of annual growth as births decreased and deaths increased.
The population grew by 392,665 from 2020 to 2021, or 0.1%, the lowest annual growth rate since the nation’s founding.
As of 2022, with a foreign-born population of more than 44 million, the U.S. has the largest number of immigrants in the world. In fact, research from the Pew Research Center shows that the U.S. immigrant population accounts for one-fifth of the world’s migrants. Some cities, like Seattle, record almost 20% as foreign born.
To see an overview of how America is changing, take a look here: https://usafacts.org/state-of-the-union/population/?.
Diversity in other areas
One of the many ironies of opposing diversity is the literal fact that diversity is inherent – and essential in every level and area of life from intestinal bacteria to the advantage of multiple income streams to healthy forest lands to varieties of sources to prevent supply chain problems and many more.
Mono-cultures in agriculture, intestinal bacteria and local, if not global economies are the most vulnerable to attacks or internal collapse.
Consider the clothing in your closet – I’d guess that most, if not all, are blends of some kind, taking advantage of the strengths and durability of each material.
That’s how human bodies, natural ecosystems and economies large and small function – with an ever changing range of nutrients, inputs and possibilities.