The melting pot is about to be gently stirred.
While the U.S. Census estimates America's whites will become a minority in 2043 - making the country majority-minority - a group says that future is already here. Most of us are multicultural, according to the research and marketing firm EthniFacts, by virtue of where we live and who we marry, among other things.
The group is gathering Friday in New York City's Times Square to unveil their EthniFacts CulturEdge Countdown Clock on a nearby digital billboard, which will count down to Friday, August 22, at 7:46pm Eastern as the time America reached its "Multicultural Tipping Point."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. is currently roughly 17 percent Hispanic, 13 percent African-American, and 5 percent Asian, and almost 78 percent white.
In contrast, EthniFacts said we have reached a multiethnic “tipping point” date by using an algorithm that takes into account multiracial populations, intermarried couples, cohabitating households, and people living in multi-ethnic areas – rather than using only individual-based data like the Census Bureau.
“What we do is look at the numbers in a different way,” said Mike Lakusta, CEO and Founding Partner of EthniFacts. “We use Census data - we just interpret it differently. We think that our way provides a truer picture of how the country is changing.”
For example, his firm would count many white residents of majority-minority cities and towns such as El Paso, Texas (majority-Hispanic population) or Monterey Park, California (majority-Asian population) as multicultural Americans. Already, 7 out of the 15 most populous U.S. cities are majority-minority.
Lakusta notes that his firm prefers the term “ambicultural” over “bicultural” to describe many Hispanics. “Bi-cultural has often been understood to mean that it is a way station on the journey to assimilation. Ambi-cultural is more accurate, because it means that people are fluent in two cultures and they live emphatically in both,” he said.
For its part, the U.S. Census Bureau has been refining the way they count Hispanics. Their 2010 Census categorization changes yielded very different results among Latinos compared to 2000, and the Bureau is currently looking at significant changes in how they ask about race and ethnicity.
When asked to comment on EthniFacts’ population projections, a public affairs official for the Census Bureau said in an email that the Bureau “can't speak to alternative methodologies for counting the population.”
Guy Garcia, President of New Mainstream Initiatives at EthniFacts, said “we would never say that the Census is wrong...We are saying it is incomplete.” He pointed out to the millions of people who have checked multiple boxes for “race” and “other” in previous Census forms.
“People can be multicultural by marriage, by interest, by family connections, or simply by embracing a diversity that is appealing to them," said Garcia. He cites Eminem as a white American who has embraced African-American music and culture in his public life. “He is multicultural by attitude, by choice.”
Mark Hugo Lopez, Director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center, said that his organization generally adheres to the Census Bureau’s timeline of the multi-cultural tipping point coming sometime around 2050. “The (EthniFacts) calculations seems to use a broad definition of race and mixed identity,” Lopez said, “but there is a case to be made for it. Their methodology is one way of looking at the data.” Lopez noted that Hispanics had one of the highest rates of intermarriage (marrying non-Hispanics), so “there are definitely trends going in the direction of a increasingly multicultural society.”
NPR and PBS journalist Maria Hinojosa, who is participating in Friday's "multicultural tipping point countdown," said it is a significant time in our history.
“I am very excited about this moment,” said Hinojosa. “The demographic shift that we are living through right now is going to change the country forever. The America that I see is very diverse, yet this is often not reflected in the news media," she added. "We are putting a mirror up to the country and saying this is who we are, and that we are okay with it.”
Hinojosa, who created the nonprofit Futuro Media Group, is chronicling the shifts in the national cultural landscape in “America By The Numbers,” a new documentary series that premieres October 4th on PBS.
The Latina journalist acknowledges that some Americans might be wary about the changes in society. “I think the fear is there, the discomfort is real,” she said. “What I tell people is, don’t be scared, because the changes are not coming; we are living them now. How you be afraid of an experience you are already having?”