By 2050 or so white people will be a minority in the United States, just one ethnic group among many. They will not possess a disproportionate amount of the nation’s wealth, nor will their particular folkways be the default national culture. The whole notion of skin color based ethnicity will lose its power, though ethnicity will remain as important as ever. There will still be Russians, Hmong, Jews, Tamils, Lebanese, and some variety of pan-European mutt called white. Second-generation Somali immigrants and the descendants of 19th century west African slaves will feel varying degrees of affinity for and distance from one another, but no one will say they belong to the same group merely because an earlier generation of Europeans would have thought they looked alike. (“They don’t look alike,” someone born in 2030 would say. “No more than Swedes look like Sicilians.”) The descendants of west African slaves will remain a culturally distinct group, and many will develop a prickly nativist pride in having been the “original” Americans. (Which, when you think about it, they were.) A shared sense of national seniority and tradition of military service will unite “black” and “white” Americans into a consistently jingoistic voting block in the mid 21st century. Motorcycle and prison gangs will divide themselves up along lines that would seem utterly surreal today. There will still be pockets of intractable poverty that trace their origin back to slavery’s long echo, but they won’t define an entire ethnic group’s relation to society any more than the entrenched poverty of Appalachia represents something essential about what it means to be white.
Elderly people in 2050 will be confused by the younger generation’s attitudes. We will have spent our whole lives learning how to scold someone for their unconscious racism, but when some kid makes a disparaging remark about Nigerians and we call him on it, he’ll respond, “What do you mean? I don’t like Nigerians. You’re the one who brought all black people into it. You’re the racist.” The notion that everyone who can trace their family tree back to central or south America belongs to the same (race? ethnic group?) called “Latino” will simply make no sense. “Because they speak Spanish? Does that mean Malians and Québecois are the same race too?” (But whatever you do, do not wonder aloud “What does ‘race’ even mean anyway?” because that’s just begging for some old geezer to yammer on endlessly.) Elderly whites’ reflexive shows of cultural sensitivity will be taken as the condescension of a bygone era. A black septuagenarian will attempt to engage in a bit of good-natured solidarity with a 25 year-old Eritrean trust fund baby who will literally not know how to respond. There will, perversely, come to be a generational identity built around the notion of racial difference. Kids today don’t understand that some degree of inter-group friction is necessary in order for multiculturalism to flourish. In its dotage, our generation will believe that we were the ones who solved humanity’s ethnic conundrum, striking the ideal balance between diversity and uniformity, and it’s been all downhill ever since.