2017 DiversityInc Top 50 Announcement Event

Steve Phillips Explains to Corporate Executives Why ‘Brown is the New White’

“Every single day, there are 7,000 new people of color added to the U.S. population, and 1,000 whites,” author Steve Phillips said.

Civil rights attorney Steve Phillips, author of the New York Times bestselling book “Brown Is the New White,” told some of the nation’s top thought leaders and corporate executives committed to diversity and inclusion that a “New American Majority” is “transforming all manners of modern society.”

Phillips was the keynote speaker at DiversityInc’s fall conference, “Conquering Recruiting Challenges,” on Wednesday in Newark, New Jersey. He said the United States’ rapidly changing demographics make progressive people of color and progressive whites the “New American Majority.” This has created a new American market of diverse consumers and a new talent pool.

Phillips said that in the workplace highly talented people of color are often “hiding in plain sight” and used the entertainment industry as an example. He said the now widely famous Lee Daniels, co-creator of Fox’s “Empire”; actress Taraji P. Henson, a star of the show; and Shonda Rhimes, creator, executive producer and showrunner of ABC’s “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” all have had long careers in the industry.

“They were there all along, hiding in plain sight waiting to be believed in, invested in, promoted and empowered,” Phillips, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said.

Viewers who comprise the New American Majority have given TV shows with diverse casts astronomical ratings, thus propelling Daniels, Henson and Rhimes’ careers.

“The success of TV shows like ‘Empire’ and ‘Scandal’ is a testament to the fact that the composition, character and identity of America are changing rapidly,” he said.

“This demographic revolution is transforming all manners of modern society from the shows that we watch to the markets that we serve, to the employees we hire, to the presidents we elect.”

View full speech.

As Phillips explains in “Brown is the New White,” in the four decades since Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, the percentage of people of color in America has tripled, which he said ushered in a new political era for a lasting New American Majority.

“Every single day, there are 7,000 new people of color added to the U.S. population, and 1,000 whites,” Phillips said. “So every hour, every minute, the country is getting increasingly diverse.”

Latinos are the largest minority group in the country, he said, comprising about 55 million people, “and only 18 percent of Latinos are undocumented.”

“The fastest growing group is actually Asian Americans,” Phillips added.

Report: Whites No Longer Majority, Asians Largest Immigrant Group

According to a Pew Research Center study, by 2065, there will be 78 million immigrants. In 2015, the foreign-born population increased to 14 percent, or 45 million. Asians are predicted to surpass Latinos in 2065 as the largest immigrant group. Since 2011, Asia has been the largest source region among recently arrived immigrants.

As a result of Congress passing the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1965, immigrants and their descendants have fueled the U.S. population. The law replaced the national origins quota system with a seven-category preference system emphasizing family reunification and skilled immigrants, which increased immigration from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

“The New American Majority want and welcome the cultural changes happening in America,” Phillips said. “There are people who’d like to see a taco truck on every corner, as one of Trump’s supporters warned in a recent interview.”

He added the New American Majority also includes 4 million Arab Americans, and Native Americans.

“Politically, Native Americans can be decisive in several states, he said. “Indigenous people of Alaska are 19 percent of the population, 8.5 percent in South Dakota and 6.5 percent in Arizona.”

Phillips, a political expert, said the historic election of President Barack Obama is also proof of the New American Majority. In 2008, Obama’s share of white working-class support was 40 percent, and it was 36 percent in 2012.

“In 2012 he received 5 million fewer white votes than in 2008, and still won,” Phillips said. “In 2016 it would take even fewer white votes to win than Obama received.”

He said progressive whites are essential to a winning coalition, but progressive politicians must begin to vie for voters of color instead of solely focusing on a decreasing population of white swing voters.

“Black voters are frequently overlooked and taken for granted,” Phillips said. “Most articles and commentaries on the progressive base focus on white progressive leaders and organizations and they ignore the Black Lives Matter movement, and leaders like Van Jones and others.”

He noted that more African Americans voted for Obama than white men did.

“It is Black voters who are the most dependable component of the progressive coalition for the past 40 years,” he said. “Since 1986 at least 80 percent of African Americans have voted for the Democratic nominee.”

Steve Phillips is author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority,” and founder of Democracy in Color, a multimedia platform on race, politics, and the New American Majority.

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4 comments


  • Kathryn Williams-Platt

    I feel better after reading this article. The media stresses that POC are in the minority and that the demographics will not change as we approach the new election. With the behavioral changes from state to state, it seemed we would face extinction before 2020 or be close to it. I am an author and retired teacher if math and science and I’m right in the middle of this chaos. Still worried for my family and still facing issues head on. Please continue with positive information, as we do not hear this very often. Thank you.
    Sincerely,
    Kathryn Williams-Platt

  • Good article but nothing new. The majority of the world’s population is POC, so immigration will change the makeup of the US population. I am concerned that titles like “Brown in the new White” is part of what is encouraging people to vote for Trump. It can be taken to mean that the privilege that whites now have will soon be going to “brown” people. I think this is what a lot of whites fear. However I believe whites will still have privilege even when they are not in the majority.

    • Read the book. It’s loaded with research documented facts and presents a compelling argument. If Hillary read it, she wouldn’t be well on her way to losing this election. A candidate has to be pretty pathetic to lose to a charlatan who’s been sued 1,600 times.

  • good article shedding contemporary light on demographic issues facing amerikkka & the western world as global turmoil & confusion ensues.

    POC need to be recognized & this recognition should be managed properly so that all sections of society benefit.

    the global media stance of promoting whites as the majority has to change, reflect these dynamics, thus paving the way forward.

    as mentioned above, white privilege will still be an asset until our social structures are recalibrated to produce justice.

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