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.
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.