When is a minority not a minority?
Leading a national trend, Texas has 43 counties — the most of any state — that are "majority-minority," with non-Hispanic white residents outnumbered by African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and other racial and ethnic groups, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday.
Starr County, on the border with Mexico, has a "minority" population of 98 percent, the highest of any county in the country.
Nearly one in every 10 of the nation's 3,141 counties has a population that is more than half minority. In 2006, eight counties that had not previously been majority-minority pushed the national total to 303, the Census Bureau reported.
How can a county be "more than half minority"? Isn't that an oxymoron, like military intelligence or jumbo shrimp? The numbers just get funnier:
Los Angeles County, Calif., had the largest minority population: 7 million, or 71 percent of its total. The county is home to one in 14 of the nation's minority residents.
In Texas, Harris County gained 121,400 minority residents between 2005 and 2006, which led the nation in growth. With Houston as its largest city, Harris County had a minority population of 2.5 million in 2006, 63 percent of its total.
The problem is, of course, we simply don't know how to talk about this. But our language about race is about to change. It will simply have to.
Since 1982, the white population of Houston has declined and aged, a shift which led to Houston becoming a majority-minority city in the 1990s. Over the next 10 years, Houston will become increasingly Hispanic, with young families driving the growth, said Karl Eschbach, director of the Texas State Data Center at the University of Texas-San Antonio.
"If we cut off the growth completely tomorrow with a perfect fence and no more migration, we would still see rapid growth of the Hispanic population relative to other groups," Eschbach said.
Other things will have to change as well:
Klineberg, a specialist in Houston demography, said the city's minority makeup offers a glimpse into Texas' future two years down the road and America's "ethnic amalgam" in 20 years.
The two groups growing most rapidly, blacks and Hispanics, are the most likely to live in poverty and lack access to educational opportunity.
"If Houston's African-American and Latino young people are unprepared to succeed in the knowledge economy of the 21st century, it's hard to envision a prosperous future for Houston," Klineberg said. "The American future is here in Houston right now."
Welcome to the future. I think Lou Dobbs and the immigration issue just became completely irrelevant.