Turning to race and immigration, we can only take snapshots of a country in rapid evolution. Late last year, the US Census Bureau released a prediction that the country would become “majority-minority” in 2043, earlier than previous estimates. In 2012, the nation was 63 percent non-Hispanic white, 17 percent Hispanic (of any race or combination of races), 13 percent non-Hispanic black, about 5 percent Asian-American, and about 1 percent Native American, plus some 2 percent who list themselves as multiracial. By 2060, the census predicts that the US will be 43 percent non-Hispanic white, 31 percent Hispanic (of any race), 15 percent non-Hispanic black, about 8 percent Asian-American, about 5 percent multiracial, and about 1 percent Native American.
As we put this issue of CJR to bed, the president and Congress were jockeying for position on immigration reform. What seemed even a year ago like an issue to be avoided has new momentum. The GOP, after winning only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in the presidential race (substantially worse than during the G. W. Bush years) is looking for new ways to prove its relevance to immigrants and demographics that care deeply about immigration. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has come out early and strongly for immigration reform, perhaps presaging a 2016 presidential run.
In other news, some African-American civil rights advocates have stepped up second-term criticism of the president. On Meet the Press in January, NAACP chief Benjamin Jealous said, “Right now, when you look at joblessness in this country—the country is pretty much back to where it was when this president started. White people are doing a bit better. Black folks are doing a full point worse.” Books like Pulitzer winner Eugene Robinson’s Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America, dig into whether a post-integration world has proven even less hospitable to a majority of African-Americans than the racially segregated but income-integrated communities that existed before the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968. Asian-American populations continue to grow in aggregate but also gain power within ethnic groups, be they Korean Americans in Los Angeles, Hmong in Wisconsin, or Chinese immigrants in New York. Native Americans continue to wrestle not only with issues like income and health, but also tribal sovereignty, the unique and contested space between tribal governments and federal authority.
As America becomes more diverse and complex, ethnically and economically, those of us who care about the news are still asking: What should we cover and how can we do it better? Perhaps as long as we ask that question, we can hold out hope that, working collectively, we will succeed.
Who gets taken care of when disaster strikes?
Farai Chideya Let’s talk about the distribution of resources when it comes to helping those in need. I remember covering Katrina, walking through the flooded streets, talking to survivors, and traveling by helicopter with Lt. General Honoré, who took military command of New Orleans. The very fact that a US city had to go under military command shocked me. More recently, Sandy struck. [A New York Times] article about forgotten people in the Rockaways launches my first question: How well do we cover crises, or even chronic problems, fairly across regions, taking into account issues like race and income? On the one hand, the Times did an admirable job on this story. On the other, it took reporters, as well as responders, quite a while to focus on these forgotten people.
Many factors affect inequality of coverage. In New York after Sandy, there were gas shortages and transportation problems that made it harder to cover certain areas than others. A lot of the local micro-blogs that normally do good work on community issues were shut down because either they had no power or the people were picking up their own lives.
June Cross There are folks in Long Island, out in Coney Island, who still don’t have power. In part, this is the Manhattan-centric nature of New York media. But also, Katrina devastated an entire city, and these outer areas in New York have historically been ignored. Likewise, Long Branch and areas of New Jersey. The media is capricious; the story moves slowly. Unless there is a paper of journos as impacted as those who worked at The Times-Picayune in NOLA after Katrina, who are dedicated to following the minute developments of the stories unfolding in tedious tandem, it is difficult to hold the public’s attention. If you have no Internet, it is extremely difficult to communicate with the outside world. But Occupy Sandy has been doing an amazing job. The Occupy Sandy [information and volunteer coordination] hub does a better job than MSM.