JOEL KOTKIN: After Intersectionalism.
We are now, already in LA and soon in New York City, entering an era of relentless jostling between an ever-wider array of ethnic groups—Black, Asian, and most consequentially Latino. At the same time, the Jewish presence in America’s cities is shrinking. Even with the high birthrates of Orthodox Jews, New York City’s Jewish population is roughly 25% smaller than its midcentury high. In Los Angeles, the community’s size has not decreased but its political power has, as non-Jews have won electoral offices once held by Jewish community members in the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. In the new arena of ethnic competition, Jews, like other diminishing white ethnic groups, will need to make alliances for pragmatic reasons that may vary from city to city.
Finding the best political course will be far more complex than in the heyday of postwar multicultural liberalism, when the alliance between Jews and African Americans seemed a clear-cut matter of moral and political sense. Without a larger framework like the one provided by the Civil Rights movement, competent Jewish leaders now need to forge ties with other ethnic communities that will depend on who is ascendant and willing to accept Jewish concerns.
The real question is not how to prevent ethnic groups from uniting into some potential revolutionary force aimed at overthrowing the “white” majority, but how to integrate them into the broader economy and society. Doing so will not mean the elimination of all ethnic conflict, which, at its most basic level, is a healthy expression of minority groups fighting for their voice in a democratic society. It should, however, reduce the scale and intensity of that conflict, as the different groups involved recognize that their fight for a larger piece of the pie is taking place within the common community of American life.
As Tom Wolfe wrote in his last novel, “A phrase pops into his head from out of nowhere. ‘Everybody… all of them… it’s back to blood! Religion is dying… but everybody still has to believe in something. It would be intolerable — you couldn’t stand it — to finally have to say to yourself, ‘Why keep pretending? I’m nothing but a random atom inside a supercollider known as the universe.’ But believing in by definition means blindly, irrationally, doesn’t it. So, my people, that leaves only our blood, the bloodlines that course through our very bodies, to unite us. ‘La Raza!’ as the Puerto Ricans cry out. ‘The Race!’ cries the whole world. All people, all people everywhere, have but one last thing on their minds — Back to blood!”