It is striking for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the question is not about illegal immigrants, or even immigrants at all; it’s not about crime, or welfare, or jobs ... it’s just about racial diversity as such. And more Republicans are against it than for it! (So much for “economic anxiety.”)
But the question is also notable for its unstated premise: that the growing presence of people other than whites in the US (what else could “increased racial diversity” mean in a majority-white country?) is a subject of active political debate. It is not taken for granted as constitutive of a multiethnic democracy but treated as a kind of add-on, an extra feature. “Is it working? Maybe we should roll it back. Let’s discuss.”
I tried to imagine how that question might strike, oh, someone whose grandparents immigrated from Uganda. That person is just as much a citizen as any other American. She did not choose to be black and cannot choose to be some other race. But now she hears that it is, at the very least, an open question whether her mere presence — and her choice to have children, to further diversify America — is detrimental to her country. Is it bad to have her around at all because she’s black? Let’s discuss.
It must be alienating to feel like one is on probation in one’s own country, that one’s presence is subject to the approval of white people. And it must be a familiar feeling, especially these days, for everyone who is not white (and male).
It occurred to me that white people rarely if ever experience questions like this, about their very legitimacy. Do they belong? Is having more of them around good for America?