WASHINGTON WATCH: Demographic Changes In The United States Happening Faster Than White America Expected (VIDEO)

What’s the Matter with White People? That’s the provocative title of the new book from Joan Walsh, an MSNBC contributor and editor-at-large at Salon.com. Joan was on the show in September, but we did a second interview that focused on the demographic changes in the country that are coming faster than many white folks expected.

MR. MARTIN: Welcome to “Washington Watch.”

What’s the Matter with White People? That’s the provocative title of the new book from Joan Walsh, an MSNBC contributor and editor-at-large at Salon.com. Joan was on the show in September, but we did a second interview that focused on the demographic changes in the country that are coming faster than many white folks expected.

Mitt Romney, we’re talking to you.

I began by telling her about a visit to “Washington Watch” from Gene Sperling, President Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser.


MR. MARTIN: Gene Sperling was here, and he was talking about the jobs bill, and he was talking about infrastructure and building these various jobs. I said, “Gene, okay. You want African-American support. You’re going to have to tell those trade unions to stop closing their doors to African-Americans.”


MR. MARTIN: And so when I’m talking to white colleagues, or friends, I try to explain to them, “You guys don’t understand that when opportunities – doors are being shut, and unions are providing college scholarships and benefits” –

MS. WALSH: Yeah.

MR. MARTIN: — “things along those lines – you’re looking for a level of support to get it done, but the net result is going to be, ‘Hey, yeah, we’ll make the phone calls, send the emails, send the faxes to get the bill passed’” –

MS. WALSH: And then be left out.

MR. MARTIN: — “then not benefit.”

MS. WALSH: Right. Right. No, that’s a really important point, and I think that – you know, lots of unions have opened up, and lots of –

MR. MARTIN: Right.

MS. WALSH: — but the building trades are still – are still one of the most hidebound. But I think – also with the jobs bill, I mean we did have a – we had a policy to create jobs during the Great Depression, and then the – World War II – a sad way to create jobs, but World War II lifted a lot of people out of poverty, including African-Americans –

MR. MARTIN: Absolutely.

MS. WALSH: — but – but it was much more effective for white people. And it’s been frustrating to see, in the last few years, I think, the Democrats – because they got blamed for being “the party of government.”

MR. MARTIN: Right.

MS. WALSH: Ran away from being “the party of government” and didn’t tell their own story of – you know, as Bill Clinton did the other night at the convention, that when we’re in charge, we create jobs.

In this Great Recession – nearly a depression – I don’t think there was nearly enough emphasis paid to cre- — having a jobs bill, getting it in early. I think this – that, you know, everybody agrees the stimulus did a lot. It was wonderful, but if we could’ve gotten more infrastructure, and we could’ve gotten more jobs, I mean we – you know better than I do. We’ve got so many young men left out of this economy –

MR. MARTIN: Right.

MS. WALSH: — people who aren’t going to college. They’re not being routed to jobs. They – the – the teen joblessness and the young-20s joblessness rate is – is a tragedy in this country, and it’s going to affect those young people for their whole lives. They’re not getting – they’re not getting on the – the first lu- — rung of the ladder, and I really wish we’d seen much more of a public works push, making the unions, you know open up and – and help people, too, early in – early in the – the Administration, when maybe there was a little bit more – more capital.

MR. MARTIN: Let’s talk about the future. I have been saying for three years that we are living in the early stages of white – true white fright. What I mean by that is 30 years ago, we saw – saw these reports, “Oh, America’s going to be a majority minority country.”

MS. WALSH: Right.

MR. MARTIN: That was so far away, people –

MS. WALSH: The 21st century.

MR. MARTIN: — said, “Whatever!

MS. WALSH: Right.

MR. MARTIN: Now, all of a sudden, we’re literally, some 30 years away – a generation away. Right now, I think it’s like seven states, 15 and under is majority minority.

MS. WALSH: Right.

MR. MARTIN: And so I have – I have contended that all of a sudden, whites are going, “Oh, my God. This stuff is changing.”

MS. WALSH: Right.

MR. MARTIN: And what you – and every – any – whenever you said “mainstream,” you really meant “white.”

MS. WALSH: Right.

MR. MARTIN: Now, all of a sudden, you’re going to have to deal with inclusion.

Have you gotten that same sense in terms of folks going, “I” – “I don’t really” – “I’m not used to this country sort of changing and my way not being the ‘mainstream’ way”?

MS. WALSH: Right. Well, absolutely. You know, there were battles in the – in the – at the end of the last century over multicultural curriculum and – and, you know, you had white conservatives who were really in love with the idea of “E Pluribus Unum,” “Out of Many, One,” and they felt like, “Oh, we’ve got separatism and identity politics.”

What white people have to understand now is we are only one out of many. If you like “E Pluribus Unum,” you also have to accept that it means we’re just one group. We’re not the – we’re not the mainstream into which everybody is expected to integrate.

On the other hand, I think that some of the fear – some of the fear is racial. Some of the fear is that – that things are – things are changing economically. Maybe they identify racial change with the fact that you – jobs are going away. Family income has declined. White family income has declined in cer- — in certain areas. There is more hardship among white people, and I – you know, working on social justice issues, I often say that we may have more allies. Black unemployment is higher, but there are more white people, so we’ve got millions more white people in poverty, millions more unemployed. Do we have to think about the way we talk to them and about them –

MR. MARTIN: Um-hum.

MS. WALSH: — in somewhat different ways? And I – you know, you and I have talked about this a little bit on Twitter; but, you know, there can be this – this sort of knee-jerk tendency to assume that all white working-class or – or white, generally, doubt about the President is – is racism –

MR. MARTIN: Right.

MS. WALSH: — but the President – you know, he’s done wonderful things; I support him, but he let some of us down, and economically we didn’t move as quickly as we should’ve. And so I – I’m, you know, often a voice, sometimes a lonely voice, for saying, “Hey, don’t talk about people like that. Don’t assume without proof” –

MR. MARTIN: Right. Right.

MS. WALSH: — “that this” – “this is all it’s about. ‘It’s just about white racism,’” ’cause it’s – it’s more complicated.

MR. MARTIN: Well, I’ll tell you. I – I – but the last point here – and I want you to respond to it; it was very interesting: I was moderating a panel, doing minority week for – during the – during advertising week – during Adweek.

MS. WALSH: Right.

MR. MARTIN: And so I’m doing this this panel, and – and all of the panelists are minority. They kept saying, you know, “multicultural.” Then they kept saying “black and Hispanic markets.”

I said, “Okay. Can we just stick[?] to” – “just go ahead and call the mainstream market ‘white’?” s- — or attaching race to – [unintelligible] – a market.

So, a white guy stands up, and he said, “Hey, I[’ve] got a question. I was really concerned because this bus came by one day, and it had this ad, and it was in Spanish, and nobody in the ad looked like me. And I was unsure if the ad” – “if that” – “that product was for me.”

And I said, “Welcome to our world.”

MS. WALSH: [Chuckles.] Welcome to our world.

MR. MARTIN: And I think his – and – and I wasn’t, you know, trying to rip the guy; but –

MS. WALSH: Right.

MR. MARTIN: — I think, all of a sudden, he realized, “Wait a minute. I’m so used to watching commercials, so used to watching television anchors and reporters” –

MS. WALSH: Right.

MR. MARTIN: — who look like me, who’re white. And now, all of a sudden, I am going to have to now live in a world where they’re going to be black and Hispanic and Asian. They’re going to be different people.”

And I always say that perspective is different, and I say, “White America, you’re going to have to get used to it.”

MS. WALSH: Yeah.

MR. MARTIN: “We are changing.”

MS. WALSH: We are changing, and there shouldn’t be the assumption that, because someone in power doesn’t look like you, that – that they’re going to treat you badly –

MR. MARTIN: Right.

MS. WALSH: — you know, or that they’re only going to look out for their own. And that’s a little bit of the racial tension, too, and I – I’ve said to my white friends, “Well, do you think that black people in particular are going to treat us as badly as we[’ve?] treated them?” you know. I mean –

MR. MARTIN: And – and –

MS. WALSH: — “Is that” –

MR. MARTIN: — that was that Pat Buchanan column, where he was like –

MS. WALSH:exactly!

MR. MARTIN: — “Hey” – “Hey, black people, please” – “please don’t do to us what you did to” – “what we did to you.”


MR. MARTIN: I mean – [chuckles] –

MS. WALSH: — his book – his – his sad, last book is all like, “You white liberals,” you know, “you’re going to be in the back of the bus.”

MR. MARTIN: [Chuckles.]

MS. WALSH:He literally wrote that. You know, “You support Obama, but you’re going to be in the back of the bus.”

I’m like, “Oh, my God, Pat! Do you really think that’s what” – “that’s where we’re going – that we’re going to have turnaround?”

I – I mean that’s not what anything that the President is doing is about, but that is the fear.

MR. MARTIN: Well, folks, it is an instructive book. It’s called What’s the Matter with White People?: Why We Long for a Golden Age that Never Was.

And, again, also, it’s not directed at white people. I believe in books that give you that historical understanding as well, so I don’t care who you are, what your ethnicity is. Get the book.

Joan, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

MS. WALSH: Thanks, Roland.