Guest Speaker: José Jorge Mendoza, Assistant Professor, Umass Lowell
Abstract: For Americans on the left of the political spectrum, there are not many positive takeaways from the 2016 presidential election. One potential silver lining, however, has been the dramatic increase in the Latinx vote and the fact that this group is both the fastest growing minority group in the United States and (like other minority groups in the U.S.) tends to vote for progressive candidates. So as bad as things might now seem to us progressives, we have some reason to hope that, as the U.S. gets closer to becoming a “minority-majority” country, a new era of progressive politics is just waiting for us around the corner. But what I want to argue in this paper is that perhaps this conclusion is too quick. I think that a closer inspection of U.S. history will reveal some reasons for worry. I think that, even if demographic projections prove true, the “melting pot” approach to social integration–which the U.S. has embraced since at least the mid-20th century–has actually worked to expand the category of American whiteness rather than undermine white supremacy. If this “melting pot” process continues, there are reasons to think (or at least not rule out the possibility) that a significant segment of the Latinx population (much like the Irish, Italian, and Jewish communities that came before them) will be brought into American whiteness and in so doing help to maintain the current political status quo.