When the minority is the majority

In 34 years, a generation from now, America truly will be a melting pot. The Census Bureau estimates that minorities, currently one third of the U.S. population, will constitute just over half of the population by 2042.

The children will get to that demographic landmark first. Today 44 percent of American children are minorities but by 2023 they will account for more than half, and over 60 percent by 2050.

The makeup of that group of children 42 years hence mirrors America’s new mosaic: 39 percent Hispanic, 38 percent non-Hispanic white, 11 percent African American and Asians 6 percent.

The number of whites, now 66 percent of the population, will hold steady at 200 million, and as a group will be much older thanks to the aging of the baby boomers.

All of this is of intense interest to demographers, educators, political strategists and the several sides of the immigration debate. But even though whites have been the traditional majority — 62 percent in 1790, according to the first census — and the dominant culture, it is vital to remember, and vital to teach to that coming generation, that the United States was not founded on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity but on an ideal that we repeat every July 4th:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The Census says that there will be 439 million of us around to celebrate that ideal in 2050.