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August 28, 2003 marked 40 years to the day that Martin Luther King's “I have a dream� speech echoed unforgettably from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Greg Thrasher, an

American Demographics

reader from Bloomfield, Mich., recently reminded us of the importance of that moment in history. In his correspondence, he observes, “Forty years ago, America was ripe with contempt for its black citizens. Black people — the few who lived in the suburbs — still confronted daily bouts of second-class citizenship. Life for black folks in the 'burbs today, however, provides many black people with manicured lawns, two-car garages and plenty of soccer mom activities. One of the most remarkable aspects about living in the suburbs today, as a black person, is that racial diversity is the standard, not the exception.�

Thrasher's commentary goes on to say that “Blacks folks, in some instances, are still compelled to display three degrees of documentation when cashing a check, or renting a carpet cleaner, or seeking a new mortgage or home improvement loan. Blacks who eat and shop at high-end locations are often queried about product knowledge and ‘is-this-your-first-time?’ type of qualifying questions.�

Society has made strides in fulfilling a number of the hopes and dreams Dr. King outlined in his address. In other ways, America and its people have fallen short in making them come true. Also, as the influx of people into North America continues from all parts of the world, new challenges to civil and human rights, to racial equity and religious freedom, crop up every day.

American Demographics, a magazine about patterns among people who make up America's households, has been reporting for some time now about how the nation's “minorities� are becoming the majority. The population primacy of white people of European descent in this country is finite, declining. In the years ahead, as collective minorities become the majority, we'll see a redefining of what we call the nation's middle class, and that will change how business works to accommodate middle-class needs and demands.

In this issue, a new analysis of Census 2000 data reveals, “The economic boom of the 1900s, the rising professional ranks of African American Gen Xers and Gen Ys, and the dispersion of blacks to growing, prosperous parts of the country — including the return to a revived ‘New South’ — have increased both the numbers and visibility of middle-class blacks.� The cover story, “Revival,� by Bill Frey, contributing demographer and visiting Brookings Institution Fellow, as well as faculty member of University of Michigan Population Studies Center, offers insight into the geographical magnets and defining demographics of middle-class blacks.

Also, Associate Editor Sandra's Yin's “The Title Wave That Isn't� analyzes the minor gains and major obstacles both lenders and prospective minority homebuyers encounter as they struggle to “open the great vaults of opportunity.� Which is part of what Dr. King dreamt of the day 40 years ago.

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