The monumental legislative changes of 1964 and 1965 that changed American history forever are the catalysts for this book. In 1964, as a response to the growing strength of the civil rights movement, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act put a dagger in the heart of the two-caste racial system in the South, a system that had existed for the more than three centuries since African slaves were first imported to North America. In 1965, the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act, on the surface tinkering only modestly with prevailing immigration priorities, unexpectedly opened the floodgates to massive influxes of non-European immigration over the course of the next half century.
The consequence of immigration reform has been a rapid rise in the cultural diversity of the nation, mimicking a similar surge a century earlier. Those changes reshaped an overwhelmingly white nation with relatively small minorities of African Americans and Native Americans deliberately kept largely out of sight of the mainstream. In 1965, the United States began on a path that will, a few decades from now, turn it into a nation with no majority racial or ethnic group.1 Just as important, accompanying this demographic change have been new political movements demanding greater equality not only for African Americans but for Latinos and Asian Americans as well.