The year, 2042. That's when the Census Bureau now estimates that minorities will outnumber white Americans for the first time in the country's history.
Many people assume, and others may fear, that racial-ethnic power dynamics will flip with the numbers: Americans of color will take control from the former white majority.
But that transition may not happen right away, if the latest cycle of the "Survivor One World" series is, as it seems to me, a case of art—if a television show can be called that—foreshadowing life.
The finale that aired in primetime Sunday night ended what began as a male-female contest, with the 18 competitors divided evenly by gender into "tribes." Initially, the women were faltering, losing group competitions, including one for a valuable reward of basic materials to construct a shelter over their outdoor camp.
The turning point came unexpectedly. A man who had been successfully maneuvering to determine which competitors to eliminate fell sick, so sick he had to be evacuated for medical treatment.
Suddenly, the women outnumbered the men by one. They took command. The women started systematically picking off men, one by one, until all were gone.
Five women were left competing for a $1 million prize. Sometime this century, America will resemble that group of finalists: two white, one African American, one Latina and one Asian.
Suddenly, women of color constituted a majority by one. But "the game" didn't proceed in the same way as it had when women achieved the same numerical advantage over men.
The leading (white) woman continued to call the shots on who was next to be voted out. The women of color didn't even attempt to form a winning alliance among themselves, even though it wouldn't have taken much maneuvering. The Latina and Asian had been working together with "the last man standing," a white doctor, and after his departure, needed only to recruit the African American to take control.
The first to go Sunday was the Latina, who called herself "Miss Puerto Rico" and seemed to acknowledge some African descent by referring to the nappy texture of her hair. Next was the Asian, who didn't put up a fight.
The two white women and the black woman went to final vote before the "jury" of ousted competitors. Predominately white, but racially- and ethnically-mixed, the jury of nine picked the leading woman as the winner. The black woman appeared to be the runner-up.
The outcome could be interpreted as a sign of social progress because the end game among five women in their 20s or 30s didn't appear to break obviously along racial-ethnic lines. Some observers may say that personal relationships prevailed and competitors and jurors judged the last five competitors as individuals.
But is that really what happened? The tightest pair in the final group was the two white women. Was their identification with each other a matter of compatible personalities, or did it have something to do with one having blue eyes, one having blond hair, and both being thin, all classic white standards of beauty?
The three women of color didn't develop a similar bond. The Latina and Asian did collaborate, and the Latina late in the game talked trash about winning the game. But neither the Latina nor the African American—both teachers—reached out to each other to pull off "the bold move" that host Jeff Probst says usually wins "Survivor" for a contestant.
One lesson for the country as it undergoes demographic change is that three or four identifiable groups together constituting a majority isn't the same as one group being in the majority. There's bound to be less cohesion.
Another lesson reflects the fact that the diverse trio of color didn't even try to take over when they comprised what turned out to be a momentary majority. Instead, they stuck to playing subordinate roles when the stakes were highest.
The bottom line: People who are unaccustomed to exercising power need to learn how to seize power and how to exercise it. Those skills and habits of mind will not automatically be implanted when the Census Bureau's demographic clock ticks down to a majority minority country in 2042 or so.
Kenneth J. Cooper, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is a freelancer based in Boston. He also edits the Trotter Review at the University of Massachusetts-Boston