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Graf: Minorities are now the majority

BY L.C. GRAF | AUGUST 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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I didn’t know I was Latina until I went to college.

I checked the boxes marked “Hispanic” when I went to school. I had a Quinceañera when I was 15. I knew I had dark skin.

But in Texas, I was surrounded by different cultures and ethnicities. There were so many people who looked just like me and so many people who didn’t. To say that I never knew what ethnicity was or what it meant isn’t the full truth. I struggled with my identity, but growing up in a diverse community imposed upon me that difference creates growth.

Race is, obviously, beyond complicated. There are too many different factors and facets to evaluate and review, but in the simplest way I can say it … I did not realize I was Hispanic until I went to college.

Iowa is roughly 87 percent Non-Hispanic White. The university’s student enrollment reflects a 12.6 percent minority-based diversity, meaning the Non-Hispanic White population is more or less the same as the state average.

It was (and still is) shocking to see the difference between my hometown and Iowa City. Although 45 percent of students are from surrounding states or other countries, the diversity of Iowa is minimal.

I stand out, not as much as some people, but I stand out. Especially in winter, when people notice it’s “not just a tan” and my eyebrows are thick, and my eyes are deep brown, and my hair is not dyed black. I get asked, far too often, several variations of the question, “So … what are you?”

I’m aware of my race more now than I have ever been in the past. Whether this is a good or bad thing has yet to be determined.

However, this year the National Center for Education released a report that shows that Latinos, Asians, African-American, Native American, and multiracial individuals will make up 50.3 percent of public-school students. Fifty-one percent of pre-kindergarteners to eighth-graders will be minorities, and 48 percent of high-school students will be minorities.

Between 2011 and 2022, the minority population will see a growth between 2-44 percent (varied by ethnicity and excluding Native Americans, who will see a 5 percent decrease). Whites are estimated to decrease by 6 percent.

I can’t see this as being a bad thing. As the population continues to see more and more multiracial individuals, it’s my belief that we’ll eventually see more and more of an open conversation about race and ethnicity. While the human experience is unique to every individual, there is no denying that race plays a heavy role in how we live.

What does it mean to be a minority who will soon become the majority?

It does not, in any way, mean that I will see the same equal treatment in all aspects of life like a majority of my white colleagues. Even though the minority will soon be the “majority,” it doesn’t mean that things like white privilege will simply disappear.

But what I hope it means is that my experience as a minority, along with others, will be shared in a communal way instead of just in the abstract. Hopefully, it will mean that people who are otherwise ignorant will be exposed earlier to race and its differences.  Hopefully.


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