Anglos become minority in Kansas county

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

U.S. communities are changing complexion as ethnic diversity grows in the American heartland. Though not new in California, Arizona, Texas or Florida, the change of demographics is a bit more surprising in southwest Kansas.

Finney County, Kansas, is one of six counties across the nation that became majority-minority between 2007 and 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau recently announced. The agency defines majority-minority as a county where more than half the population is made up of a group that is not single-race, non-Hispanic white.

Nearly 10 percent (309) of the nation’s 3,142 counties were majority-minority as of July 1, 2008.

“Why there?” people ask Tim Cruz, former mayor of Garden City, Kansas, the largest town in Finney County. And then, “How do you all get along? It’s just another melting pot you know,” Cruz says. “It makes it nice to have those different cultures. And sure they’re different — we have to understand what they celebrate and why they do it…”

At the Alta Brown Elementary School, the native language of about half of the 409 students is something other than English…

Much of the United States is looking more like Garden City. New census figures show more than one-third of the people in the United States are non-white and a staggering 47 percent of the population under the age of 5 are a minority…

For many immigrant residents, life in Kansas, even working at the meatpacking plants, is much better than where they came from. But Cruz wants the immigrants to know, in his words, that “the American dream is much greater.”

“We catch them trying to tell their kids they don’t need to go to college because this is a good life,” Cruz says. “We have to help educate them saying, ‘No, there is even a better life than doing this and your kids can get to do that.’ ”

Ethnic diversity can be a dynamic that produces as much friendship and knowledge – as hatred. That decision is usually predicated on the behavior of those in power before the immigrant swell threatens entrenched political power.

That behavior doesn’t often offer more than a token of equality. The good will of the best of those in place is required to build harmony.

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