Understanding and respect becomes more and more important as we learn more about our changing demographics.
It has become important to me as chair this year of the Oklahoma City Alumni Leadership Racial Equity Series Organizing Committee. The first of four events recently featured âThe Impact of Oklahoma City’s Changing Demographics: Our Growing Latin American Communityâ.
In August, Mayor David Holt announced on Twitter that Oklahoma City is now the 22nd largest city in the country with 681,054 residents. He was 31st in the previous census.
The 17.4% growth was the sixth highest in the country.
âSince 2010, OKC has skipped Milwaukee, Baltimore, Louisville, Memphis, Detroit, Las Vegas, Portland, Boston and El Paso,â he wrote. âThere is simply no way to avoid population growth if you do it right. Americans vote with their feet.
While we often focus on the issues facing Oklahoma and Oklahoma City, the mayor was right to celebrate the growth. In doing so, we should also explore the changing face of city and state.
This is why the Racial Equity Series recently focused on the Latino community and will then focus on our Asian community in November.
The speakers were Eric Long, research economist for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, State Senator Michael Brooks-Jimenez, Dr. Regina Lopez of the University of Central Oklahoma and Jessica Martinez-Brooks, Senior Director of Strategic Communications and processing at Metro Technology Centers. . Jessica, a member of the committee that moderated the panel, is married to Senator Brooks-Jimenez.
Long’s presentation had a lot of interesting stats, including:
â¢ Three in five Oklahoma residents now live in the Oklahoma City or Tulsa metro areas. Of the state’s nearly 4 million people, according to the census, the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas account for nearly 70% of population gains: 250,561 in metropolitan areas compared to a net loss of 42 559 for the rest of Oklahoma.
â¢ The Oklahoma City metropolitan area has gained nearly 100,000 more residents than the Tulsa area since 2010 (172,708 to 77,853). Oklahoma City has grown three times the size of Tulsa and now has 400,000 more residents. Long said Oklahoma City’s growth is being boosted by more jobs, the Interstate 35 corridor, migration from other metropolitan areas, small international migration and higher retention of college graduates.
It’s important to understand that our fastest growing industry is represented by residents who no longer identify as white. The latest census showed that 49% of Oklahoma City residents identify as “single white” while the rest identify as Hispanic (21%), “single black” (14%), two or more races ( 8%), Asians (5%), Amerindians (3%) and others (1%). In the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, Long pointed out, 59% now identify as white, up from 80% in the 1990 census.
He also noted that Latinos identify as Latin American (Central and South America) while Hispanics are from Spain or Spanish speaking countries in Latin America.
What’s also important to understand is that the Latino and Hispanic population also has one of the highest percentages of employed people in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area: 67% vs. 64.5% âAsian. only â, 62%â White only âand 58%â âBlack only.
Senator Brooks-Jimenez said the community is working hard but in positions where it is not advancing as quickly.
âThey come here with the desire to work,â he said.
Martinez-Brooks later noted that representations of the Latino community should be “made with respect”.
We should hope that events like the Racial Equity Series not only help us understand why we are changing, but also increase our respect in how we portray and perceive these communities.
Joe Hight is director and fellow of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, an editor who led a Pulitzer Prize-winning project, the chair of journalism ethics at University of Central Oklahoma, president / owner of The best of books, author of “Unnecessary Sorrow” and author / senior editor of “Our Greatest Journalists”.