LatinaLista — The U.S. Census reveals that Utah is pretty much a homogenous state when it comes to ethnic diversity. In 2004, 93.8 percent of the population was categorized as "white." Hispanics, the largest population of color, comprised only 10.6 percent of the population.
With those numbers, Utah doesn't even rank in the top 13 states with the highest number of Latinos but that didn't stop Utah Governor Jon Huntsman from naming Jesse Soriano as Director of the state's Hispanic/Latino Affairs department earlier this month.
It's commendable that Utah recognizes the need to establish such a department because it makes good sense. What better way to combat the challenges that face Latino communities on a national basis than tackling the problems that exist in their home communities?
And who better would know the limitations, the opportunities, available assistance and resources than people who know firsthand what their state can, cannot and does not do for Latino communities.
Several other states recognize, along with Utah, the importance of establishing councils or state agencies focused solely on addressing the needs of Latinos living in their particular states.
Latina Lista conducted a very unscientific survey of those states that had similar state commissions and found that among those that do are: Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission, District of Columbia's Office on Latino Affairs, Minnesota's Chicano Latino Affairs Council, Iowa Division of Latino Affairs, and Oklahoma's Governor Advisory Council on Latin American and Hispanic Affairs
We hope there are more.
But what was interesting, a quick visit to the state government web sites of Illinois, New York, North Carolina, California and Texas - states that are each home to half a million Hispanic residents - had no specific department (or one that was readily identifiable on the agency/commission web page) focused on the particular needs of their resident Latinos.
Now some would argue that having such an agency would be a waste of money since Latino residents would benefit from existing state agencies, but that is not the real issue.
The issue concerns recognizing that disparities between Latinos and the rest of the state's population, for whatever reasons, are growing wider in too many cases. Before the chasm becomes too wide, doesn't it stand to reason that there should be a concentrated effort to identify the problems and enact statewide solutions?
Aside from ensuring that all areas of a state, rural and urban, would receive the same attention and benefit from centralized efforts, accountability should be easier to measure when one community is benchmarked with another, because eveyone should be following the same guidelines.
It stands to reason that if states want to have a future workforce that will sustain their local economies and make them competitive in the national and global business arena, an investment of a special commission focusing on the largest group of future workers makes sense.
But as we too often see these days, the things that make the most sense are too often ignored until it is too late.