LatinaLista -- Since the start of the new year when the U.S. Census began releasing the true numbers of the Latino population, headlines touting this growth have dominated newspapers, web sites and nightly broadcasts.
From such headlines as "Census Shows Soaring Increase in Latino Population On East End" and "Census Data Shows America Quickly Looking More Hispanic" to "How Many Hispanics? More Than Expected" and "Advocates seek to use census data to secure clout for Hispanics," the news definitely signals a demographic change in the nation and an impact on our politics.
Yet, the Census data didn't reveal anything new to most Latinos. It was merely an official validation of what we've known to be true all along -- the Latino population was growing and dominating some sectors of the economy.
From public education to new businesses, Latinos are present. So, it's an interesting situation that most Latino community leaders are finding themselves in these days when it comes to their states and cities' redistricting issues.
Though the numbers say Latinos can no longer be ignored and deserve a place at the negotiating tables, some habits die hard.
For example, the city council of Sacramento, California wanted to be more inclusive of their citizens when tackling their redistricting issue and so they formed a citizens advisory committee on redistricting.
Once the mayor and each council member picked one member, and four others were nominated through the usual committee process, it turned out that there was not a single Latino on the panel.
According to the U.S. Census, Sacramento has a population that is 48 percent white; 15.5 percent black; 17 percent Asian and 22 percent Latino.
The notion that when everything was said and done no one noticed that there was not one Latino serving on the panel until Latino community leaders brought it to the attention of the City Council underscores a couple of problems facing the Latino community.
According to the Sacramento City Council:
It also turned out, however, that no eligible Latino applicants stepped forward, apparently because the word didn't get out or because of confusion about the application process, or a combination of both.
With higher numbers in the population comes greater civic responsibility. It must be understood that there must be Latino representation in local politics, on executive boards, among policy makers, etc. That means Latinos must become involved. It's no longer acceptable, as if it ever was, for Latino inclusion to be an afterthought.
Those days are over.
Also, there must be a bigger community emphasis on children finishing school and pursuing careers, whether vocational or degreed, to broaden the pool of people who can think critically and contribute to the well-being of their communities by being selected for these city committees, state advisory boards or as part of national councils.
The growth of the Latino population should be celebrated but not without realizing the real work begins now.