Archive for Sunday, September 22, 1991

S MULTICULTURAL MAKEUP

September 22, 1991

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Lawrence's reputation as one of the state's more diverse cities is well-deserved, figures from the 1990 U.S. Census show.

About 12.9 percent of the city's 65,608 population belongs to a racial minority group, compared to 9.9 percent of the statewide population, the census figures show.

"We're much more cosmopolitian than other communities in the state," says Mike Wildgen, city manager. "You see it in the types of restaurants and their menus, the programs we have and the speakers that come here."

Part of the reason is Kansas University, which makes the city more aware of worldly cultural differences, Wildgen said.

"You get people all across the world coming to KU," he said. "It's not all white male and female in Lawrence."

Lawrence's 3,192 blacks make up the largest minority community in the city. Blacks are 4.9 percent of the population, census figures show. That's a smaller slice than statewide, where blacks make up 5.8 percent, or 143,076, of Kansas's 2.23 million population.

ONE OF THE biggest concentrations of the city's blacks are in local schools. For example, blacks make up more than 10 percent of the local junior high school aged population, census figures show.

The next largest racial minority group in the city are in the category of Asians or Pacific Islanders, who make up 3.9 percent, or 2,533, of the city's population.

That compares to the 1.3 percent, or 31,750 Asians or Pacific Islanders who live in Kansas.

The large concentration of Asians here may be partly because more than 520 Asian students attend KU, according to KU's 1991 spring enrollment figures.

Another major reason for the city's racial diversity is Haskell Indian Junior College, a federally run school that attracts students from Native American tribes across the country.

CENSUS FIGURES show Lawrence has 1,945 American Indians, Eskimos or Aleutians, who make up 3 percent of the city population. In comparison, Native Americans make up 0.9 percent of the population statewide.

Although Hispanics are considered to be an ethnic, rather than a racial group in the census figures, they also make a significant portion of the city's population. Figures show 3 percent of the city's population, or 1,941 people, are Hispanic. That compares to 3 percent, or 93,670, statewide.

Although being home to two institutes of higher education makes the city more worldly and aware of other cultures, Lawrence still must overcome racism and discrimination, says Ann Weick, dean of KU's school of social welfare.

Weick chaired the 16-member Community Task Force on Racism, Discrimination and Human Diversity, which was formed by the Lawrence City Commission last year to get a better understanding of racial and discrimination problems.

THE TASK FORCE held a series of eight public forums last fall on incidents of local racism and discrimination. The task force heard reports of many forms of discrimination, Weick said.

"There were overt forms, such as actions against minorities or groups that were malicious in intent," she said. "There are others that are more subtle, but are equally offensive to minority groups."

The task force compiled a 90-page report it delivered to the Lawrence City Commission in July.

Chief among its recommendations was the formation of a Lawrence Alliance, which would be sponsored by the city, Haskell, KU and the Lawrence school district.

"The goal of the alliance is to create a discrimination-free environment in Lawrence," Weick said. The alliance members would be appointed by the city commission for three-year terms and would meet once a month.

Weick said her group was working on nominations to the new body and would have them ready by mid-October.

ALTHOUGH Lawrence's racial diversity is great compared to the state average, the number of minorities in Lawrence's public schools is even greater, said Dan Neuenswander, superintendent.

He said enrollment figures show that the district's school population is 17.38 percent minorities, which includes 8.59 percent black, 3.54 percent Native American, 2.86 percent Asian and 2.39 percent Hispanic.

Neuenswander said the district uses the demographics of its students to help meet the needs of all groups.

"The reason we use that information is to help us target groups to see if there are pockets that need special help," Neuenswander said.

A wide racial diversity in the school population helps children learn to appreciate other races and cultures, he said.

"That diversity does a lot for all of the kids. If you look at the global society we're living in, we have to appreciate and get along with the people in other socieites," he said. "What better place to learn than at the elementary level."

CENSUS FIGURES back up the district's enrollment figures about the stronger minority mix among the city's younger population.

While Lawrence's population as a whole consists of 12.9 percent minorities, 14.9 percent of the city's population in the 1-20 age bracket belong to racial minorities.

The census figures showed:

Of the 4,006 Lawrence children under the age of 5, 16.9 percent belonged to racial minorities, while another 4.06 percent were Hispanic. The racial minorities were as follows: black, 7.2 percent; American Indian, Eskimo or Aleutian, 4.1 percent; Asian or Pacific Islander, 3.9 percent and "other," 1.2 percent.

Among 4,971 Lawrence children of elementary school age (ages 5 to 11), 15.2 percent belonged to racial minorities and 3.25 percent were Hispanic. The minorities were as follows: black 7.2 percent, American Indian, Eskimo or Aleutian, 3.9 percent; Asian or Pacific Islander, 2.7 percent and "other," 1.2 percent.

AMONG A population of 1,747 in local junior high schools (ages 12-14), 17.2 percent were part of racial minorities and 3.9 percent were of Hispanic origin. By race, they were: black, 10.2 percent; American Indian, Eskimo or Aleutian, 4 percent; Asian or Pacific Islander, 2.8 percent; "other," 1.8 percent.

Among 1,641 Lawrence residents of high school age (15-17), 15.9 percent belonged to racial minorities and 4.4 percent were of Hispanic origin. By race they were: black, 8.3 percent; American Indian, Eskimo or Aleutian, 2.9 percent; Asian or Pacific Islander, 2.6 percent and "other," 1.9 percent.

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