February 12, 2001

According to news reports, the Census Bureau will report shortly that the Latino community experienced a 60% growth rate during the 1990s and that the size of the Hispanic population is at virtual parity with that of the African American population. For anyone who has followed Census projections or the Latino population over the last several years, today's news comes as a confirmation, not a revelation. The steady increase of the U.S. Latino community throughout the last several decades has been well-documented by the Census Bureau and by Latino and other research organizations. It will also come as no surprise to our fellow Americans who now have Latinos as their co-workers, classmates, and neighbors.

The Census Bureau's numbers do add, however, an increased sense of urgency to efforts that seek to address the issues and challenges facing "minority" communities. Combined with the Asian American and Native American populations, these groups now make up nearly a third of the American population. With this new information, we should now turn our attention to looking beyond the numbers at how these Americans are faring. Latinos, in particular, are a young population. They represent a significant force in America's economic, social, and political future. The figures clearly show that we, as a nation, need to take some steps to promote education, worker-training, and health care for Latino and African American children and workers. We have the means and the opportunity to invest in efforts now that will pay off huge dividends to all Americans in the future.

Finally, we hope and expect that this milestone in the history of the U.S. Latino population will have more tangible effects besides a one - or two-day news story. For years, Latinos have been invisible to policymakers and the media with the justification that, as the second-largest minority, they were not the first priority for attention. This is no longer the case, but we believe that excuse should have been invalidated years ago - no community should be subjected to neglect and inattention, and certainly not because of where they "rank" on any scale. While we continue to track our nation's changing diversity and population and make the decisions that will affect us all in the coming century, all Americans have a stake in applying one standard and one standard only - equal opportunity for all Americans.

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