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MURPHY: Diverse Gwinnett has to work toward unity

The U.S. Census Bureau numbers released this week should have surprised no one. They should, however, serve as a reminder of how rapidly Gwinnett County's population is diversifying.

Many got the wake-up call in June when Gwinnett became a minority-majority county with the non-white residents making up 50.3 percent of the county's 800,000-plus population.

Here are the figures from the 2010 census:

White: 429,563

Black: 190,167

Asian: 85,292

Other: 70,492

Two or more races: 25,292

American Indian and Alaska Native: 4,048

The Census Bureau includes the Hispanic population in the categories above. On their own, Gwinnett Hispanics number 162,035. That's up an astounding 250 percent since the 2000 census, when Gwinnett included 64,136 Hispanics.

Some believe the Census undercounts Hispanics because those here illegally tend to avoid questions from government workers. Others believe the number is too high because much of the Hispanic labor force left metro Atlanta when jobs dwindled. Regardless, there's no doubt Gwinnett and metro Atlanta are on the fast train to diversity.

Although not quite so spectacular as the Hispanic growth, other races are booming in Gwinnett.

Which brings me to my point.

Gwinnett County is full of organizations designed to make this county a better place -- nonprofit agencies, business organizations, civic groups, etc. I am a member of some, and as we sit around shiny tables in big boardrooms, the discussions often land on Gwinnett's diversity and the need to get all parts of the community involved in making Gwinnett great.

To mirror Gwinnett, a 10-member board of directors would be about half white with three blacks and/or Hispanics, an Asian, and one person of another race. And oh, yes, the man-woman mix would be even.

Then I look around the room and see an awful lot of people who, well, are a lot like me -- white and male. Certainly there is diversity. But some groups are represented more so than others, and some groups aren't represented at all.

Who's to blame? Are these decision-making bodies not reaching out? Or are ethnic groups not interested in getting involved?

There are some excellent attempts to bring about more robust civic engagement.

According to its website, www.gwinnettunity.com, The Gwinnett Unity Group was founded when six black individuals led by Herman Pennamon, a Georgia Power executive, came together to discuss the lack of African-American involvement -- economically, socially, politically and spiritually -- in Gwinnett County. After a year of fact-finding, investigating, building relationships and partnerships within the county, the Gwinnett Unity Group was formed to engage the black community throughout Gwinnett.

The Mosaic Rotary Club was formed specifically to help get the "international community" involved in the Gwinnett and the Rotary communities.

Gwinnett businessman Raymer Sale served as the club's charter president and said that when forming the club a few years ago, "We extended a hand of friendship to all cultures within the Gwinnett community." The result, he says, is a club that better reflects the ethnic composition of Gwinnett. The club chartered at 35 members. With the economic slump, it went as low as 23. But Sale reports membership is back up to about 30.

Other groups are reaching out in hopes of benefiting from the riches diversity can bring.

Gwinnett's success can be attributed to a unified vision. Much can be achieved when there is a common goal.

Without the collaboration of all stakeholders, progress is stunted.

For ethnic groups to stick with their own kind and set their own agenda is detrimental to the common good.

If Gwinnett County is going to continue to be great, all residents must contribute.

More effort needs to be made from both ends. It's a two-way street. We need to make sure the invitations get sent out. And those invited need to RSVP.

J.K. Murphy is the publisher of the Daily Post. E-mail him at jk.murphy@gwinnettdailypost.com. For archived columns, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com/jkmurphy.