Utah's Changing Colors | Urban Living

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Utah's Changing Colors

Posted By on June 28, 2017, 4:00 AM

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I came to Utah decades ago to finish high school at Wasatch Academy in Mt. Pleasant. Just hours before dragging my footlocker up the stairs to my new dorm room, I had been living in northern Arizona—Sedona, to be specific. Back then, that red-rock town only had a few thousand residents. High school students were bussed nearly 50 miles away—either to the ghost town of Jerome, Ariz., or to Flagstaff, depending on which side of the county line you lived. We lived on the Jerome side, so I attended Mingus High School. I mention this because, at the time, both schools were attended predominantly by white students and the minority population was mostly Navajos, and a few Hispanics.

When I arrived at Wasatch, there was a rainbow of students representing all colors and many nations—from Gambians and Thais to local Native Americans. The small school recruited worldwide, and still does. When I graduated and moved on to the University of Utah, there were even more minorities in that student population.

This was completely different than the crowd inhabiting downtown Salt Lake City back then. I remember shopping with a black friend for a wedding dress at ZCMI where no one would help her. One of my former friends who was Japanese-American said she was the only minority at her school in Bountiful.

Thankfully, times have changed and Utah has grown. Researchers with Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the U have recently announced that minorities now make up 21 percent of Utah's population. From 2010-16, state demographics saw significant change: While our white population grew by 8 percent, our Native American population grew by 11 percent; Hispanic, by 17.3 percent; Pacific Islander, by 20.2 percent; black, by 23.2 percent; mixed race, by 30.8 percent; and Asian, by 34 percent. Given these statistics, it won't be long till whites become a minority in Utah.

I can tell Salt Lake City has changed in the years I've been here just by coming down the escalator at the airport. In college, I'd rarely ever see anything but blond hair and blue eyes around the luggage area; but now I see diversity—representations from cultures all across the globe.

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