Cronkite: Demographics change political landscape

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Cronkite News reported that Arizona residents have pushed back against what they view as a history of discriminatory laws, police brutality and police overreach in a variety of ways – from shutting down city council meetings and staging protests to running for office.

Joseph Garcia, the director of communication and community impact at Morrison Institute, said he’s seen progress in Arizona, a state that long has wrestled with racial tensions.

Arizona is on the edge of a demographic tipping point. The state now has the sixth-largest Latino population in the country, according to Pew Research Center.

According to Morrison Institute for Public Policy, based at Arizona State University, the state will become a minority-majority state within the next 10 years, meaning the non-white population will become the majority of the state’s population.

Yet the balance of power doesn’t necessarily reflect those demographic changes.

A 2016 analysis by The Arizona Republic found that 74 percent of Arizona lawmakers were white and non-Hispanic even though they only make up 56 percent of the statewide population. Only 19 percent of legislators were Latino, although they made up 30.5 percent of the state population.

The racial imbalance also is reflected in the state’s police forces. While 44 percent of Arizonans are non-white, non-whites are underrepresented among officers in nearly every Arizona police department represented in a 2013 Bureau of Justice Statistics survey, according to a Cronkite News analysis of the data, the latest available.

Last year, an Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll found that a plurality of Arizonans believed police treat people differently based on their ethnicity.

Garcia said he’s surprised those numbers aren’t higher – especially after a federal judge ordered former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to stop his officers from using racial profiling in policing and traffic stops.

“That’s not what many Arizonans accepted as good law enforcement,” Garcia said. “So that kind of tells you that, yeah, there’s a plurality, but why isn’t this unanimous? That this is unacceptable. That everyone says this is not right, you cannot treat people this way.”

Garcia said voting is another way for residents to push back.

“We saw the pushback in the election,” he said. “We saw Sheriff Joe Arpaio, despite having all those millions of dollars, go down in flames in defeat.”

The November election was a stunning defeat for the Republican sheriff who had served in the post for more than two decades and attracted local and national popularity – and notoriety – for years.

Garcia said the political landscape in Arizona has changed, and there’s no room now for “aggressive treatment toward ethnic minorities.” He said the business community won’t stand for it.

“Arizona has learned its lessons on what is too far and perhaps us learning those lessons will prevent us from going to that further extreme that results in, in my opinion, senseless violence,” he added.

READ: Some Arizona residents push back against police through protests, ballot box