Maria Hinojosa Investigates Changing Demographics in New PBS Special
BY Maria Hinojosa
July 24, 2012
Award-winning investigative journalist Maria Hinojosa's intimate look at how changing demographics are reshaping the American political landscape, "America by the Numbers: Clarkston Georgia," airs on Sept. 21 at 8:30 p.m. on PBS stations nationwide as a need to know Election 2012 Special Presentation. The announcement was made today at the Television Critics Association meeting in Los Angeles.
This is the first full-length television program produced by Hinojosa's new company The Futuro Media Group, which she founded in 2010 to create multimedia journalism that is dedicated to reporting untold stories and exploring and giving voice to the diversity of the American experience. The program is also the first public affairs special on PBS to be executive produced and anchored by a Latina.
"America by the Numbers: Clarkston Georgia" is the story of a small town of 7,500 people that has gone from being 90 percent white in the 1980s to less than 14 percent white today. Located in the shadow of Stone Mountain, Georgia, which was once a gathering place for Klu Klux Klan cross burnings, today Clarkston is home to thousands of refugees from Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq and Bhutan along with some 40 other countries. The newcomers speak more than 60 different languages and have settled in Clarkston to escape, war, persecution and massacre. But the city council is still all white.
Census Bureau data made public in May indicates that births of Latinos, African-Americans, Asians and those of mixed race –- reached 50.4 percent in 2011, representing a majority of births for the first time in the history of the country.
Hinojosa chose Clarkston for her report because it is a prime example of the kinds of demographic shifts that are happening across America that could have a profound impact on the upcoming Presidential election.
"I came to Clarkston because this city is a laboratory for the future of America. I wanted to see what democracy means to some of the newest Americans in this election year," she said. The program puts a human face on the demographic changes in the United States and explores how the rising multicultural population is influencing our culture and society.
It has not been easy for these new immigrants in Clarkston. A white resident believes that the immigrants are destroying the way of life in this rural Georgia town 11 miles outside of Atlanta.
"They don't know how to light a stove so they build a fire in the middle of the floor and drink out of a commode," reported this resident even though he admits he has never seen this himself.
The president of the Somali American Community Center takes Hinojosa on a tour of small businesses owned by Somalis, the largest refugee group in Clarkston. "The people who are in political power, they just believe the immigrants are here to drain the resources of the county. They're not looking at the other side. We work hard, we buy foreclosed homes and we are revitalizing the economy of this county," he notes. Refugees own about 85 percent of Clarkston's businesses.
Amina Osman, who is originally from Somalia, has joined forces with Councilwoman Dianne Leonetti, who is white, to help her get the votes of the refugee community. The Councilwoman hopes to bridge the divide between old and new Americans in Clarkston with Amina's advice. This is despite the fact that Amina is not yet an American citizen so she can't vote for her friend.
The new residents are anxious to become American citizens and Hinojosa attends citizenship classes held in a makeshift Hindu Buddhist Temple that doubles as a classroom. The room is packed with refugees clamoring for the right to vote, something many of them were denied in their homelands.
In the opening sequence, Hinojosa and her team use animation and info graphics to show "The Numbers" in terms of demographic changes. She speaks with author and trend tracker Guy Garcia who notes that "the new mainstream" is the combination of a shift in demographics as the new immigrants along with African-American, Asian and Latino populations are growing and gaining influence. The buying power of these groups exceeds $2 trillion. It is projected that we will become a multicultural majority nation by 2042.
"Should white America be afraid of becoming a minority?" Hinojosa asks. "Only if it's within the old definition of what a minority means, marginalized, left out, disenfranchised. The new mainstream is inclusive: everybody is welcome to the new mainstream," Garcia replies.
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