Gwinnett is the most diverse county in the Southeastern United States, but despite a population comprised of a majority of minority groups — 20 percent Latino, 26 percent African American and 11 percent Asian — the county is almost exclusively represented by white officials. An article in the National Journal this week, titled "The Most Diverse County in the Southeast Is Run Almost Entirely by White Politicians," explores the trials and tribulations of the minority populations, especially Latinos, as they grow and seek a voice in a county that's nearing 1 million residents. Peering into the somewhat tragic case of Pedro Marin — the state's first Latino legislator, who represents Norcross and Duluth — it's easy to see why a large chunk of the population still faces daunting challenges in confronting anti-immigrant sentiments in Atlanta's largest suburban county. And there's an interesting backstory as to how this all began.
Trouble started not long after Marin's election to the legislature in 2003, epitomizing the short-sighted discrimination faced by minority groups. Marin was hit with an ethics complaint, claiming that the Mexican government had infiltrated the General Assembly. An outlandish claim to begin with, it was even more ludicrous given the fact that Marin is Puerto Rican — which is, in fact, a U.S. territory — and had never been to Mexico. But there's no room for logic in Georgia politics, as the National Journal clearly illustrates.
Beyond Marin's saga, the article traces the explosive growth of the Latino population in the metro back to the 1996 Olympics. Despite years of discrimination, the community found a center in Gwinnett, where it has flourished along Buford Highway and at places like Santa Fe Mall. While representation may be lacking for now, the Latino community is finding a voice. When Marin was elected in 2003 there were 800 registered Latino voters. Now there are almost 30,000.
· The Most Diverse County in the Southeast Is Run Almost Entirely by White Politicians [National Journal]