Suburban Orland Park's ethnic diversity comes out at Taste of Jerling event
I was at the Jerling Junior High school "Taste of Jerling" event which featured food samplings from 17 ethnic groups, including "United States," which I thought was cute.
"When we first moved here, it was all White. All Irish, some Poles and Italians and maybe a few Koreans," she said. "Now there are so many Arabs, Mexicans and Asians. Indians. It's really changed."
We talked. She wasn't being racist or bigoted. She was just remarking about the reality of Orland Park that the community had changed, and become more diversified. And in truth, she was right. Orland Park has changed over the years. I noted that I moved in 30 years ago, too, and jokingly said, "It seems like there are more and more White people living here, don't you think?"
I was being facetious, of course. In a nice way. I mentioned that when I moved in, people stayed int heir homes and you didn't hear or see them. Now, as the population has become more and more diverse, you see more and more White people rising up and speaking out about it.
The event was held to celebrate the "rich cultural and ethnic diversity" of Jerling and the community. There were 17 ethnic groups represented at the Taste of Jerling. China, Croatia, France, Greece, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Phillpines, Poland, Serbia and the United States.
I told my wife, who is Jewish, that I was proud to see three Arab cultures represented, Jordan, Palestine and Morocco.
Sandburg students joined in to provide some ethnic entertainment. Students performed traditional dances from Lithuania, Mexico and India.
It's not a racist thing to say, I thought. It is a fact. A fact in several of the cultures. The reality of our world. Why shouldn't kids know that?
Of course, as a Baby Boomer, it's hard to identify with today's young kids Their world is so much different from my world. But I can identify with the adults.
I understand why, though. Arabs, for example, are among the ethnic group that has moved into Orland Park over the past 30 years. Most are Christian Arabs, something many Americans don't even realize exists (especially based on how Americans ignore the plight of Christians in Israel and the Arab World). But many are Muslim and some of the Muslim women where Hijabs, head coverings that are very similar to the head coverings Polish women would wear in my old neighborhood on Chicago's South East Side. So they stand out, even though there are only a few of them. They appear like there is an invasion, even though there are really not that many.
Here are some numbers about Orland Park's diversity.
The population, according to the 2012 U.S. Census, is 57,392.
86.1 % of that population is White. That's a big population number, folks.
1.7 % are African American. While that is negligible, it is noticeable.
6.2 % are Hispanic.
4.9 % are Asian.
That leaves 1.1 percent of "Other," which according to the U.S. Census which does not include "Arabs."
Has Orland Park really changed that much over the past 35 years?
Not really. And not enough.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter. Reach him on his website at www.TheMediaOasis.com.)