The 2020 Census results are in, and Buffalo experienced a population growth for the first time since 1950. Here’s a fun fact for you: in 2010, I served as the City of Buffalo’s Chairperson of the Buffalo Complete Count Committee.
The committee was comprised of a host of community-based organizations, not-for profits, faith-based institutions and the Buffalo Public School district. We were all working together to get the word out about the importance of having a complete and accurate count for the City of Buffalo. The U.S. Census is important because it is used to determine our congressional representatives, draw boundary lines for the federal, state and local legislative districts, and helps allocate federal dollars for infrastructure projects like roads, highways, schools and health care facilities.
Back in 2010, the city’s results showed a decline in the Western New York region’s population, which is why I was thrilled to learn of the city’s population growth over the past ten years. According to the recently published 2020 Census results, the population grew by over 17,000 new residents in Buffalo!
What is so interesting about the results is that much of the population increase is directly related to the influx of new Americans, specifically residents of color, further contributing to the diversity of our city. I draw your attention to this for a couple of reasons.
First, it speaks to the idea that Buffalo, an oft-criticized Rust Belt city, still has promise and growth potential for the future. We know that all is not perfect, but let’s not dismiss the gains that have been made. Rather than zoning in on what isn’t, imagine what could be.
Secondly, the diversity increase presents an opportunity for Medaille, as Buffalo’s College, to reframe how we approach recruiting potential students, faculty and staff to engage with and contribute to our fine institution. A major driver of our mission is an intentional focus on increasing the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and collaborating to build and advance a healthy and diversified democracy.
Keeping our mission in view is critical as the diversity landscape changes locally, regionally and nationally. According to an Associated Press report, 2020 Census data for the U.S. headcount shows, “The share of the white population fell from 63.7% in 2010 to 57.8% in 2020, the lowest on record, though white people continue to be the most prevalent racial or ethnic group.”
For context, some demographers say that the white population is not “shrinking” as much as it is “shifting to multiracial identities.” Today, those who identify as belonging to two or more races is more than three times the 2010 count — up from 9 million people to 33.8 million people, accounting for 10% of the U.S. population.
As we prepare to launch this new semester, before us lies an unprecedented opportunity to grow the College by embracing diversity and expanding the experiences of our students, faculty and staff, to imagine and contribute to a better future for everyone. To reach these goals, we must be deliberate about bucking the status quo, stretching beyond our comfort zones and recognizing that there is no growth without change.
Rather than being repelled by the uncertainty that rapid change presents in our city, region and nation, let us embrace the newness, and move Medaille forward. Though it won’t be without challenges or controversy — as change never is — I’ll leave you with a thought.
As a huge fan of the NBA, while watching the Championship Finals last month, I picked up a new favorite phrase from the Phoenix Suns’ head coach, Monty Williams. Coach Williams is fond of saying, "Everything you want is on the other side of hard."
We would all do well to remember and internalize this phrase when things get hard as we strive toward diversity, growth and excellence. We will get to the other side, and we will do it together. Onward and upward.