For white supremacists who have made North Idaho home over the years hoping the region would one day become a white homeland, Tony Stewart has this message: Sorry, but just the opposite is happening.
When Idaho’s most recent U.S. Census numbers came out, Stewart, a retired North Idaho College political science instructor, crunched the numbers dating back to 1990. He came up with results that bolster his greatest passion – human rights. The co-founder of the 30-year-old Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations says his results show the increasing diversification of one of the country’s whitest regions.
“I realized that the numbers confirmed that the Aryan Nations and other white supremacists’ attempt to establish an all-white homeland in the Inland Northwest has totally failed,” Stewart said in a noon address to the Kootenai County Democrats club Friday. “I stand here 38 years after Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations arrived in northern Idaho to present to you the overwhelming evidence that diversity and a multiculture society is prevailing over the advocates of a whites-only land.”
Stewart studied Spokane County, along with Kootenai, Bonner, Latah and Nez Perce counties in Idaho. He eliminated Boundary, Benewah and Shoshone counties, he said, because the population numbers were too small to be statistically significant. He also looked at Idaho’s total population.
From 2000 to 2010, Stewart found that:
• The nonwhite or multirace population grew from 7,045 to 12,918 in Kootenai County; from 154,662 to 251,339 in Idaho; and from 36,006 to 50,946 in Spokane County.
• The white population in the five counties Stewart studied grew by 11.7 percent, compared to a 44.2 percent growth rate for the nonwhite and multirace population.
• Statewide, in Idaho, the white population grew by 15.5 percent, compared with growth rates of 73 percent for Hispanics; 81.5 percent for African-Americans; 59.2 percent for Asian Americans and 46.7 percent for people of two or more races.
From 1990 to 2010, the nonwhite and multirace population grew from 10.8 percent to 16 percent of Idaho’s total population; from 3.4 percent to 9.3 percent of Kootenai County’s population; and from 7.3 percent to 10.8 percent of Spokane County’s population.
Stewart said the statistics don’t prove that diversity has been achieved but that progress has been made. He cited recent examples of racism, including the bomb placed at Spokane’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, neo-Nazis protesting at Coeur d’Alene taco stands and the portrayal of President Barack Obama as an African witch doctor at political rallies all show “the challenges we still face in establishing a just and fair society.”
However, he said, the good news is that white supremacists have not succeeded in turning the Inland Northwest into a whites-only homeland. “We are becoming a region with an ever-growing diverse population representing many cultures,” Stewart said.