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Westmoreland County Demonstrates Lack of Diversity in Elected Representatives

by Sadie Presto

With the upcoming election, there is a heavy focus now more than ever on America’s diversity, or lack thereof. Since the city’s founding in 1799, 100% of Greensburg elected officials have been white.

To understand more about diversity and the local area itself, Associate Professor of Education, Dr. Melissa Marks, and Associate Professor of Political Science, Dr. Paul Adams, were asked for their comment on the situation.

Dr. Marks, whose research focuses on issues of diversity, said people often look for a single cause for the lack of diversity in politics in areas like Greensburg. She said that there isn’t one singular cause, but economics is a factor.

“You have to have education, money, and connections; whoever has the money gets to have to power,” she said.

“Who do you think has those things in this area?”

Westmoreland County as a whole is 95% white.

“Westmoreland County is white,” she said, “there is a very small number of visible minorities, and the few people of color, whether they be of Latinx, African, or Asian descent, find it safer to blend in and not draw attention.”

“Oh, we are very diverse. We have Slovaks, Poles, Italians, what more could you want?” said Dr. Adams, Greensburg local and Vice-Chair of the Westmoreland County Democratic Party. Sadly, that is not found to be a joke to the majority of residents.

“Last year,” he said, “I sat in on a county meeting discussing diversity in Westmoreland County where a woman made the bold argument that she did not want to be any more diverse.”

“Do you know that Westmoreland County had a huge Ku Klux Klan?” Dr. Marks asked.

When asked about the local Ku Klux Klan, Dr. Adams said: “Oh, it’s still here. There used to be a bar by the hospital that was notorious for being affiliated with Klan members; as a local, I can attest to that.”

According to KDKA, in 2011 the KKK distributed recruitment fliers with promises to “preserve [their] race for [their] white children.” These fliers were posted throughout Murrysville and Export, PA.

Dr. Adams said that a big chunk of residents here have never left the state; Pittsburgh was a hike and Philadelphia might as well have been another planet. He says that racism is far more overt here than in the south because there is no interaction, only stereotypes.

“The best thing for me was moving away from here,” he said, “I then had normal, positive day-to-day interactions with my African American and Pakistani friends. Contrary to popular belief here, they aren’t that much different from you.”

Connecting back to local politics, he said, “as far down as you look, judges, city council, school board… it is just very white.”

So, is there hope for rural areas? Dr. Marks believes it is in our generation’s hands.

“Your generation is considered the most tolerant,” she says, “but you aren’t voting.”

Only 25% of the 2018 voter turnout rate was millennials aged 18 to 37. The future of America is up to us.

Clarification: This post was updated to more accurately reflect the opinions of those interviewed and to provide a greater scope to the situation.

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