LSU AgCenter researchers are looking at eight key racial and ethnic groups in the Gulf of Mexico region to document their ties to the oil and gas industry and to examine the experiences of each group.
LSU AgCenter sociologist Mark Schafer and graduate student Amanda Cowley are completing the historical-comparative research study as members of a research team funded by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Schafer said the groups targeted for this study are African-American, Cajun, Croatian, Latino, Native American, other Asians, Vietnamese and white.
Data from the census provided the two types of information that was useful for this project, Schafer said. “Race and ethnicity categories for how people define themselves as well as ancestry data.”
This information was used to determine which groups are represented in the region.
The researchers searched databases for any information they could find on the target groups and used that information to write separate research reports on each group.
“We’re not claiming that these reports represent every single ethnic group, but we chose eight that we considered to be influential for some reason,” he said.
The first report published was on the Latino population in the region and also is available on the LSU AgCenter website, www.LSUAgCenter.com.
This report is a model of the reports that will be completed in the coming months, Schafer said.
“Following the Latinos will be a report on the Cajuns, then Vietnamese and so forth,” he said.
In addition to the Vietnamese, there will be another category called Other Asians because the Vietnamese represent such a large number of Asians in the fishing areas of the region.
Croatians also represent a unique group because of their employment and ownership in the oyster industry.
When most people think of the early settlements on the North American continent, the northeast immediately comes to most people’s mind, but there is history here also, Cowley said.
“Most of us think about the English settlements but seem to forget the French and Spanish who were active in this area during the same period,” Cowley said.
One of the findings that stood out most involved the issues of race and ethnicity in and around the New Orleans area, Schafer said.
“Just the whole concept of race and ethnicity, even the whole definition of Creole, because from the very beginning there were free men of color as well as slaves,” Schafer said. ”There were some slave owners who were Indian who owned black slaves and some slave owners who were black that owned Indian slaves.”
The often-confusing definition of Creole is normally assumed to be a person with some African blood, but technically that’s not correct, Schafer said.
“I think it goes back to people who trace their ancestry to when the Louisiana Territory was ruled by either France or Spain,” Schafer said. “So, the term really refers to the people who stayed when the French or Spanish pulled out.”
The first of the reports show that the Latino population has a history that is long and complex in the southern United States. Yet, there is little discussion of their employment in the oil and gas industry.
The areas discussed in the reports include origin and history, migration, culture, occupations, ties to the oil and gas industries, economic standing, ties to the land, politics and Hurricane Katrina.
According to census data, the 1990s saw the Latino population become the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the United States. The Hispanic population grew nationally by over 60 percent during those years, which is believed to be driven by changes in immigration laws, Schafer said.
The main goal of this study of the Gulf of Mexico region is to look at the oil and gas industry, with all its suppliers and all of the upstream and downstream components, and see how it affects the economy and the standards of living over the long term, Schafer said.
“A similar study could be something like the automobile industry in Michigan, where you look at how the industry affects communities and so forth,” Schafer said.
The final report will summarize the findings of the eight ethic groups studied as part of the project. Schafer said the project began in 2010 and will end in the summer of 2013. Johnny Morgan
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