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POSTSCRIPT : O.C. Journal Takes on Tough Topics

History professor Arthur Hansen of Cal State Fullerton carried boxes of the magazine down to the post office himself to have them stamped and sent to readers. Lawrence De Graaf, a history colleague at Cal State, worked the telephone to drum up publicity.

It’s not exactly like the early scholars poring over old-style printing presses, but for three university professors--Hansen, De Graaf and Spencer Olin of UC Irvine--the third edition of The Journal of Orange County Studies is a serious and consuming operation.

The publication was started in late 1988, when the three professors saw a need for a forum in which the county’s issues of the day could be examined.

The idea first came to De Graaf during Orange County’s Centennial celebration that began in 1988. The county, he said, had no publication in which intellectuals, scholars and other community leaders could reflect on topics of general concern, such as transportation, growth and demographic changes.

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The latest edition is the first to be devoted to a single theme. The professors thought the subject--the county’s ethnic diversity--was one that had not received enough attention.

They hope that this issue will attract the attention not only of libraries and schools but also of personnel departments of multinational corporations operating here, which would benefit from understanding different cultures and ethnic traditions and dilemmas.

The issue, for example, contains an article about the distinctive mourning rites of Asians. Free-lance artist and muralist Emidgio Vasquez writes about Latino artists. And Rusty Kennedy, executive director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, says in his article that racial hate crimes in the county, while decreasing, continue to be reported.

In one article, county demographer William Gayk says that from 1890 through the 1950s, Orange County was “overwhelmingly native-born and white.”

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But today, the county is much different. Student enrollment in public schools is now almost 50% non-Anglo. Asian and Latino shopping centers are well-established in different parts of the county. And several members of ethnic minorities--though by some accounts not nearly enough--hold public office.

“What is so astonishing about this current situation is that it is a transformation that has occurred almost overnight,” Gayk said. The phenomenal wave of immigration during the last decade, he said, “is rapidly transforming the county into a cosmopolitan area.”

From 1970 to 1980, the county’s Latino population increased by almost 150%, the black population by about 140%, and the Asian population grew by a mind-boggling 371%, said William J. Billingsley, a doctoral candidate at UCI.

And what is happening in Orange County is similar to what is happening in many other areas that also are magnets for immigration.

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“Orange County is a fascinating microcosm, not only for what is going on in other West Coast cities, but in the rest of America,” De Graaf said.

Hansen said the old image of Orange County has been fostered by people “with a vested interest in emphasizing its uniqueness. . . . They insist on seeing Orange County through a rear-view mirror, and they see a Main Street kind of image from the 1950s. It’s not that way anymore.”

De Graaf said the three editors all have spent most of their lives in or near Orange County, “and we remember it when it was a white county with some Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, and that was it.

“Today, it is so starkly different,” he said. “Of all the topics we could have chosen to focus on, the ethnic changes of this county are vthe most fascinating and significant ones.”

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Hansen and De Graaf said that while history departments at both Cal State Fullerton and UCI have provided some funding for the magazine, its publication is still an expensive proposition in search of more sponsors. The magazine also welcomes suggestions for essays or articles.


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