Culture

Politicians Need To Stop Assuming That The Latino Vote Is A Monolith Because It Is Not The Truth

In the days after the image of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria, facedown in the Rio Grande made its way around the internet, a friend posted the photo to her story on Instagram. Her caption was of horror and sadness towards the situation. She texted me a screenshot of one of the direct messages she received in response to her post. It read “bad parenting.”

What image did your mind conjure up of what the messenger looks like? 

If you thought it was someone who looks like Trump, or any of his family members, you would be wrong.

The person who sent her this message is an immigrant to the U.S. He was born in a Latin American country to Spanish speaking parents and falls into a group many presidential candidates, especially Democrats, as they build their coalition of voters. He is millennial and Latino. He also illustrates the danger of lumping Latinos into one monolithic category—Latinos do not think the same, nor do they want the same things. 

Let’s get one thing out of the way: defining the difference between Latino and Hispanic. Someone identifying as Latino is of Latin American origin or descent. If they’re Hispanic, it means their roots are in Spain or a Spanish-speaking country. In simplified terms someone from Spain is Hispanic, they are not Latino, and a person from Brazil is Latino but not Hispanic. The two terms are often used interchangeably when talking about people south of the American border, or who speak Spanish but that is incorrect.

We’re a large and diverse group. The majority of Hispanic and Latino Americans prefer to identify with their families’ country of origin, only 24 percent prefer to self-identify as Hispanic or Latino. Which means most people are likely to answer “Mexican, Colombia, Cuban, Ecuadorian or Puerto Rican,” when asked what they are because it’s a better representation of their culture and heritage. According to a Pew Study, Hispanics in the U.S. are comprised mostly of Mexicans (35.3 million) but also includes 5.3 million Puerto Ricans and five other Hispanic origin groups with more than 1 million people each: Salvadorans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans, and Colombians.

Within the group, there are regional, cultural and ethnic differences. Using the term is the same as labeling someone as American, then realizing the moniker means different things when it’s applied to a Chinese-American from the Bay area in San Francisco, versus an Irish-American on Chicago’s South Side. It reduces the complexity of people to nothing.

projected 32 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote in 2020. This important voting bloc has a lot of potential to sway the political stage. However, to assume this group is a shoo-in for Democratic support is a mistake. Foreign-born, Hispanics are typically conservative. Those born in the U.S. describe themselves as liberalLatinos have a misogyny problem. Generally speaking, older Latinos most align with the Republican party. And naturalized citizens, turn out to vote at a higher rate

Even though Ted Cruz and his Republican party are against protection for Dreamers, support a border wall and want to do away with the Affordable Care Act—which would largely impact Latinos—35 percent of Latino voters still backed Cuban-American Cruz instead of progressive Beto O’Rourke in the 2018 Texas Senate race.

If every Latino believed these policies were bad, it would be reflected in their vote. However, it’s important to remember people make decisions for a number of reasons that do not include factors based on identity. Half of border patrol agents are Latino, and a recent report finds they are motivated by money.

Politicians’ favorite way of reaching this target demo is by attempting to speak in Spanish without being prompted. This became one of the most talked about topics after the first night of the Democratic debates last week. O’Rourke was the first to use the language with a tailored pitch that avoided answering the question on his stance towards a billionaire tax—never mind that the debate was being streamed and translated on NBC’s Spanish-sister channel Telemundo. Cory Booker followed his lead speaking in a nearly indecipherable language. Former San Antonio mayor and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro was the only Latino on stage. The only Spanish he spoke was to introduce himself and promise to “say adios to Donald Trump.”

In the days after the debate, Castro addressed critiques about his inability to speak Spanish fluently.

“Spanish was looked down upon,” he said in an interview with MSNBC. “You were punished in school if you spoke Spanish. You were not allowed to speak it. People, I think, internalized this oppression about it, and basically wanted their kids to first be able to speak English. And I think that in my family, like a lot of other families, that the residue of that, the impact of that is that there are many folks whose Spanish is not that great.”

Not every person of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian or Colombian descent is fluent in the language. There is a steady decline in Spanish spoken among Latinos in the U.S. There is no blanket approach to the language. Some people speak it, others don’t and another population uses a variation of Spanglish. Throw in various dialects, and language alone is enough to see how diverse Latinos can be.

But let’s not forget Puerto Rican voting rights and their lack of federal representation in government. While Puerto Ricans can vote in the presidential primaries, they are not permitted to vote in general federal elections. Only Puerto Ricans living on the mainland can participate in the general election—even though the island is a part of the U.S. and is affected by the elected policymakers. Elizabeth Warren and Julián Castro are the only two candidates who have made Puerto Rican rights a part of their policy platforms. Castro even made Puerto Rico the first stop on his presidential campaign. They might not speak Spanish but their actions show they have been fighting for those who do.

Presidential hopefuls beware: Latinos do not think the same way, and their voting record reflects this. The people who watch El Gordo y La Flaca are not the same ones described in the 2019 CNN article “The future of the American economy is Hispanic and female.”

The Latino vote can be a deciding factor in the 2020 race. However, just like any other voting bloc, different strategies and campaign tactics are required to reach this group. Latino voters will not support someone for something as basic as speaking Spanish, and it would be a mistake to assume the group is automatically won by the Democratic Party. The path to victory begins by admitting the road to mobilizing this demographic won’t be easy. 

READ: Republicans Have Made Voting In This Majority Latino Town In Kansas Nearly Impossible

Latino Voters Deliver Bernie Sanders Major Victory In California Primary

Things That Matter

Latino Voters Deliver Bernie Sanders Major Victory In California Primary

berniesanders / joebiden / Instagram

Fourteen states voted on Super Tuesday and Vice President Joe Biden led the pack of Democratic candidates. Bernie Sanders, despite a decisive win in California, now has the second-highest delegate count. Latino voters made their voices heard, especially in California where they delivered Sanders a strong victory.

Sen. Bernie Sanders won the biggest Super Tuesday prize: California.

According to Vox, Latinos in California largely supported Sen. Sanders. Forty-nine percent of Latino voters in the Golden State voted for Sanders with 12 percent voting for Vice President Joe Biden. There was a clear generational divide in support for Sen. Sanders. Seventy-one percent of Latinos 18-29 supported Sen. Sanders while 35 percent of Latinos 45-64 supported the Vermont senator.

Sen. Sanders won more than a million votes in California earning him 135 delegates.

As of noon March 4, 87 percent of precincts were reporting giving Sen. Sanders a commanding 9-point lead over Vice President Biden. Leading up to the election, Sen. Sanders was polling highest among Latino voters and it seems Latinos came out to vote and gave Sen. Sanders the advantage he needed to win California.

However, young voters, Sen. Sanders’s key voters, turned out in smaller numbers during the primary.

The number of young voters in Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina was down compared to the 2016 primary elections. In Alabama, 10 percent of voters were 17-29 this year compared to 14 percent in 2016. Young voters are the key demographic for Sen. Sanders and the lack of voting participation from young voters contributed to Sen. Sanders’s lackluster night.

Vice President Biden pulled off an unexpected and impressive performance.

Vice President Biden won 10 of the 14 states during Super Tuesday, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s home state Massachusetts. Black voters in the southern states came out in huge numbers to cast their ballots for Vice President Biden. Six states are voting in their primaries next week and there are 352 more delegates up for grabs that week. A candidate needs 1,991 candidates to secure the nomination outright before the convention. So far, Vice President Biden leads with 566 delegates and Sen. Sanders is a close second with 501.

READ: Bernie Sanders Leads Democratic Candidates In Latino Supporters And Donations

Recruiter Told Oklahoma Students To Line Up By Skin Color And ‘Nappiest’ Hair

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Recruiter Told Oklahoma Students To Line Up By Skin Color And ‘Nappiest’ Hair

KFOR/ Twitter

There’s a lot to learn from college officials and recruiters, including how ignorant the world can be.

According to recent reports, a recruiter for an Oklahoma Christian college was fired after directing students at a high school in Oklahoma to line themselves up by the color of their skin as well as how “nappy” to “straight” their hair was.

During a visit to Harding Charter Preparatory, the unidentified white recruiter had teachers in tears.

According to KFOR-TV, the recruiter from Oklahoma Christian University went to the school last Monday and upset teachers so much that some of them were int ears.

“He was like, ‘Let’s play a little game,’” one 11th-grade student told KFOR-TV in an interview about the recruiter. “He said, ‘Okay everyone, now line up from darkest to lightest skin complexion.’ ”

According to the station, the recruiter never gave an explanation about his request and he also told students to order themselves by kinkiest hair.

“He told us nappiest hair in the back and straighter hair in the front,” another student from the high school told KFOR-TV. “Teachers left. They were crying because they were offended. It’s just horrible.”

Since the incident, the recruiter has been fired from the university.

In a statementto KFORTV, the university confirmed the firing saying “OC admissions leadership did not approve the inappropriate activity in advance and has communicated closely with Harding administration since the visit. Admissions staff are scheduled to visit the academy Monday to apologize to Harding students and staff on behalf of the University.”

In a separate statement about the incident Harding Charter Prep’s principal, Steven Stefanick called the recruiters actions “inappropriate and hurtful” and said that it left everyone “stunned and distraught. “Over the years, we have had a strong relationship with the university and have never encountered events as such,” he wrote in a Facebook statement.