Mr. Obama, you should have asked me about the Latino vote
by L. Arthalia Cravin
The Latinos “sho did” come through for Miss Hillary in the recent Nevada caucuses. After the dust cleared, Hillary boldly thanked, of all people, Los Angeles’ Latino mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa for her 51 to 45 percent win over Obama. I have personal experience with the “Latino vote.”
A few years ago I ran for mayor of a small East-Texas town. During the campaign I regularly appeared on a local cable-access television show to discuss my position on the issues. During these “meet the candidate” session I had a regular Latino caller who praised my positions and my willingness to take on tough issues. In advance of an upcoming parade in which I wanted to address diversity I requested of “this gentleman” if he could arrange for two Latino children to appear with me, along with African American and Anglo children. He expressed his delight and willingness to help. On the day of the parade I anxiously waited for the Latino children to show up. When I called “the gentleman” who promised to get the children there, it became clear that he had reneged on his part of the bargain—so the parade went on with only black and white children. I did not get the Hispanic vote—in fact after the race in which I lost by a few votes, it became clear that the Latino voters did not vote for me and never intended to give any appearance that they supported the candidacy of the possibly first woman and African American mayor of the town. The reason, Latinos have two cards to play in politics—as victims in need of opportunities, or as “la raza” (the race, the family) who must stick together for the betterment of the group. They played the “la raza” card with me—they also played it with Obama—and they will continue to do so.
There is a fine line that Obama knows that he must tow when it comes to race and politics. He earnestly began his campaign for the presidency attempting to subrogate the issue of race. In fact, his appeal to whites is that he tries to avoid talking about race all together which accounted for the flap over comments made by the Clintons about Martin Luther King’s role in the civil rights movement. Talking about this matter made Obama very uneasy because he wants to avoid any public discussion about race—as if silence will make the nasty little lingering issues associated with racial disparities go away. Still this is his strategy to attract white voters. But, he will soon find out that when it comes to the Latino vote, that he has a serious problem—just like the one I encountered.
I have lived long enough to call a spade “a spade.” Latinos are on the precipice in America and they know it. They know all the talk about enforcing the immigration laws and fencing off the border will not result in 12 million plus illegal Latinos being shipped back to wherever they came from. They know that they are “the new minority,” politically and economically. They also know that they are fast replacing African Americans as the minority group that has protested the most vociferously about racial and economic injustice. They also know that whites are tired of hearing about racial injustice. The result, Latinos can appear in great numbers at a conference such as the one I recently attended, entitled, “Educating Children of Color,” and take advantage of opportunities because they are a “little bit brown” skin color wise. But at the same time, Latinos can classify themselves as “white” or at least align themselves with whites when it comes to economics. They can do so because they have made it clear to whites that they will sacrifice African American gains for their own personal advancement-la raza style, and they are doing so with increasing frequency and boldness.
A few months ago I wrote a column entitled “Zero Sum Game.” In it I pointed out the study that showed that for every job that an illegal Latino gets, an African American male will most likely end up in prison for engaging in behavior associated with lack of economic opportunity. Latinos see nothing wrong with this—for them it’s “la raza” at work. For them, it’s survival of their own family and race—to hell with African Americans. It is for this reason that one version of the 2007 Farm Bill that was placed on the calendar in the Senate contains a section entitled, “Hispanic Serving Institutions Agricultural Land National Resources Leadership Program.” I researched the Farm Bill and was shocked to find Section 8201 of Title VIII, Subtitle C, which gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to make grants to Hispanic-serving institutions for the purpose of recruiting them, giving them get scholarships and other assistance in order to “develop professionals to work in forestry and related fields.” In other words, the 2007 Farm Bill has hidden within its 600 pages specific and exclusively targeted legislation to help Hispanics only to “work in forestry and related fields with Federal agencies, such as the Forest Service, State agencies, and private-sector entities.” If the words African American were substituted for “Hispanic” in such legislation, the “reverse discrimination” crowd would be in an uproar. This provision currently in the House of Representative version of the Farm bill is telling in more ways than one.
There is no one in America except a blind person who is not aware of the influx of Hispanics into certain types of jobs—lawn service, home construction, road construction, janitorial, housekeeping and a host of other jobs outside of the harvesting of seasonal crops. I am not saying anything that is not observable by anyone with one or two eyes. The typical reason given for this “permissive” influx is that most Americans do not want these jobs. Many employers offer the excuse that they cannot find Americans willing to work in these jobs. These same employers never paint the full picture—low wages, no benefits, occupational hazards, etc. As a result, the Latino has parlayed his economic foothold into political power that they will not jeopardize by casting a vote for me—or Obama. As the old saying goes, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” Latinos know that if they are to continue to cross the border with impunity, work in every industry they can find, mostly with impunity, that they must resist any association with the very people whom they are displacing—namely African Americans. The result is an increasing distancing of themselves from issues affecting African Americans—unless of course being “of color” offers opportunities—such as scholarships and education—then they are quite willing be “a little bit black.”
Obama needs a wake-up call about “la raza.” I learned the hard way by thinking that Latinos “naturally” align themselves with the sufferings of African Americans. They don’t. And, if at all possible, they will continue on their current course of leapfrogging over the very people who paved the way for them to march in the streets and proclaim their “rights” in America.
© Copyright 2008 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.