Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Media Relishes in Minority Tension

What does it mean for a Presidential candidate to court the Latino vote? I bet if you ask that question to 100 Latinos, you'll get more answers than the number of ingredients in mole poblano*; yet, the corporate media is convinced of its ability to answer that question and often decides to add in its own shade of drama to campaigns.
LAS VEGAS — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has eaten beef tacos in East Los Angeles and sat on the living room couch of a working-class family in a largely Hispanic neighborhood here for 30 televised minutes. At a rally of the culinary workers’ union in the shadows of the Strip here one night, Senator Barack Obama pumped his fist and chanted with the crowd, “¡Sí, se puede; sí, se puede; sí, se puede!” or, “Yes, we can!”

First guacamole, now tacos - will Hillary start courting the Paleta Caucus next? Just wondering, since it seems like anytime the candidates are mentioned "courting the Latino vote", food is involved somewhere in the article.. How's that for caricatures?

Anywho, the New York Times continues with the convenient topic of racial tension between the African American and Latino communities.
Mr. Obama confronts a history of often uneasy and competitive relations between blacks and Hispanics, particularly as they have jockeyed for influence in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.


In 2004, Hispanics accounted for 16 percent of the vote in the California primary; 11 percent in New York, 17 percent in Arizona and 9 percent in Florida. Should he win the presidential nomination, his success at overcoming the history between the two groups will be critical as the Democrats approach an election in which they are looking to lock up the Hispanic vote for decades to come.
This whole mindset needs to be removed like an ingrown toenail. The Latino vote is never, ever going to be something that is unifiable like the African American vote. We are from too many different places of origin with different relationships towards the social structures around us. As I've written many times before - the politics of a Xicano are not the same as a marielito which are not the same as a puertoriqqueño which are not the same as a guatemalteco which are not the same as....you get the picture.

This is a Latino blog because of who I am and the raíces I've chosen to embrace in my writing and lifestyle - but that doesn't make the topics I cover part of a Latino Agenda. I happen to write a lot about immigration issues, often being characterized as an 'immigration rights blog' from outside sources; which makes it easy to assume that I think that immigration is a Latino issue - it is not. My proximity to the border and the disparate relationship between the U.S. and Latin American economics certainly makes it a prominent piece of the conversation; but it is a disservice to the complexity of the issue to pigeonhole it.

I'd say the same goes for issues of poverty, job growth and the disgusting state of our school systems (often in minority neighborhoods). Thinking in such small terms will inevitably sideline communities that deserve to have their nuanced view of issues incorporated into the campaigns.

Tuesday's debate in Las Vegas is to focus on issues that concern minorities, and is co-sponsored by African-American and Latino groups. That left one minority group feeling ignored.

"They forgot about almost 150,000 Asian people in this town," said Mike Vaswani, president of the Las Vegas Asian American Group, an umbrella group for Asian associations. "The Asian community is also a significant minority community."


Race relations in the U.S. are going to be part of this election, whether we like it or not, especially with candidate surrogates showing the world new levels of idiocy and offensiveness; but I think Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama has it right:
"We're not going to win on identity politics," Davis said. "Barack Obama is not going to win on identity politics. Hillary Clinton is not going to win on identity politics. The Republican Party is sitting there salivating at the prospects of a battle between white females and blacks."

The candidate that can speak to checkbook and justice/equality memes will ultimately win over voters in many different demographics. The sniping at the scraps that the media loves to highlight is really an abdication of responsibility for a system that pretends its over race while secretly relishing in any drama the latest hit piece may cause. It is a sign that we all have much work to do.

*it's a lot, trust me

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