The Next Four Years : Setting a Low Bar for Latino Expectations

Remember how much Obama and well, everyone wanted our vote, the Latino vote? We, the sleeping giant, the next not so new big thing, the harbingers of shifting racial and ethnic politics were courted and talked about, a lot. But as I recently wrote in a piece for Extra!, on how mainstream media covered the Latino vote immediately after election day, being the subject of conversation is nice, being part of the conversation is more important.

On the eve of the next four years, the second presidential term of Barack Obama, all signs showed that there is much confusion about what political power actually means and looks like. Hell, there seems to be confusion as to what actually being at the table means.
While I, in a column for the Progressive, lamented, along with many,  the loss the Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, I was not and am not under the impression that Latino presence is the same as representation and/or power. I do think it’s a shame that with the departure of the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, there are now no Latinos in the cabinet. It certainly does not reflect our numbers in the United States. But make no mistake, having a Rodriguez or a Munoz in the White House is no guarantee of policies that bring our communities closer to justice.

Maybe it’s about who is throwing the parties? Based on the tweets, facebook posts, and news headlines I have seen from inauguration day, many people seem to think so. I actually have a press release in my inbox celebrating Mana’s performance at the Inaugural Ball as a point of pride for Latinos. Now, I will admit, it has been a minute since I have danced to Mana (ok really a few years, at least), but if Mariposa Traicionera wasn’t sung in reference to Obama’s record deportation policies, then while nice, it shouldn’t be made out to be more than what it was. Headlines celebrating the bigger role Latinos played in the inauguration from Poet Richard Blanco to hostess housewife Eva Longoria blur where the real work has to be done. Want better schools? Nope we’ll give you more standardized testing, charter schools, and police in schools but you can read, perform, plan a party for us right?

Color me underwhelmed by our huge “new” role.

If we want to talk about cultural shifts in the United States, then yes the markers of that were all over the inauguration festivities. But we cannot accept that brown faces saying “Presidente” mean our communities are being listened to. That happens through policy and practices.  History has shown us and so many that real transformative change doesn’t come from us singing our songs, reading our words, dancing our dances, feeding our foods to those and for those in power. That type of change comes through different action. The willingness to make people uncomfortable. The privilege to protest.

But first I have to get through about 100 different mass email blasts clogging up my inbox telling me what comprehensive immigration reform looks like according to 100 different organizations.

Four More Years.

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2 comments on “The Next Four Years : Setting a Low Bar for Latino Expectations
  1. I love the idea of Mana singing Mariposa Traicionera to Obama. Whenever people argue that Obama has had his hands completely tied by Republicans pressuring him to do bad things, I point out his deportation record. That was of his own volition, and still no one talks about it. I campaigned for him, I voted for him, and I support him, but he better use the power we gave him to “find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity.”

  2. Hi Juliana, maybe we should start a petition on the White House website about that. Ha. But in all seriousness, like you wrote, the Obama administration has made a conscious decision to say one thing about immigration reform but act completely against that in terms of policy. While I don’t think the Republicans are without blame, Obama could have (and still can) make moves to change the direction of immigration policy in the US. I want to be more hopeful about what the outcome will be but all we can all do is keep monitoring and demanding real change.

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