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Latinos stand next in line, feeling, even acting, invisible

Rodriguez, C. (1999, June 27). Latinos stand next in line, feeling, even acting, invisible. The Boston Globe, p. F4.

OVERVIEW

The author describes talking to two strangers in a pet store. The town is a "bland, unassuming city far from bigger cities." When one of the three commands her dog, "Sientate" (Sit), they discover, to their surprise, that they are all Latinas. The woman, who looks Middle-Eastern, is Domincana, and the other gentleman is a dark-skinned Puertorriqueño. She herself is apparently very light skinned.

Consider these perspectives, as shared by several Latinos:

Because Latinos come in every shade imaginable, sometimes even we have trouble distinguishing our own. So we blend in.

Sometimes I wonder if our blending in keeps people from realizing how large the Latino community is. Light-skinned Latinos are sometimes mistaken for white. And dark-skinned Latinos are often taken for black.

In some cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, the author explains minority means "black, Latino, Asian, Native American." In other places like Boston minority seems to mean only black.

Not that blacks have all that much of a voice in this city, either. But Latinos? We’re not even on the radar. Why are there just two or three Latino reporters on the local TV news stations? Why do many bookstores in Boston have such small sections on Latino studies? Why do supermarkets stock so little of our food, often squeezed in a corner, right next to the tiny Asian section? Whey aren’t there more restaurants serving our food? It’s as if we don’t exist.

The problem, according to this writer, is a lack of political voice. Latinos are the largest minority in the state, yet they have only three Latino state legislators. Boston has no Latino representation on the city council, although Latinos make up 13% of its population. Rodriguez concludes:

Whether we are talking about Latino power across the United States, or just in Boston, we need to make it known that America has changed. It’s no longer black and white.

That’s going to cause friction. That’s because people in power are not going to want to want to move over. They’ll gerrymander district lines into figure-eights to keep their seats. Whites will try to force blacks to share with Latinos the few electoral seats they’ve struggled to get.

That means that Latinos, along with our African-American brothers and sisters, have to strategize, to find ways to break into the circles of power. Our voices are going to rise.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

  1. How would a discussion of this article go in your place of work, schooling, or faith? What different viewpoints would be represented in the discussion?
  2. How do you react to this article? How would you respond to this writer?
  3. Do you think Latinos are raising their voices and making their point more in music than in any other way? What are these voices saying?

IMPLICATIONS

    • Most of America’s attempt to reconcile and unify itself racially has been focused on black and white. Other groups feel the discrimination, but have not been given comparable attention.
    • The strategy of discrimination is to marginalize and silence disadvantaged groups.
    • Music has given voice to blacks generally and more recently to young black men. In the past few years a strong voice of Latin music has crossed over and gone mainstream. Fortunately, it is the voice of fusion of many diverse cultures (see Topic Discussion on Latin Music). Although as the author above points out, political strategy and work must be done, the musical coming together is a hopeful sign.

Dean Borgman cCYS