February 15, 2008


Super Tuesday, Latinos, and the Vote

Relations between Blacks and Latinos may not be perfect, but they can only go up

By Ralph de Unamuno

Those claiming that the Latino vote for Clinton is a form of racism against Obama and Blacks are taking their positions from a very narrow Black/ White view of race and ethnicity of the United States. It is a very simple minded and uninformed critique. While there can be no denying that Latinos and Blacks often have political tension, and they both harbor racial animosity towards each other from time to time, this has more to do with them both being on the “bottom rung” of the political and economic ladder in the United States, where White Supremacy and institutional racism ensure that those on the “bottom rung” fights for crumbs rather than fight the system that keeps these two groups in a rat race to the bottom. These critiques also overlook the racism and exclusion Latinos have faced from established African-Americans and its political systems across the United States. But to focus on Black and Brown political tension lets both Reactionary and Liberal whites off the hook for the system of racism that is still in place in the US.

It also upholds the arcane idea that the United States has only having two races: Blacks and Whites, and only blacks suffer from racism. The United States is not only Black and White, and Obama found that out when he began to campaign in the Southwest for Super Tuesday... it was full of Mexicans and he had no strategy aside from bilingual advertisements. Hillary Clinton had taken a chance that a lot of Latinos would vote this time around and she built a campaign of photo shoots, key endorsement by Latino community leaders, organizations, and elected officials. She locked these crucial endorsements months, if not a year before Obama realized that Latinos were key to Super Tuesday.

I think that for people to simplify the Latino vote on Super Tuesday as a vote against Blacks, overlooks Latino political intelligences, and also creates a fiction that all Latinos care about is screwing Blacks over. Neither community are that preoccupied with the other, not because they are indifferent to each other, but because the other 364 days of the year they are not think about being “Latino” or being “Black”, they are thinking about trying to survive. Latinos and Blacks have much more on their minds when it comes to politics than blocking one person’s chance at presidents because of their race. It was only 8 months ago that most Blacks weren’t convinced that Obama had their interests in mind, yet racism was never brought up then in regards to his mixed heritage.

It is amazing how the white pundits have overlooked that most Whites are voting for racist, reactionary, rich, white men in the Republican party that are down right hostile to the interests of people of color. Why aren’t the political pundits talking about the anti: people of color, LGBT, women, working class, environment, peace, democracy, social and economic justice vote most White Americans choose on Super Tuesday with McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Tancredo and Paul?

The biggest problems with these critiques is that they erase the great history and successfully political coalitions between Blacks and Latinos that elected Mayor Harold Washington in Chicago and kept Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles in office during the 1980’s. It also overlooks that fact that most of the residents of south Los Angeles are now Latino, and Black politicians like Mark Ridley Thomas, Karen Bass, Maxine Waters (who endorsed Clinton) absolutely need the Latino vote, and who continue to get reelected by their Latino constituency. While Latinos could make the same accusations of racism against African Americans in regards to Antonio Villaraigosa’s first bid for Mayor of Los Angeles in 2000, it must be said Blacks were the key to his success in his successfully run in 2005. Was it the “racist” vote of blacks that kept him out of office in 2000? No. Villaraigosa did not have a long track record in the community, and his white opponent in 2000, Kenneth Hahn, had a last name that African-Americans trusted due to his father’s legacy. Kenny Hahn while on the City Council in the 1960’s was a supporter of civil rights throughout the 1960s, and became greatly respected in the African-American community of Los Angeles.

Back to Clinton and Obama. Hillary Clinton has something Obama does not have. What she has was the crucial element in her big win among Latino voters across the southwest and in every major city with Latino voters on Super Tuesday. She has the same thing Kenneth Hahn had over Villaraigosa in 2000. She has the name. CLINTON means many things to Latino voters, especially those that were in the US during the 1990’s. Let’s face it, after 8 years of Bush and the Republicans bringing this democracy to the brink, people are depressed. The name Clinton is familiar and it reminds people of a much happier and prosperous time in the United States. The vote for Clinton on Tuesday was a vote for “Let’s just go back to normal already!” Obama ran a campaign that said unity, but ran Black and White. He was trying to not be like Jesse Jackson of the 1980’s and lost because of it. He may want to look at the Rainbow Coalition that Jesse ran during his presidential bid because it may have been what did him in.

When I told my mom that I would choose Obama over Clinton she went mad. Did she go on a racist tirade? No. She wanted everything to go back to normal, and was very clear that I realize that Hillary was a vote for the good old days of the 1990’s. For my mom and my family a vote for Hillary is a two for one vote, they get her (who they liked because of her Health Care movement in the early 1990’s) and Bill, who they love. When Bill Clinton was in office they remember everyone had jobs, people could afford houses, there was no war without end, there was low gas prices, and corporations weren’t stealing the US treasury (in the open). They were happy.

Latinos do not come to the US empty vessels ready to learn everything anew. Latinos come from countries that have elections and political parties just like the US, surprise, surprise! But criticism so narrow that think Latino solely vote “anti votes” so derogatorily put out by Americans of all colors would have you overlook that. In Latin America we actually have leaders who start revolutions for the people, and not for the rich who don’t want to pay taxes. In Latin America, when people speak like Obama after many years of reactionary politics, a message of change to the Left means more turmoil and conflict, not stability. If people looked at Latinos as an ethnic/racial group with a history that is older than European colonization, and not a group of “non-blacks, but might as well be whites,” they would see that there are similarities among Latino voters whether they be from Mexico, Central American or the Caribbean.

Relations between Blacks and Latinos may not be perfect. But they can only go up. I can think of no greater threat to the hegemony of White Supremacy than the day that Latinos and Blacks realize that their struggle is the same, and that they don’t need to love each other, or assimilate into each other to have a successful political movement that serves both their interests.

Repinted from LatinoLA.com

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