LatinaLista — Just because the Democrats won, it still isn’t time for the Latino community to celebrate.
There are still too many open wounds that are festering and becoming even more infected with misinformation, prejudice and unsubstantiated fear.
But what’s worse is that though the debate has always been about undocumented immigrants, Latino citizens are finding ourselves standing side-by-side with the undocumented because we share a heritage, a look and a bicultural lifestyle.
In the minds of people who are not familiar with Hispanic culture beyond Taco Bell, Latinos are all the same.
At this point, it’s annoyingly frustrating to have to reiterate our unique differences in one more effort to “educate” the rest of the country that some of us speak more English than Spanish, don’t all come from Mexico, and didn’t just arrive yesterday.
Yet, if we don’t continue to do it, we risk being continually labeled as a homogenous group of “drug dealers, murderers and thieves.”
Those were the words used to describe the Latino (immigrants) in Hazleton, Pennsylvania who have been leaving in droves in anticipation of the enforcement of the ordinance that put the town on the map for being the most unfriendly city to undocumented immigrants.
Though the man who used these descriptors was referring to undocumented immigrants, chances are that from a distance he wouldn’t have known the difference between an undocumented Latino and a third-generation Latino.
And that crime rose because of the swell in population, who just happened to be undocumented immigrants, is an unfortunate fact that happens when you increase more people in an area than there are resources to fully meet their needs.
Crime would have risen regardless of the ethnicity of the new residents.
Yet in people’s minds, the image of Latinos is not positive.
From the spring rallies and marches to the rise in gang crime, Latinos, regardless of citizenship status, are seen to be responsible more for what is wrong in society than for the contributions we make.
Which leads to the realization that the real dilemma facing the Latino community at this point in time is not how to find more Latinos to register to vote — but how do we change public perception?
The easy answer is to say we have to start changing those elements within our community that give us this kind of image, and that’s true.
But that takes the kind of time that only allows negative images to be more deeply imbedded in the public psyche.
What the Latino community needs is a PR campaign that highlights contributions and our unique differences.
In the process of educating the greater public, such a campaign would also raise the self-esteem of our youth.
And that would be something to celebrate.