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Unqualified Latino Candidates — An Urban Legend

LatinaLista — The quickest way to discount any candidate for political office, government appointment, job promotion, school admittance, etc. is to automatically resort to the excuse that the particular person is not qualified.

It’s a reason that is all too often accepted without a fight, and it happens to Latinos more often than it should these days.

For example, right now in Port Chester, New York, a municipality that has more than 46 percent of its population identified as Hispanic, there is not one Latino elected official on its six-member Board of Trustees.

It’s so obvious that there is an imbalance in representation that the U.S. Department of Justice is suing town officials to take action to change the situation.

To anyone, it would seem odd that in a town with almost half of its population designated Hispanic, there is not one single qualified Latino to win a seat on the Board.

What’s ironic is that Latinos ourselves have been conditioned to believe that Latino candidates, unless they are lucky to have a pedigree degree, are not qualified to hold these kinds of positions.

As one young village resident said, “I think we do really need a little more Hispanic representation, but we also need people in there who know what they’re doing,” said Gabriel Hernandez, a 22-year-old registered Democrat who volunteers as a poll worker and studies business at Westchester Community College. “You can’t just have people in there because they’re Hispanic, or black or white, or whatever. It just makes no sense to say, ‘Oh, there’s nobody Hispanic in there, so let’s put someone in just based on the fact that he’s Spanish,’ when that person might not be qualified.”

Yet, what determines whether or not someone is qualified?

Good grades? Job experience? The right education? Being born into the right families? Or just delivering the right answers during the interview process?

Is two or three out of five so bad?

For too many candidates, experience is always touted as the determining factor in whether or not someone is qualified — and for some reason it always seems Latino candidates just don’t have enough of it — regardless of how much they’ve already done.

Yet, to top it off, voters who vote for the “perceived” less qualified Latino candidate are almost always labeled as an “ethnicity voter.”

That these voters would put the needs of the country beneath electing “one of their own” is a tactic that is used too often in discouraging voters in multi-ethnic races.

It is a discussion that is bound to be raised time and time again if Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico announces his run for the Presidency.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico

Half-Mexican, Half-Anglo – a fellow hybrid – Richardson has an impressive resume: former New Mexican congressman and former US Ambassador to the United Nations, as well as, serving as special envoy on many sensitive international missions.

Rumors are strong that Richardson will run for the Presidency in 2008.

Yet, with such an impressive resume and political experience, it is already being anticipated that there will be some who will say he is not “qualified.”

The critics will contend that Richardson has the support of the Latino community because of his ethnicity rather than his qualifications.

Will Latino voters then be looked upon as ethnicity voters rather than smart voters who can evaluate not just the qualifications of each candidate, but their qualities as leaders, and vote accordingly?

Why the terms “Latino” and “qualified” are seen more as oxymorons than natural complements of one another is the result of years of circumstance and conditioning.

Circumstance when Latinos were denied access to represent and conditioning to make everyone else believe that Latino candidates were less, in all aspects, than others.

Qualified Latino candidates exist everywhere — that their ethnicity happens to be Latino just adds a new dimension to their political profile and should be seen as the asset it is, and not an indicator of their qualifications.

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