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Sunday, September 19, 2010

First Thoughts Regarding the 2010 Latino Vote:

(This entry can also be found @ http://cuentamecentral.com/?p=790)

Every once in a while, a group of teenagers and twenty-somethings who are Latino and eligible to vote ask me to tell them why they, or any other group of Latinos should vote:

Without giving them a history lesson about Martin Luther King Jr., César Chávez, and the “movement,” I tell them, if you look at everyone in the country as a whole, less than one third of registered voters are younger than middle age. But if you look only at Latinos, a full 48% are “young voters.” Only 18 million Latinos today are potential voters. Yet of the 46 million Latinos in the USA, 60% have been citizens since birth. If those who have always had the power to vote demanded the DREAM Act, for instance, automatically nearly 2 million more young Latinos would be on the path to citizenship and voting. If those who have always had the power to vote helped the 40% of Latinos who were born abroad get on the path to citizenship and voting, we would never again see injustices like the kinds we’ve seen in recent years.

Does anyone think Governor Brewer and her state legislature would have unleashed racial profiling law SB1070, if the 30% of Arizonans who are Latino actually voted?

Does anyone think if the same number of Latinos in California voted in every election as watch TV every week that 50% of Latino homes in California would have gone into foreclosure?

Does anyone think if the 100,000 eligible Latino voters in Pennsylvania were to register today, and vote in this and future elections, that any elected judge would ever again allow an all white jury to acquit two white men responsible for beating a Latino immigrant to death?

The year I left home and went off to college, roughly 75,000 Latinos graduated from California high schools. Only 3.5% enrolled in CalState or UC schools. And the vast remainder, were not keeping me company out East, or populating universities in the South, Midwest, Northwest, or Southwest. Educational attainment among Latinos throughout the country was already much lower than it was for other groups.

But today things are even worse: Most young Latinos don’t even make it to high school graduation. Of the 73.5% of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) who are Latino, for instance, it is believed that only two out of five will earn diplomas. 61% of LAUSD’s Latino students are expected to drop out without finishing high school. The same kind of pattern has emerged in New York, Florida, Texas, etc. And sadly, all across the country, the statistics for college completion aren’t any better. Only 16% of Latinos who actually manage to acquire high school diplomas go on to earn bachelor’s degrees.

In the United States of America, it is now more common for a young Latino (man) to go to prison than to go from high school to college. And a young Latina (woman) is now seven times more likely to have kids, and live in poverty because she never finished her degree, than any of her white peers. One-third of young Latinos already live below the poverty line. And with so many dropouts, with so few going to college, and with so few living wage jobs, things are only going to get worse… Unless, of course, young Latinos vote:

Each time we vote, we have the power to change our lives, as well as the lives of others. And the only way to get others to stop pinning the blame on Latinos for illegal drug trafficking, overwhelmed emergency rooms, public health crises, excessively high crime rates, overcrowded prisons, the length of unemployment lines, strained welfare roles, school violence, test scores that compare unfavorably to those of other nations, and so on, and so forth is to register and vote in this and every upcoming election.

In order to do away with discrimination—the bigotry and bias of individuals, as well as the systemic, pervasive and habitual policies that institutionalize the racism and xenophobia that harm Latinos in housing, lending, (redlining) employment, and education—we must seize this moment:

Very few voters are expected to turnout on November 2, 2010. If Latinos register to vote, and participate in this election, then Latinos dictate what will happen with jobs, education, immigration, the environment, etc. It is as simple as that. There are no excuses and no second chances. Once the registration deadline has passed. It has passed. But lucky for you: Registering to vote online is so easy, even grandma can do it!

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