Blacks and Latinos

I had the pleasure of chatting in person with a regular commentator of tdaxp today. The conversation began with Bush’s State of the Union address, but eventually turned to the issue of comparative racial and the difference between blacks and latinos. That is, the different between black group-level political strategy and latino group-level political strategy has been symbol v. substance.

For the past 50 years, most self-identified black movements have focused on highly symbolic victories. Brown v. Board of Education is a great example of this. In one swift movement, the Supreme Court declares separate but equal is inherently unequal. A bumper-sticker slogan for the ages. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are the legacies of this strategy, focusing on symbolic grievances to achieve symbolic victories (plus funding and jobs for their organizations and hangers-on).

During the same period, Latino politics seems to have been focused on one big gain: immigration. National-level latino politics seems to focus on making more latinos. I can’t recall a latino analog of Jesse Jackson, but efforts by latinos to enlarge their voting bloc have been tireless for more than a generation.

For now, the results show that substance is more important than symbolism. The continuing poor standing of blacks on most measures of welfare, combined with the continuing integration of latinos after three generations in the country, is compounded by the growing population imbalance. According to the 2000 census, 12.3% of Americans are black while 12.5% are Hispanic. There is every reason to believe the gap has grown larger in the years since then.

America’s transition from a secondly black to a secondly latin country will not have the same consequences has the lack of a Catholic majority in Lebanon of the Sunni’s loss of control of Iraq. But it won’t be without consequences, and a likely one is a change to the mythic past.

But that is a post for another time…

6 thoughts on “Blacks and Latinos”

  1. Given the opposition of a lot of black ministers to contraception, their strategy seems to be to increase the number of black voters as well. Same for evangelicals.

  2. a517dogg,

    Thanks for the comment!

    While most groups, except for white liberals (Episcopalians [1], etc.) are generally in favor of reproductive success, the latinos uniquely focused on adding through immigration. This offloads the whole problem of actually raising children, as you generally get people of working age fully formed.

    Black identity politicians could have dome something similar, advocating increased immigration from the West Indies or Africa instead of focusing on American ills. But they chose a shorter-term strategy instead, and now we are entering the long-term.

    I commented on your blog [2,3]


  3. Thanks for the comment; I replied to [2].

    An interesting long-term political strategy would be to influence Mexican/other Latino politics to change the views of the immigrants before American Latinos can work them into a political machine. i.e., try to affect your political party's brand overseas.

  4. Catholicgauze,

    That population can support a higher abortion rate because of a higher live birth rate. Demographically, you can replace an infanticide with just one more insemination.


    “An interesting long-term political strategy would be to influence Mexican/other Latino politics to change the views of the immigrants before American Latinos can work them into a political machine. i.e., try to affect your political party's brand overseas.

    Could you give an example of that strategy?

  5. You said Latinos work on getting more Latino voters. The way I understand how immigrants get involved in the American political process is that it starts through personal contacts in the immigrant community. Therefore a political party or activist organization could work on recruiting immigrants before they reach American shores by appealing to a layer of political identity other than that of “immigrant” – for instance, “pro-choice” or “stay the course”. Maybe political parties could do this by working on their branding.

    Just an idea, probably would be too difficult to put into practice.

  6. I think that's a clever idea, a517d0gg. It would be long-term party building, but it would be intersting for the Republican or Democratic parties to spend money on winning Mexican hearts & minds, on the idea that will change the party dynamics in the states.

    It would be interesting if something simliar to this exsted in Puerto Rico and, if not, why not.

  7. “…but efforts by latinos to enlarge their voting black have been tireless …”

    I guess once you've enlarged your voting black you never go back.

    Just in my experience, so far Mexican Americans do not turn out in the same percentages as blacks, and a small, albeit fair, percentage often tend to try their best to vote white, so they have blocks of both the invisible and the divisible.

  8. The typos fixed, sonofsamphm1c… Thanks!

    Black identity politicians have the advantage of being part of the Democratic machine, and so regularly turn out above their numbers. “Demographics is destiny,” however, and trends will swamp any get-out-the-vote differences in the long term.

  9. I hate when people label certain people as “hispanic” because there is no such ethnicity…these groups share a common language, but there is a huge difference between Mexicans, Spanish, PR, DR, Cubans etc… A lot share different beliefs, and many so-called Hispanic groups, like those of Spanish culture are against illegal immigration (like in NM)

  10. Rin,

    You make a good point — “Latino” as an identity was developed by Napoleon III to support his claims for a French dominion over most of the Western hemisphere (including the unlucky sub-Emperor Maximilian of Mexico).

    As commonly used, “latino” really means belonging to a historic breeding population which is largely Iberian in y-chromosomal DNA and largely American Indian in mitochondrial DNA — essentially, an Iberian-Indian hybrid race.

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