By Lacy Maria Serros
Imagine eating dinner with new friends, drinking a glass of red wine and being asked, “so, what’s going on with your people in America?” I was living abroad in Europe and was the only American, and the only one with Latino heritage. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into being the spokesperson for all things American or Latino.
Politics, however, kept surfacing in one way or another – what is it about the dinner table and politics?
Whenever the comparisons of European countries to the U.S. would start, I couldn’t help but feel a little ashamed. The criticism would typically start in generalizations, but ultimately, it was about the most pressing and highly publicized issues facing the U.S. – racism, gun violence, police brutality, to name a few.
However, the conversation was always rooted in a question about how the U.S. is going to elect its next president and continue to be an economic leader globally. The underpinning of this elicit question was if the American people would actually vote.
Anytime that I was challenged with this, I shared personal experiences about how I started organizing by walking door-to-door registering Latinos to vote or how in one of my previous roles as a funder I collaboratively provided resources to large national groups that conduct voter protection activities (i.e. bilingual poll monitors).
But, the theme of these conversations is that America has a problem with race, and that we as a people do not know or care to know anything about world affairs, let alone about our own country. To be honest, there were days when I didn’t want to return to the U.S. because of the growing racial tensions, the threat of and actual deaths in Black and Latino communities, and the ensuing apathy of people saying that they weren’t going to vote.
However, as I lamented over how the U.S. was being portrayed at European dinner tables and through the media, community organizations, outspoken celebrities, and other justice leaders across this country were mobilizing people to get and remain active in our democracy. The most prominent example is that of the Black Lives Matter movement, its growing base of supporters and its influence on America’s conversation about race.
Whether we want to admit it, the Latino discourse is not nearly as organized. That is not to say that our community isn’t having difficult conversations about race, or that there aren’t some serious efforts and successes to organize, empower and activate social change within the diverse Latino communities across the country. But, we need to do more.
Maybe we need to bring politics to the Latino dinner table. Maybe we aren’t talking enough about the issues, solutions and the power of our democracy.
We’re still referred to as the “Sleeping Giant,” yet there are people who say we might be finally “awakened” if we as a voting bloc do our job. In fact, Latinos are the largest ethnic or racial demographic in the U.S. and by default we have the capacity to choose the next president through our vote and our ability to mobilize the vote of our family, friends and community members in California and other states.
The urgency to build our political power, ensure our unique needs are heard, and activate the nation’s Latino electorate is ever pressing. It’s important to vote because the fact remains that those in power in this country have influence over all of our livelihoods. Regardless of your position, apathy does not negate the fact that the next U.S. President will have deciding power and great social and cultural influence of our country…and its relation to others.
As we get closer to November 8, groups like the Latino Community Foundation, Voto Latino, The Dolores Huerta Foundation, and others will work to register and get Latinos to participate civically in local politics and the presidential election. People will always want to know where you come from – show them by voting!
To join Lacy in voting this election, register to vote online by going to www.latinos-vote.com or text LATINOS to 384-387 to register! It only takes a few minutes.
About Lacy Maria Serros