March 20, 2009

Latinos Lost in Limbo

Hat tip to Daily Kos

Kos's regular abbreviated pundit roundup wrangles up an interesting piece about the place of Latinos in America's racial discourse. When we talk about the racial divide, its often in black and white. Latinos don't appear to be a part of the conversation and it strikes me that their seeming invisibility or low profile in the discussion about race and policy is in part because they don't have the same coherence of shared experience that blacks do.

I spent time in Europe and when I was there, I was struck by what seemed to me the lack of a shared political mindset among blacks in Britain. They did not seem to me to have a sense of shared identity in the way black Americans do. In general, most blacks in America know where other blacks are coming from. We have, broadly speaking, a common frame of reference culturally and politically. This did not seem to be the case for UK's blacks in the 80's.

After some thought, I chalked this up to the fact that blacks in Britain are immigrants from a variety of different places, each with its own "black" experience. Some were from Haiti, some from Jamaica, others from different countries in the Motherland itself and so they did not necessarily have widely shared attitudes and thinking among each other. Consequently, I did not get the sense of any great political commonality among them.

America's latino community strikes me the same way. Because they hail from many different parts of South America, they don't have a common political identity around which they easily cohere. As a consequence, they don't seem to have mobilized themselves in the same way blacks have for many years. Within that community, I suspect they have a variety of issues upon which the diversity within the community mitigates against consensus