Opinions

Birdman Aside, Latinos Still Have a Ways To Go

So_x000D_
far, 2015 has been incredibly impactful for the Latino community in the United_x000D_
States. From immigration reform to back-to-back Oscar triumphs to (hopefully) future_x000D_
Chicago mayor Jesús “Chuy” García, our community is in the midst of historic_x000D_
cultural and political shifts.

But_x000D_
underneath these success stories lie painful systemic repression and_x000D_
inequality.

In_x000D_
terms of income and wealth, our prospects are bleak. The Latino median yearly_x000D_
household income in 2013 was a staggering $13,700—ten times less_x000D_
than that of our white counterparts. In other words, “Hispanics make up more_x000D_
than 16 percent of the U.S. population, but_x000D_
only about 2.2 percent of its wealth
.” 

These_x000D_
numbers are only a reflection of a grotesquely_x000D_
unequal economy
fueled in large part by decades-long stagnant_x000D_
wages
, even for those who are highly_x000D_
educated
. Yet according to Fox_x000D_
News
and the like, we’re the_x000D_
ones ruining the economy—even though undocumented_x000D_
immigrants paid a net $100 billion in social security_x000D_
taxes
_x000D_
over the last decade.

This inequality is exacerbated by a biased U.S. media_x000D_
landscape. According to a 2014 study published_x000D_
by Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, “stories_x000D_
about Latinos comprise less than one percent of all main news media coverage, and_x000D_
the majority of these stories feature Latinos as lawbreakers.” And although_x000D_
Mexican directors have taken home the Oscar for Best Director two years in a row, we’re still the butt of xenophobic ‘jokes.’ To make matters worse, “it’s been 14_x000D_
years
since a U.S. Latino actor last took home an Academy Award.”

When_x000D_
it comes to politics, things get pretty ugly. The Republican Party_x000D_
continues to block_x000D_
any efforts for tangible immigration reform. Despite President Obama’s steadfast position on the issue,_x000D_
many in our community feel as though his actions are too_x000D_
little, too late.
 

Just_x000D_
to make sure you’re rightfully infuriated, listen to this: According to_x000D_
information compiled_x000D_
by The Guardian
,_x000D_
there are only 34 Latinos in Congress, a mere nine of whom are women. That_x000D_
means that out of every 1.6 million Latinos in the United States, only one of_x000D_
them is a Congressional representative—a gap nearly three times larger than the whites, even though their share of the population is 4.5 times larger than_x000D_
ours.

These_x000D_
institutional barriers are rooted in historical racial discrimination against_x000D_
our communities. In the Southwest, for example, “Mexicans were frequently_x000D_
the targets of lynch mobs
, from the mid-19th century_x000D_
until well into the 20th century.” Chicanos all across the country were also “placed_x000D_
in ‘Mexican’ classrooms or schools
as a result of [de_x000D_
facto segregation] beginning in the early 1900s.” Latino immigration as we know_x000D_
it today is also a product of U.S.-sponsored free trade agreements_x000D_
that decimated local economies all over Mexico_x000D_
and Central_x000D_
America,
forcing mostly indigenous communities_x000D_
to uproot and move up north.

The_x000D_
fusion of these systemic oppressions has resulted in the dire conditions our_x000D_
communities face today. With the odds stacked so heavily against us, we’re_x000D_
relegated to low-income labor and underfunded, understaffed schools,_x000D_
creating a perpetual cycle of destitution. Racist immigration laws and police_x000D_
discrimination are a looming threat for thousands of Latino families, forcing_x000D_
many of us to live in fear of the law. These factors push many members of our_x000D_
communities into the criminal underworld, given that, since_x000D_
we are young enough to read
, we’re constantly reminded of_x000D_
how unlikely we are to succeed. It’s no wonder, then, that “one out of six_x000D_
Latino males will_x000D_
be incarcerated
in his lifetime.”

Luckily,_x000D_
there is hope: Nearly 80 percent of all Americans support_x000D_
some form of legal residency for undocumented immigrants who qualify, and the_x000D_
Latino electorate is set to double_x000D_
by 2030. The Latino poverty rate as a whole is also on a downward_x000D_
slope
.

But_x000D_
let’s not get lost in the future. Latino communities across the country are_x000D_
demanding their fair share as we speak. The death of unarmed Antonio_x000D_
Zambrano-Montes at_x000D_
the hands of three police officers
in Pasco, Wa., has_x000D_
called law enforcement’s relationship with our community into question, and_x000D_
DREAMers—both on_x000D_
campus
and outside of it—are working day and night to make their sueños and those of their parents and_x000D_
communities a reality.

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Whether_x000D_
you like it or not, the Latino community is the future of America, and we’re ready to take our seat at the table.

Carlos Ballesteros CM ’16 is a history and sociology double major from Chicago. He plans on radicalizing all of our children once he gets his teacher’s certification.

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