Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Obama's Problem with Latinos.

I realize that this is a poetry blog. But until the White Sox open spring training I am watching allot of politics. I am supporting local senator and White Sox Fan Barack Obama and I have been thinking about what last night meant to our nation.

It is a great thing for America that Obama and Clinton are fighting it out for the nomination. One of the disturbing things however is something that if you live in a multi-ethnic area you already know there is enmity between Latin Americans and African Americans.

I live in Oak Park, IL if you draw a two mile circle around my house you encompass the Austin neighborhood of Chicago which is completely Black, the Villages of Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park which are mixed White Ethnic and "Fauxhemian" and Berwyn and Cicero which are predominently Latino. In Chicago like in the rest of America Latinos and Blacks have a rivalry and this is playing out in the presidential election this year and may in the end cause change thwarted again.

It is Latin Americans that are making the difference for Hillary Clinton and I think it needs to be asked is this political affinity or racism? Barack Obama is the child of immigrants and he understands what that means for policy yet he is getting a low percentage of Latino votes. He is young and attractive and much more marketable nationwide with independents but he still loses Latino Votes across the board.

Having lived in Latin America for a large part of my life I know that there is a profound skin color hierarchy in those nations. If you watch Spanish language television it is normally the whitest Latinos who are on TV and on newscasts, there are few if any Black Latinos on those channels- especially when you understand that Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Rep, Venezuela, and Colombia have large black populations. The fact is that in Brazil where my wife is from there are over 25 words for skin color most of them being used to avoid using the word "Black" for people and this is a profound cultural marker.

The question is will this campaign result in President John Mc Cain? He actually did better among Latinos in Florida than Obama did among Latinos anywhere in the USA. Even in Illinois Obama only got 52% of the Latino vote. Will change be stopped by a progressive movement
cleaved by ethnic and racial divisions?

It is too soon to see that will be decided in Texas in a few weeks. But as it stands we may be looking at President John Mc Cain and a 100 years of war in Iraq and elsewhere because people are voting their comfort rather than their interests again.

In some ways Latinos are acting as a group much more like Italians or Jews have in the past in America. It seems that a choice is being made that Hillary Clinton is more palatable than a Black man who is the child of an immigrant father. These choices were made before by other ethnic groups and have resulted in a stifling of change because of comfort.

It remains to be seen what the future holds but if I was John Mc Cain I would be looking for a Latino running mate to guarantee victory in November and to thwart the change that the powerful want so much to stop.


GJPW said...


I'll definitely vote for Obama. And if Clinton gets the nomination, I'll gladly vote for her. I've seen what you mention in terms of U.S. Latinos tending more towards Clinton. My impression is that in Latin America both Clinton and Obama are very well-liked (at least in Venezuela, which is where I have family). Also, don't know if you saw the column that Mario Vargas Llosa wrote in Spain's El País praising Obama a few weeks ago.

You bring up the Black-Latino divide in the U.S. and I do think it's real. I see that tension a lot here in North Carolina. I think both sides are at fault. Though I also see the dynamic influence we Latinos are having on the US. One example: this amazing little taquería here in Durham called La Vaquita, which serves incredible food, very cheap, and attracts black, white & Latino customers by the dozens each day. Never any tension there between the three.

I've enjoyed reading your blog for a while now. And have always wanted to thank you for the praise you wrote about my poems in issue #8 of "6x6" back in 2004. So, thanks.

Best wishes,

Guillermo Parra

Raymond Bianchi said...


I love your poetry-- it is really something and thanks for reading my blog