By Miguel De La Torre
In meetings at GOP headquarters across the country, one can almost hear the party bosses ordering the delivery of binders of Hispanics.
This is not all bad. The Latina/o community, and by extension the United States, does well when Hispanics are found in both the Democratic and Republican Party — as well as the Libertarian and Socialist Party.
The thoughts, ideas and voices of the large and fastest-growing group in the U.S. need to be at all tables, participating in and influencing the entire conversation. The last thing the Latino/a community wants is to be co-opted by any political party as a special-interest group used to deliver votes.
That said, I am a bit concerned with some of the attempts to woo us. It is great for our self-esteem to suddenly become the center of attention for both political parties. Nevertheless, the courting process needs to be conducted in a respectful and dignified manner.
To that end, here is some unsolicited advice.
1.) We are a people, not an interest group.
The reason many women were turned off by the GOP this past election season was because Republicans identified their concerns for them instead letting them speak for themselves. (The virtues of rape were not high on their list, and they cared about more than just jobs). So on Nov. 6, women spoke very loudly.
It is paternalistic to tell people – whether they be women in 2012 or Hispanics in 2016 — what their issues are and therefore how they should vote. Don’t treat us as consumers to whom you can sell a used car.
A more successful path is to ask us. What are our issues and concerns? How do we envision the America of tomorrow? You may not like what you hear, but if you want us to walk with you, then you need to change your tune (i.e., immigration).
2.) We are not a race.
There is no such thing as a stereotypical Hispanic. They are white with blond hair and blue eyes, they are black with curly hair, and they are everything in between.
They have Native American features and/or Asian features. They are Catholics, Protestants, worshipers of the Orishas (African quasi-deities), Jewish, atheists, spiritualists and followers of Amerindian religious traditions.
Some speak “pure” Spanish. Others speak Spanglish and others only English. Still others converse in Cholo, Mayan, Náhuatl, or Pocho. Some have recently arrived in this country, while the ancestors of others were here centuries before the Europeans.
They live in the blank despair of the barrio and in the comfortable illusions of the suburbs. Some pick apples and grapes, others pick stocks and bonds. Do not treat us as some monolithic group where we all agree on the issues.
3.) We are not window dressing.
Finding an assimilated Hispanic who speaks with a Euroamerican voice and placing that person on a pedestal to be our spokesperson doesn’t mean that the rest of us will follow, let alone listen. There is a slang word that is used to disparage those people – coconuts. It means that they are brown on the outside but white within.
Ask yourselves: Are there more Latina/os on the stage than in the audience? If the answer is yes, we call that tokenism and find it offensive.
4.) Even if you recognize that we come from multiple nations of origins, there are major differences among us — even within our own ethnic group.
This is why you will never find a spokesperson for our entire community. There are major political differences between light-skinned Cubans in Miami and darker-skinned Cubans in New Jersey. Chicanos in California have different priorities than Tejanos in Texas.
You do yourself a great disservice when you attempt to lump us all together. We are not unified, and that is not necessarily bad.
5.) Despite our differences, anti-Hispanic rhetoric tends to unite us.
You cannot expect our votes after telling us to self-deport. Even though most of us are documented, demonizing the undocumented by portraying them as freeloaders, criminals, diseased and subhuman is an insult to all of us.
As Aretha Franklin sang, all we are asking for is a little respect.
6.) If you plan to hang on to philosophies that are detrimental to the Hispanic community, don’t come a courting.
Most Latino/as subscribe to a world view that sees the government as a vehicle that can protect the marginalized from the abuses of the plutocrats. So don’t tell us the government is the problem.
If you want to dance, then you too must change to enter into a relationship. It is not only we who must assimilate and conform. So must you.
I look forward to the day when a Hispanic Republican runs against a Latina Democrat for the presidency of the United States. But until then, both parties need to learn how to make us true partners in creating the future of this country. We cannot settle for less.