Also posted on www.rogerbburtphd.com.
And now, the focus turns to the Latino community. In talking with them on the streets, in previous campaigns, I learned that most of them preferred the term Latino, rather than Hispanic. Hispanic seems to have a broader connotation, reflecting Spanish descent. My particular focus is on the people who compose the newest wave of immigration, and they are from Latin America.
We Americans have a great deal in common with Latinos. That may seem odd to say, but it is true. The Latinos who have come to America are people with a crucial similar characteristic to many Americans, in one particular way. It is reflected in our national character.
The people in my mother’s family came to this country over 300 years ago, from southwestern Germany. They had been through the Thirty Years War, followed by a little Ice Age. It was time to leave Germany; enough was enough.
They did not have the benefit of the internet or a telephone or any of the communication systems we now take for granted. Bravely, with determination, on faith, they came across the Atlantic Ocean. One family brought their twelve children. These people came from the Mosel and Rhine River Valleys, and by sheer good fortune, settled in the Hudson River Valley, which must have seemed like a homecoming.
What is it that we, as Americans have in common? It is the boldness, the risk taking, the guts and determination to set out to work for a better future, for ourselves and our families. We share these traits with Latinos, who are the latest wave of immigrants.
Latinos are often victimized by “coyotes” as they make their own risky trek or “voyage.” It may be through a desert, where they are victimized or simply die from the clash with a harsh environment. The story of risk is multi-faceted. And once they achieve relative “safety”, they still often face the life of someone in the shadows. On the Shore, we know there are people in virtual economic slavery, actual sexual slavery, and those being victimized by people traffickers.
I’ll keep this focused. Their story is a large one and deserving of attention, and reform, of our immigration system, which is broken. But we, who are politically oriented and active, can help. We can help by finding ways to bring them out of the shadows and making contact with them.
And the shadows are not just figurative. Two summers ago, my wife and I went to a concert on Aurora Street, in Easton. The band was Colombian and they set up shop in the middle of the street. People came with their lawn chairs and there were families who, by their appearance, had Hispanic or Latino descent. But, there were other people in the shadows of trees and buildings. Perhaps, a small gathering in a nearby parking lot, or young men peering around the corner of a building..
At one point the band stopped playing and, in Spanish, invited the people in the shadows to join us. A very few accepted the offer. Most did not.
The point here is that we have so much work to do, hand-in-hand, with Latinos. As noted with the black community, we must do something other than just exhorting them to register, and to vote. We need to reach out and listen. There are two things we can do: we can engage them with questions about their situation, their hopes and their dreams, and we can make them an offer.
In fact, there are two offers we can make to Latinos. One offer comes in the form of questions we should ask. What is your life like here? What do you need? What are the issues and how do you view them? Questions will help us establish trust. Then, we can make another offer: we can offer them a pipeline for information, to help them find what they need. When there is a problem, we can get the information for them, since they may be afraid to ask, for a variety of reasons. We need to ask them to please come to us. After trust, can come inclusion and support for their dreams.
Only then do we suggest they register and ask for them to vote for our candidate who may then, in turn, be in a position to support and help them.