Latinos: A Progressive Blind Spot?

Idelisse Malavé has been a senior advisor to STP since its inception. Over the last year she’s played a lead role designing and facilitating strategizing processes within our cross-movement convenings. She also does strategic consulting and facilitation with other organizations such as Gender at Work and the NoVo Foundation. Idelisse recently published a book, Latino Stats: American Hispanics by the Numbers. Her latest post is about the need for progressives to better understand the growing Latino presence in the US.

Latino Stats coverThere’s more to changing demographics in this country than the sharply increasing numbers of Latinos fueling the “New Majority.” It’s not just how many of us there are and will be in the coming years that should be grabbing the attention of progressives and the American public. Who we are, when combined with those growing numbers, is what really matters. And who we are is often not what most non-Latinos imagine, regardless of their politics.

Many, many more Latinos than the general public favor “big government providing more services” over “smaller government with fewer services:” 79% compared to 41%! More of us identify as progressive, too: 30% to 21%.

Immigration matters to us, but it is not the only issue we care about. In fact, in the 2012 elections immigration was in sixth place for Latino voters and fourth for all Latino adults. The top three issues were: education, jobs and the economy, and health care.

Many more of us are concerned and committed to addressing environmental issues than any other racial or ethnic group in this country. And, three-quarters of all Latinos, not just women, believe that “Today’s women’s movement is a movement that considers the needs of men and children, too, not just women.” Surprised yet?

I could go on here quoting statistics to counter misplaced preconceptions about Latinos but I won’t, because I already have in Latino Stats: American Hispanics By the Numbers, a book that I wrote with my daughter, Esti Giordani.

Neither of us are demographers, so it wasn’t idle demographic curiosity that led us to spend months ferreting out 175 pages of statistics about the different facets of Latino life. It was concern and some frustration that marketers and advertisers are paying more attention to who Latinos are than most progressive activists. With a national buying power that is reaching $1.5 trillion this year, it is not surprising that marketers want to know everything about us, but you would think we would garner more and perhaps a different kind of attention from progressive movements.

Esti and I understand that numbers alone don’t change hearts and minds. But a reframed story can. And sometimes a surprising fact can open a door that leads us down a path to look for a story that we didn’t know was out there. Our hope is that while flipping through the pages of Latino Stats you will be struck by something that will lead you down that path.