Hispanics now outnumber blacks in the USA, but they were practically invisible during the Democratic Convention in Denver. Only one speaker during the primetime slots was Hispanic, and he did not speak to Hispanic issues. Otherwise, though the convention started slowly, it kept improving and by the end, it soared. The Obama campaign may well have some good explanation for this neglect of Hispanics. Hence, it may not need to say "sorry," but it had better make amends.
In recent days, new census findings further document what social scientists have known for years- that minorities are rapidly becoming the majority. The Census Bureau calculates that by 2042, Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander will together outnumber non-Hispanic whites. However, lost in this summary overview is that one group has accounted for much of this population growth in the recent past and will do even more so in the future. By 2050, Hispanics will account for 30% of Americans, compared to 15% today. In comparison, blacks will increase only from 13% to 15%, and Asians will increase from 5% to 9%.
In political terms, African Americans have been mobilized for decades. They had, and currently have, a large number and variety of leaders of national presence, culminating in the nomination of Barack Obama. Hispanics are just beginning to find their political legs. Many of them are still new to this country, and like many first generation immigrants, they focus on finding their way and on local affairs. However, with each election their votes have become more important. Moreover, while most African Americans tend to vote Democratic, and surely will do so this year, Hispanics must be won over if more of them are to vote for Obama.
During the Democratic Convention in Denver, only one Hispanic person, Governor Richardson, was given a prime spot. (Gov. Kaine of Virginia threw in two lines in Spanish). Other speakers courted the unions, spoke of Israel, expressed concern for gay rights, and so on, but little voice was given to the issues that trouble Hispanics. This is especially regrettable, as the relationship between African Americans and Latinos is, let's just say, complex.
The Obama campaign may well say that the large number of African American speakers, introducers, and endorsers was due to the special nature of the day-- the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s "I Have a Dream" speech -- and that they were speaking for all Americans and not just for their race. Fair enough. But the convention was mindful of special concerns of other groups, and hence the campaign should make amends.
Let's have one or more occasions in which we hear from a variety of Hispanics on what their version of the American dream is.
Amitai Etzioni is Professor of sociology at The George Washington University and author of The New Golden Rule and Security First. www.securityfirstbook.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org