Trapped In Online Barrio
SAN DIEGO -- Sometimes you pick a Mexican restaurant but end up disappointed. It looked good, yet the food wasn't authentic.
Sometimes media coverage of Latinos is the same way. You can be a liberal website with a separate page intended to give voice to Latinos but wind up not giving voice to anything -- except your own biases.
Speaking of biases, here are mine: I think Arianna Huffington and everyone else at The Huffington Post should be ashamed. Now that they've discovered the 50 million Latinos in the United States, they have decided that the easiest way to make a buck from this demographic is not to invite more Latino reporters and commentators onto the main page but to segregate them in a kind of online barrio.
Introducing the recently launched "HuffPost LatinoVoices." It's a special page where editors can place any story or column with a Latino flavor. Unfortunately, the handful of stories posted so far are one taco short of a combination plate.
For instance, now that Rick Perry has entered the race for the Republican nomination for president, there was a story on "LatinoVoices" about how the Texas governor might find it tough to win much Latino support even though he hails from a state that is nearly 40 percent Latino. The reporter mentioned Perry's push to eliminate so-called sanctuary cities as a way of roping local and state police into enforcing immigration law.
But what the article didn't mention is that, in his largely Latino state, Perry has managed to get elected governor three times. You can't accomplish something like that without earning a respectable level of Latino support. In fact, according to exit polls, Perry got 38 percent of the Latino vote in his 2010 campaign against Democratic opponent and former Houston Mayor Bill White. Four years earlier, against Democratic opponent and former Rep. Chris Bell, Perry got 31 percent.
For Republicans, getting anything north of 30 percent of the Latino vote is a decent showing.
The article also failed to note that Perry has caught a lot of flak from immigration restrictionists on the far right who think he's soft on illegal immigrants. They include former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who recently blasted Perry for signing a bill that granted in-state tuition to illegal immigrant students, opposing Arizona's immigration law as not right for Texas, expressing skepticism about building more border fences, and traveling to Mexico in 2007 to call for the "free flow of individuals between these two countries who want to work and want to be an asset to our country." On his trip, Perry even -- gasp -- spoke Spanish.
Meanwhile, the site doesn't seem to be any better at grasping the complexity of Democrats.
A recent article about President Obama and Latino voters forcefully advanced the narrative that, in the 2012 election, these voters had a choice to make -- between disappointment with Obama and fear of a menacing GOP.
Someone isn't paying attention. What is more menacing than a chief executive who helps kill comprehensive immigration reform while serving in the Senate, deceives Latino groups while campaigning for president about making reform a top priority, and deports more than 1 million people by using a program such as Secure Communities as a force multiplier that requires local and state police to alert immigration officials if they suspect someone they arrest is in the country illegally? Disappointment doesn't begin to cover it.
The furthest that Obama supporters are willing to go in terms of criticizing their guy is to suggest that he's ignoring Latinos or taking them for granted.
Seriously? Ignoring would be an improvement. Obama is mistreating part of the Latino community, and manipulating the rest of it. He continues to insist that Republicans are the problem and urges Latinos to spend less time pressuring him -- and more time pushing the GOP to support immigration reform.
Incredible. Obama is about hope and change all right. When challenged on his record, he changes the subject and hopes that no one notices.
Luckily for the Huffington Post and its "LatinoVoices" page, there are many great stories in the Latino community. However, if you want to tell them right, in all their complexity, you have to think critically. You can't simply cast the choice between Democrats and Republicans as one between good and evil.
And it seems, for this bunch, that is asking too much.
(c) 2011, The Washington Post Writers Group