These four chapters are about the perceptions of Latinos and Latinas and the challenges they face. The author of Chapter 3 gives a depiction of Latino gang members who because of they way they acted and dressed, were viewed as dangerous. He reminds readers that these are young people with emotions, feelings and with future potential.
He recalls how he was shot at numerous times when he was younger and how he was a drug addict living in at out of various homes. At one point, he was homeless. The author writes about how there was corruption in the police departments in Los Angeles, sending mixed messages about its goal to eradicate gangs. One of the growing issues is deported youth, who are sent to El Salvador and Guatemala for minor infractions in an attempt to meet its goal. However, the point the author is making is that these are young people with tremendous love in their hearts and potential to do well. What they have working against them is poverty, the color of their skin and often a broken home that provides little to no guidance and support. He concludes that people have to look past the color of someone’s skin, or their tattoos or piercings, to see their soul and their potential. He also touches upon the same subject as other authors in this book, and that is the media plays a major role in distorting race and perception.
Chapter 8, entitled “Hot Blood and Easy Virtue,” is about Latino stereotypes and how they are racist. He writes that primarily, people of color have been portrayed negatively in film and television because many of the people behind the camera and in studios are white.
Latino men are viewed as killers with short tempers and Latinas as sensual and submissive. The author claims that these kinds of stereotypes can be traced to Columbus who wrote about people on the islands as though they were savages who did all kinds of crazy things like eat people and marry as many wives as they wanted. These claims were based on darker skin colors. The author reviews the large number of negative stereotypes of Latinos in film, from bandits who killed and raped people to over sexualized women. Latino actors were also limited to the types of roles they could get. He does point out several Latinas who became stars in the 1940s and 1950s in musicals. Latin lovers were portrayed in films starting in the 1930s. These were Latin men who went after white woman or cheated on his Latina wife with a white woman.
Similarly to how white actresses would sometimes portray Asian women, the same was true of Latina characters. One of the most famous is Maria in “West Side Story” played by Natalie Wood. Even though a well-known Latina actress, Rita Moreno, played Anita, a white woman was chosen for the main role because she was better known in Hollywood. Latino gangs have also been prominently featured in many films, such as “Scarface” and television shows such as “Miami Vice.”
Chapter 13 is how politicians have used racial and ethnic groups to their advantage. The Latino population has been disadvantaged historically in educational and economic achievements. Fewer Latino children are enrolled in quality daycare and kindergarten. Nativism has been a claim by politicians to assert the value of being born in the United States. This same issue came up when Donald Trump ran for president and when he questioned the birthplace of Barack Obama – even though Obama’s birth certificate stated he was born in this country. It is also timely that Trump built his platform on claiming he would keep Mexican immigrants out of this country, so this is an ongoing issue. The message is that Mexicans bring nothing but crime in the United States. Mexicans are also viewed as job stealers and people who take advantage of social service resources.
In the same way some whites fear blacks, whites fear Latinos based on perception and false stereotypes. Politicians make promises of providing ESL programs while there are only a handful of Latinos holding prominent political positions. Much like Asians, there needs to be a higher number of visible and influential role models in order to turn around false perceptions. More Latinos also should be involved with community organizations, as the author observes, before things can change. In addition, as the author writes, politicians do not argue for high quality private and charter schools for ESL and bilingual programs so there is an overall bias when it comes to quality education. The author argues for more funding for bilingual programs and ESL classes so Latinos, who are here legally and are hard workers, have a better chance to succeed. As the author states, this would benefit every American and not just the Latino population.
Many high school students are told that being fluent in Spanish will help to get a job after college because it is the second most spoken language in the United States. This tells me that the Latino population is only growing in this country and it’s a smart decision to embrace this fact so I could be part of the solution. One of the great things about the United States is that people from all races, religions and ethnicities live here and we can learn so much from each other.