Every so often, an article about the Hispanic American community so flagrantly violates journalistic principles as well as truth that it seems an insurmountable task to undo the harm. One such piece was Jack Anderson's Jan. 3 column, "Hispanics: A Fragmented Community" (op-ed).
Part of the "problem" Latinos face, of course, is that there is little opportunity to express Hispanic concerns, aspirations or opinion in the majority media. Thus, the field is left to the occasional inroad, a sort of hit-and-run brush with reality. Anderson admitted in his column to having sent a reporter into the Hispanic community for only two months. As a result, he determined that Latinos were our own worst enemies. His remedy: suicide.
In order for Latinos to progress, he asserted, they "must first of all submerge ... cultural and historic differences, and unite under a single political banner. When they speak with a single voice, the political power brokers will listen." After all, by the turn of the century, they will "constitute the largest minority in the nation."
Such statements are naive at best, but given the fact that no other racial or ethnic group so conducts itself, this is asking of Latinos that they blend into the background and disappear. He chides Latinos for not being "homogeneous," for being "geographically and culturally diverse," for being "as fragmented politically as they are culturally." The most damnable conclusion of all, according to Anderson, is that Latinos have not yet grasped "a central fact of American politics: in union there is strength."
Fallacy 1: Population growth alone will provide political clout.
The population figures don't agree: blacks would have to stop reproducing for Latinos to surpass them by the year 2000. Anderson blithely asserts that some 5 million undocumented Hispanic immigrants make up part of the 20 million Latinos in the United States. In fact, no one knows how many undocumented persons we have in the United States, Hispanic or otherwise. Moreover, Puerto Rico's 3.2 million residents apparently aren't even included in his figures.
Blacks would probably agree that numbers haven't meant all that much benefit to the achievement of black aspirations. However, coalition between Latinos and blacks and other minority groups may accomplish something: this is the type of unified action to watch for in the '80s.
Fallacy 2: Monoculturism is best.
Latinos are probably among the most culturally diverse, yet together people in the world, bonded by language, history, psychology, sociological traits and religiosity. Racially, Latinos run the color spectrum: this is one of our most unique and yet unifying features. But if anything binds us together in the United States, it is the way we are treated: as a cheap labor force, as illegals, as job stealers, as lazy no-accounts, as "turf" conscious, as politically naive or backward, as fragmented.
Fallacy 3: One leader is best; Latinos must unite under a single political banner.
Anderson's suggestion runs counter to the American political system. If anything, the Hispanic propensity to side with the Democratic Party has been a major drawback in its development. Had Latinos been involved in both parties over the decades, the one party, Democrats, would not have taken Latinos for granted over the years and the other would have understood our aspirations and political relevance with the result that some of the errors made by both parties might have been avoided.
On Jan. 25, the National Forum of Hispanic Organizations, made up of 35 national Hispanic groups, joined the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in a press conference to announce a Hispanic agenda for action in 1982. The session was strongly partisan, unfortunately, but the tone of the meeting seriously undercut the kinds of assertions Anderson made about turf-guarding and conflicts, political naivet,e and the like.
The Andersons of America should keep in mind a popular saying among Latinos: "Juntos, pero no revueltos" --that is, "We're together, but not scrambled up." Or, to coin another Hispanic phrase: in diversity, there is union.