There are many things to admire about the New York Times. A complex and nuanced understanding of the vast diversity of Latino America is not among those things.
In a story on page A1 of the Times yesterday, reporters Adam Nagourney and Jennifer Steinhauer stated that Latinos are not going to support Senator Barack Obama in his bid for the White House because, “in Obama’s pursuit of Latinos, race plays a role.” In other words, they said that Latinos would not vote for a black man, and backed it up with nothing other than a couple of anecdotal quotes from random Latinos in Los Angeles.
The sloppy, inaccurate story goes on for 32 agonizing paragraphs, using the terms “black” and “Latino” as though they were mutually exclusive – which they are not. Historians estimate that 95 percent of the African slave trade to the Americas took place in Latin America.
To this day, the vast majority of people in the African diaspora live south of the U.S. border, in Latin American countries from Brazil to Colombia to Cuba and, yes, even Mexico. The song "La Bamba," in fact, was brought to the Veracruz region of Mexico by Africans enslaved to the Spanish. The song likely has roots in the Bembe (Bantu) culture from what is now the Congo. This is only a stone's throw, geographically, from the Kenya of Obama's father's birth.
How quickly we forget in this country. How brutally we refuse to learn.
The New York Times not only ignores completely the African history of Latin America by positioning "blacks" against "Latinos" as if none of us were both. To do so is enormously irresponsible because it dissolves from public consciousness the fact that African slavery was a crime committed all across this hemisphere, by colonial Europeans who spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. The story also erroneously portrays Latinos as a race unto themselves - an error egregious enough to be stated in our own census bureau's definition of Hispanic as a person "of any race". Including "black".