REFLECTIONS…of a somber National Day.

Today, on National Coming Out Day, I came out to support my lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender sisters and brothers who in 2010 are still facing persecution, ridicule, harassment, unlawful imprisonment, and are being beaten and murdered by homophobic, right-wing and religious zealots.

I came out for Matthew Shepard, 13-year-old Asher Brown from Texas; 13-year-old Seth Walsh from Tehachapi, CA; 15-year-old Lawrence King from Oxnard, CA;15-year-old Justin Aaberg;  16-year-old Jack Frew from Scotland; 15-year-old Jason Mattison from Maryland; 17-year-old Cheyenne Williams from Kentucky; 19-year-old Sachin Nandgawale of Bombay, India; 19-year-old Tyler Clementi from Rutgers University; middle school principal Brian Betts from Washington, D.C.;  Eudy Simelane from South Africa; Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill from Stockton, CA; the 64 gay/lesbian soldiers believed to have died in battle since the start of the War in Iraq in 2003, and all the LGBT community who continue to fight for their right to exist as equals, including the over 15,000 men and women in uniform discharged from the military over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and the millions of LGBT who have been denied their human right to marry and adopt children in need of a home and someone to love them.

It is for them that I came out in support and in solidarity.

Latino voters disembarking off the Democratic train.

A recent CNN/Gallup survey reports that Latino support for the Democratic party has dramatically dropped over the last few months.  This past July, Latino support for the Democratic party stood at 70%.  I suspect that number was pretty high because Latinos were tricked into thinking President Obama was a hero for sending lawyers to stop Arizona from implementing SB 1070.  Their success in preventing the most controversial part of the law from taking effect gave the President a great boost of confidence.

In August, Democrats lost our support by 7 points, down to 63%.  This drop probably came about as a result of President Obama spending $600M on “securing the border” by sending in the military and by promising to hire more border agents.  Whatever gains he made in July, he surely lost or began to lose in August.

Today, after a 32-point advantage over Republicans — currently at 38% — 51% of Latinos now support the Democratic party.  After spending so much time and energy courting our vote,  Democrats have gone from receiving 2/3 of the Latino vote in the last election to half, maybe less, and that’s assuming they don’t screw up again in October as they did in September when the Senate failed to pass the DREAM Act.

Democrats thought that by blaming Republicans for their failure to pass the DREAM Act they would all but guarantee our support.  Unfortunately, their efforts to turn our anger against Republicans backfired. Latinos are still bitter, and rightfully so, that Democrats did nothing to try to pass immigration reform when they had the clear majority.  Many suspected from the outset of the president’s election that this was not to be.  There were signs.  And I’m not talking about all the other problems that surfaced shortly after taking office.  I’m talking about comments made by his outgoing Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, just days after President Obama took the oath of office, that it was highly unlikely that there would be immigration reform until after the midterm election.

For Latinos, successful passage of the DREAM Act, we thought, was just their way of making amends for their failure to keep their promise.  It was, in a way, going to be the President’s gesture of goodwill to use the power of his office to pass the measure to give Democrats a second chance.  Unfortunately for them, the Latino voting bloc has begun to really listen to the many voices of our undocumented sisters and brothers, and have been thinking of a way to send a clear and loud message to both parties: if there is to be no immigration, there will be no re-election.

If either party wants our 9% share of the national vote, then they are going to have to commit, or in the case of Democrats, re-commit to passing an immigration reform law that will be acceptable by our community and deliver.  Otherwise, we may just decide to collectively band together as we did in 2005 and send out a stronger message to this country that Latinos have the power to affect its bottom line.  And as we all have been experiencing first hand in these trying economic times, that’s the last thing this country needs.  Yes we’ll be affected too; but we’ve been there, and done that.  We understand sacrifice.  Many first and second generation Latinos remember our parent’s war stories of how they lost so much to gain so little here — and it was worth it.  Which is why despite economic hardships, for our people, immigration reform is at the top of our domestic agenda.  But more than that, it is our duty and responsibility to produce change — something no politician, no matter how wonderful he speaks or what great promises he makes will be able to change our minds about, in this election or the next.

REFLECTION…on finding the Latino Waldo.

I was finishing my analysis on diversity and television for an upcoming conference and I was surprised by how many police/detective drama shows are on CBS.  There are 10 police, 2 law, no medical, and 3 variety one-hour shows this Fall.  Seriously, do we really want to see bad guys chased around, shot at, arrested, tried and convicted only?  Not counting 2 new half-hour comedy shows from its total of 6, and 2 returning news-related programs, only 2 of those police/detective shows, “Hawaii 5-0” and “Blue Bloods”, are new.  The remaining 8 have several seasons in the bag.  What was of particular interest to me was learning that of the 10 cop/detective CBS shows, 7 take place in cities with a large Latino population (Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami and New York), yet only 3 supporting characters are Latino.  In fact, of the 15 one-hour dramatic and variety shows on  CBS this Fall, there are a total of 4 Latinos cast in co-starring roles…just 4.  For heaven’s sake, even “Survivor”, which is currently in Nicaragua, doesn’t have any.

I know I sound like a broken record, but surely you can understand how frustrating it is to sit there and play “Where’s Waldo” when there really isn’t a “Latino Waldo” to find.  Yes the season is just starting and I’m sure there will be plenty of Latinos being handcuffed, rolled away on a medical gurney, running from the law, or just standing on the streets minding their own business while tv cameras film the next episode.  But seriously, can Latinos have at least 1 show on network tv starring a Latin@ actor (other than NBC’s OUTLAW — which by the way, Jimmy Smits is the only one) that doesn’t necessarily have actors playing stereotypical roles? Is that too much to ask?

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