Latinx activists Maria Milner and Leandra Blei spoke to us in Kerrville on Wednesday. Here are notes from their presentation. We will schedule a follow-up to give us an opportunity to ask questions. *Note that Latinx is a term that replaces Latino/Latina. Thanks a million HF for these amazing notes!


Part I: Statistics/Political History/Voter Outreach

Key Ideas

  • Traditional getout the vote methods don’t work.
  • Political empowerment happens only when we become fully and consciously integrated in the community – ALL communities.
  • No expectation without reciprocation.
  • People need to be treated as humans.

Voter Engagement Barrier History/Generational Beliefs

  • Financial/Economic: Poll tax (1902-1964); Laredo began first GOTV movement in 1911, along with ACLU
    • Generational Issue: Impression that voting “costs something”
  • Discrimination: White primaries (1929-1945); creation of LULAC, GI Forum, and Delgado vs. Bastrop ISD (1945 – Hispanics considered “white”) ended these
    • Generational Issue: Voting is racial.
  • Time: Annual voter registration (1966-1971); Southwest Voter Registration Education Project started by Willie Velasquez helped end this
    • Generational Issue: Unawareness and apathy
  • Paperwork: Extension of the Voting Rights Act (1975) allowed Hispanics to vote “comfortably”
    • Generation Issue: Unawareness and apathy
  • Convenience: Texas Voter ID Law (2011-2015 – still in courts but a result of partial repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965); weekend voter rights act (2015)
    • Generation Issue: Lack of education about SB14 and disenfranchisement with ID law
  • Gerrymandering
    • Generational Issue: Belief that voting doesn’t affect Latinx

2016 Presidential Candidates Approaches

  • Trump: Outreach through religious communities created by his advisory council caused a Latinx bump in Republican voting so that 18% voted for him.
  • Hillary: Her attempt to become “everyone’s Abuelita” on a surface level was seen as “Hispandering” and she could not connect with immigration or poverty issues and was unrelatable. Most Hispanic women Democrats wanted Bernie Sanders and this caused the division in voting.
  • In 2011 71% of Latinx voted for Obama, but in 2016 only 66% voted for Hillary, proving that Latinx are not monolithic.

Hope vs. Reality in the Latinx Community

  • 27% of Latinx in Texas are eligible to vote (⅓ of the population)
  • Only 14% of Latinx in Texas are registered to vote
  • 2.6 million Latinx in Texas are eligible to vote but are not registered
  • In 2014 48% of Latinx voted for John Cornyn
  • In 2014 44% of Latinx voted for Greg Abbott
  • It is a myth that whites can connect to the disenfranchised Latinx community. White privilege is the reality.
  • Voting beliefs/attitudes/behaviors are generationally taught.
  • Latinx women will not speak up or out.
  • Latinx men are expected to stay strong.

Reality Engagement and Empowerment – Changing the Conversation

  • Expectation MUST be followed by reciprocation. Our presence in the Latinx community must be ongoing. Voter outreach and candidate success must include keeping up the relationship in communities. Believing in a candidate comes when helping out in a community is a reality.
  • A Seat at the Table is non-negotiable. Equality without equity – equal opportunity – is simply an invitation.
  • Latinx are NOT monolithic. Not all speak Spanish and most communities reject the connection to Spain.
  • Latinx live with the reality of a caste system. Because of historical Spaniard separation of color, communities believe that “money whitens,” even within immigrant communites

Latinx Community Needs

  • Compassion (poor white communities need this as well)
  • Genuine concern beyond politics
  • Loyalty and reciprocation
  • El pueblo unido jamás será vencido” – When a group or people stick together, they cannot be defeated.

Part II: What Do We Do Now?

Key Ideas

  • Deal with out whiteness by doing the following (from the “Charlottesville article”):
    • Get involved and figure out what the community asks of you.
    • Realize you won’t always be paralyzed.
    • Know that becoming involved with and part of the community is not a linear path.
    • Acknowledge that telling a community that they are “voting against their own self-interest” is condescending.
    • Recognize that assimilation creates a dichotomy of “I was born here and I am not one of them.”
    • Practice empathy.

Next Steps

  • Get Into Communities. Be visible and listen. Don’t set up tables just at Dies y Seis celebrations. Go to Latinx community celebratons, laundromats, meat markets, everyday life activities.
  • State ideas and platforms simply and directly. Be clear and concise and connect it to Latinx families and communities.
  • Be accessible.
  • Be visible. Leave voting information (dates, locations, “how does this affect me?” “who’s on the ballot,” “how do these policies help or hurt me, my family, and my community?”) in non-white spaces.
  • Be present. Do something. Do anything.

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