Nagourney’s Black/Brown Tension Piece Based on Anecdote

In Tuesday’s New York Times, Adam Nagourney picks up on the Blacks and Latinos don’t get along and that’s bad for Obama meme that I’ve seen elsewhere, and blogged about. Nagourney provides lots of anecdote, but only two pieces of data– both of which run counter to his argument that Latinos won’t vote for African-Americans:

Mr. Obama confronts a history of often uneasy and competitive relations between blacks and Hispanics, particularly as they have jockeyed for influence in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

The statement is not invalid– as Antonio Villaraigosa says in the article, “There are tensions among all groups,” and Black/Brown feelings have been hot at times in LA recently, as JDL recently noted. But Nagourney sites solely on quotes from a handful of people to make the case.

We hear from Natasha Carrillo, 20:  “Many Latinos are not ready for a person of color…I don’t think many Latinos will vote for Obama… I helped organize citizenship drives, and those who I’ve talked to support Clinton.” Javier Perez reports that his Grandmother doesn’t like Blacks. Nevada assemblyman, and Clinton backer, Ruben Kihuen says Latinos gravitate towards Hillary because “the Hispanic community is very family oriented, and we respect our mothers.” And Albert M. Camarillo, founding director of Standford’ Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity concludes that Latinos “might not go into the direction of the Obama camp,” not based on any data, but rather on his observation that “there have been enormous misunderstandings and conflicts over local resources and political representations between the two group.”

(Nagourney could have cited the support Obama picked up Sunday from state senator, and former labor leader, Gil Cedillo and ex-senator Martha Escuita. Or, from California Senate majority leader Gloria Romero. or, for that matter, the endorsements he received Monday from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena; former Rep. Mel Levine; Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-El Segundo; Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks; West Hollywood Mayor John Duran and Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke, not to mention from Rep. Zoe Lofgren. )

The only numbers Nagourney cites to support his thesis are the percentage of the Black vote that LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa received in his two runs for City Hall: 50% in his successful 2005 run, up from 20% in 2001, according to reports of exit polls. That’s right: Nagourney’s one example of a Latino politician enveloped in Black/Brown strife won half of the Black vote in his last campaign.

Nagourney would have done well to take a look at the piece John Judis wrote last month, Hillary Clinton’s Firewall, in which he cites academic scholarship that shows ingrained racist attitudes among a large number of Latinos.

African American and Latino sociologists have been conducting extensive surveys in Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Philadelphia. These surveys have generally found that Latinos display more prejudice toward African Americans than African Americans do toward Latinos or than whites display toward African Americans. In the words of University of Houston sociologist Tatcho Mindiola, Jr. and two associates, “in general African Americans have more positive views of Hispanics than vice versa.”

Judis also cites an early December poll from the Pew Hispanic Center in which Obama’s Latino support was 15%.

Could hostility toward and rivalry with blacks be a factor in Obama’s abysmal support among Latinos? It’s hard to say, but it’s certainly possible. And if it is a factor–and not simply the result of the Obama campaign’s inattention to Latino voters–then Clinton should benefit from this vote in the primaries and caucuses in states like California even if she loses in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.


One thought on “Nagourney’s Black/Brown Tension Piece Based on Anecdote

  1. I don’t understand why the news covers voters in racial blocks like this. What does that say about those who vote “against their block”? Obviously the implication is that they are “race traitors” or something. The whole way the media covers the election is racist! Listen to Chris Mattews for instance, it’s all just about percentages of ethnicities that live in places and what percentage will vote for the person that looks like them, or re: gender, same issue.

    Seems like the end of sexism/racism brings more sexism/racism.

    Thanks for the post. I don’t like Obama but it is because of his positions. Why can’t race be left out of it?

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