Now Gang Wars are in the Voting Booths?

By Jonathan Adams Jan 22, 2008

Despite burying the race hatchet last week, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue to create headlines—after the Nevada caucus and before the South Carolina primary—speculating about how each candidate’s race will help them woo the Latino and Black votes. Again the mainstream media has simplified politics for people of color as a race to the bottom of the hill. Usually, the “black-brown conflict” plays out as literal turf battles between rival gangs in Los Angeles. Eager to draw hyperbolic conclusions, the mainstream media often depicts the deaths of young men of color as race wars despite empirical evidence to the contrary. Now, as the Democratic primaries progress, the media’s binary analysis again can’t seem to allow for a multiracial understanding of American politics. Roberto Lovato says it better on New America Media,

The awkwardness and simplicity seen and heard in the coverage of the Latino electorate illustrates how ill-equipped tnews organizations, the political parties and the society as a whole are to understand and deal with the historic political shift previewed in Nevada: the death of the black-white electorate. Simplistic talk about the Latino vote provides another example of how we live when the ‘experts’ and their organizations are increasingly out of touch with the dynamism and complexity of the electorate and the general populace. As a result, the growth of the very diverse Latino electorate will likely force the revelation of more inconvenient truths. Principle among them is the media’s conclusion that anti-black racism among Latinos explains why they voted Clinton and not Obama in Nevada. Story after story tries to fit the Latino vote into the procrustean bed of old-school, black v. white politics.

The real story is that the Latino electorate has much more in common with Black voters than the media tells us. As long as presidential candidates continue to act like their campaigns transcend race all the while employing race when it’s in their favor, we won’t be able to talk about United States politics in its entirety -a multiracial politic made of conflicting ideas and values.