By Christina Saenz
While my cousin Andrew and I were having one of our numerous conversations on Facebook about everything from his family to my upcoming marriage, I cracked a joke, “If it was up to Arizona, they would deport (my fiancé—a Mexican national).” My cousin did not understand the reference in my joke. My knee-jerk reaction was to find a way to reach through Facebook and to strangle him for not being more aware of the world around him! In my typical teacher ways, I gave him an article to read about Arizona’s SB1070. In my typical big sister way, I negotiated that I would “defend him more on Facebook” if he can tell me what’s wrong with Arizona. Of course, Andrew was on a mission to answer my question!
After a few minutes, Andrew came back to me in disgust and said “It’s so stupid.” Then I added that politicians were thinking of similar measures in Texas. Andrew demanded, “What can I do to stop this?” I encouraged him to vote and to call his politicians—which he promised to me. I also encouraged him to join Pa’Lante Latino where he can talk to others about Latino politics and other issues that affect him as a young Mexican kid.
Andrew has never been one to talk about his political view, but it does not mean that he does not have one. He could not tell you the first thing about where to vote or who his politicians were. But, our conversation about SB1070 sparked the neurons in his brain and the fire in his heart. He started to connect the dots to how he has been randomly stopped by the police for doing nothing, except being brown in a car. He was angrily remembering all the times that his friends and his own family were harassed by the police for simply waiting in their cars. He said to me and made me proud to near tears, “I am going to start telling my friends about this.” He also decided to make his first posting on Pa’Lante Latino afterwards!
Why did I tell you this story? According to Rock the Vote Statistics, about 5.6 million young Latino voters like Andrew are eligible to vote, yet only about less than a fifth are registered. He represents the many kids of color who feel disengaged from our political structure. It’s not that they don’t have an opinion about their world or cannot see how their lives are connected to politics. It’s the fact that no one bothered to ask about what they know or how they feel about it. When I was volunteering for the Democratic Midterm Campaign in Connecticut, I ran into numerous kids of color who were eligible to vote but no one ever bothered to register them. Because they are young and people of color, we dismiss them as being uninterested, but no one bothered to ask if they are uninterested.
The power that these kids have is incredible, yet they do not recognize it for themselves. According to the Pew Hispanic Center and Census Bureau’s voting surveys, young voters of color who had historically low turnouts had huge turnouts and helped to elect Obama in 2008. In the 1960s, it was this age and racial group of kids who were staging sit-ins and walk-outs from their universities and helped to change the legal status of minorities in the country. It will be this group that will determine the direction of our political future. For Thanksgiving, I beg you to ask some young Latino today what he thinks of the police, Obama, Arizona, or whatever politics. I beg of you to get them registered to vote. We need more Andrews.
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