I just had to call out this New York Times article “In Obama’s Pursuit of Latinos, Race Plays a Role” as not telling a full story. According to the piece by Adam Nagourney and Jennifer Steinhauer:

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.

“Many Latinos are not ready for a person of color,” Natasha Carrillo, 20, of East Los Angeles, said. “I don’t think many Latinos will vote for Obama. There’s always been tension in the black and Latino communities. There’s still that strong ethnic division. I helped organize citizenship drives, and those who I’ve talked to support Clinton.”

Um, ok. Where to start with this article. To start, Latinos represent a heterogenous group of people with folks from different countries and of different races. Some Hispanics identify as white, some as black and some as Indian. Many are multi-racial. So to write this article and not factor that element is poor reporting and research indeed. It’s an example of when white people get it wrong when it comes to reporting on minority communities.

I’d really like to see Latinos being approached as the complex set of communities within a community that they are rather than a monolith and a racist one at that. Ugh.

Naturally of course, the article turns to none other than Big Al, who probably put on an extra-special red, white and green track suit to deliver these comments:

The Rev. Al Sharpton of New York, who has been on the front line of many of the black-Latino battles in New York politics, said the tension would be a problem for Mr. Obama across the country and in New York, which also votes on Feb. 5. He said Mr. Obama would be at a disadvantage because of his choice to be a “race-neutral candidate.”

I feel like I may need surgery to remove my eyeballs from the back of my head. Come on. I love it though that the writers feel the need to defend tapping on Al for comments. I’m hoping to see more of that since there are plenty of other black leaders that don’t get asked for comments.

The article also blissfully features no actual polling data on how Obama or Clinton (or Edwards for that matter) are doing among Latinos — either nationally or by state. Let alone breaking the polling into sub-demographics such as white-identified or black-identified Latinos.

I’m not saying there isn’t tension between blacks and Latinos. But ultimately isn’t a lot of that based more on economic and social competition as society changes? There’s plenty of racial tension among Hispanic Americans themselves and that may well play a factor in the 2008 race. I’d like to see some media coverage that goes beyond weak impressions and stereotypes. Hey New York Time — how about the next time, this type of article gets written by a black reporter and a latino reporter working together? Revolutionary — now that would be interesting!

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