The Latina Condition
By: Irene Sanchez
The Southwest Political Report
Recently the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics held a summit titled “Fulfilling America’s Future: Latinas in the U.S.” on October 21, 2016. This summit was based on the 2015 report from White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and Patricia Gándara, Ph.D. The agenda consisted of speakers from arts and entertainment to many people who work in policy and government. Panels included topics such as Latinas and Small Businesses and on Latinas and Education (mainly “Higher” Education) that included representation from the Gates Foundation. Generally it can be seen as important- that a summit focused on “Latina issues” was held in the White House, but the past will also show that there are many reports and events that occur where knowledge and these discussions take place. People present, people applaud, but then what will be the outcomes of these events? Who will be held accountable? Will our condition, the Latina Condition of the U.S. be improved by asking policy makers in DC to create change that will slowly trickle down-maybe? Or do we organize to demand something more and perhaps instead of asking for a seat at the table, their table, we build our own table that fits the urgency of how specifically Latinas continue to be marginalized and oppressed in the United States.
I think it is important to know when looking at the evidence of the Latina Condition in the U.S. and seeing that there are many experiences in such a diverse group, that we need more voices to be heard that represents AND is reflective of this large group we are lumped into. Latina/o/x’s in the U.S. have a population of 54 million (1/3). (Note: The report doesn’t mention those who are undocumented). One in five women in the U.S. are Latinas and the reason they think it is important to care about Latinas is because “Ensuring they are positioned for success is a fundamental responsibility and an important economic opportunity for the country” (pg. v). Yes you read that right. We are an important economic opportunity for the country. Meaning our labor that we are already underpaid for. Meaning we can continue to be tracked, given poor access to health care, and kept in poverty.
Latinas continue to be marginalized by the school system and remain less likely to graduate from high school. 1 in 5 Latinas have not completed high school by age 29. We must begin to ask question if there are that many Latinas not graduating high school where is the panel and convening on their experiences? Or do we just state that as a fact and automatically skip to talk about those we can get to college while many in our communities are left behind struggling? Latinas make 55 cents for every dollar a white man makes in the U.S. and while yes college education can help most anyone socioeconomically “move up” in this country, it must be taken into consideration who Latinas are and where they are geographically as well and if there are disparities in sub-groups and where. Latinas also have the least amount of access to health care than any group of women. 37 percent of Latinas are uninsured and even less for immigrant women (p. 1) and I have to wonder where is the gathering and urgency to look at these issues?
We don’t need another report or summit to know that Latinas are marginalized and I don’t think it is good enough to only be informed, but believe that it is a start. I do believe that action must be taken and that more of us are not only at their tables, but we build our own tables and create our own spaces. Nothing comes from asking politely of those in power for crumbs and given the situation of the current state of affairs with the elections in this country, we must not give up-we will not settle for crumbs and must demand loaves of bread because our poverty rates are directly tied to the systems of oppression we live under that creates these inequalities. If we have no childcare, no support, no safety net, and the same low wages, while the state decreases it’s funding of public education and services, how are more of us going to make it through seemingly impossible conditions.
“Latinas are very diverse” (pg. 3).
Latinas are made up of Mexican (64 percent), Puerto Rican (9 percent), and Central Americans (9 percent). These groups combined make up 80 percent of Latinas in the U.S. In addition Cubans make up 4 percent and South Americans (again all countries lumped together) make up 6 percent. How are we supposed to know the needs of such broad and diverse group of Latinas? Where do we start?
I start with these statistics here and now in order to give this context. This weekly column will focus on Latinas, but will include the stories and narratives of that which is not at the forefront and should be and while some of it is mentioned in the report these issues that will be written about deserve to be centered because often times they are not. These issues include: poverty, low wages/pay, healthcare, high school graduation rates, issues faced by Latinas in community college, Latinas who are undocumented, and many more issues while also providing historical context when necessary. If we don’t know where we come from, it’s hard to know where we are going.
We must understand our condition in order to change it and demand not only equity, but also justice. I will be deliberate in order to provide facts and analysis, but also do not intend to speak for all or anyone. Through this I hope to provide a better understanding of the broad range of issues faced by Latinas and to open more dialogue around them especially the issues that are not given as much attention as they should be given.
Note: The inspiration for this column title came from a book I read in 2000 called The Latino/a Condition (1998) edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. This was my textbook for my Puente English class at Riverside Community College in Riverside, CA.