Will the African American and Latino Swing Vote Turn Out?

Wilfredo “Wil” Rojas, M.Ed. | 10/10/2016, 2:49 p.m.
If you're a registered voter in South Jersey, the politicians will double down in coming after you during these final ...
Wil Rojas

If you're a registered voter in South Jersey, the politicians will double down in coming after you during these final few weeks of what has been a deeply contested presidential campaign season. So, if you are interested in contributing to the future direction of our nation, it is incumbent upon you to carefully listen to the candidates’ messages and their plans.

If you're an African American or Latino voter, you have seen that the presidential candidates’ outreach to us has been the source of considerable news coverage and debate as we approach the Tuesday, November 8th General Elections. This gesture takes on added importance in what pundits say will be a close election. Aware of this year’s importance of the African American and Latino vote, both Hillary Clinton and, to a lesser extent, Donald Trump have been appealing to minority voters with the claim that they're the one who best represents our interests and will build a more perfect United States of America with equal rights and opportunities for all.

To Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s credit, she has been visible at African American and Latino events and has detailed how she will address issues that affect our communities. She has shown, over her long career in public service, by her words and actions how she will work, outreach and listen to the concerns of these two communities. On the other hand, Republican candidate Donald Trump remained silent on issues particular to these two communities until two months ago, when he attempted to address fundamental African American and Latino issues; first before a predominately white audience, and then at meetings with select African Americans in urban center settings.

Pondering this, with just days away from one of the most important elections of our lifetime, my mind drifted to the generational approach to voter participation in the African American and Latino communities. I vividly recall watching on our small black and white television set during the 1960’s, America’s ugly history of oppression, persecution, and discrimination playing out against these communities. I saw courageous civil rights activist fighting back with whatever means they had. Generations in their 50s, 60s, and older, still remember the struggles waged for freedom and equality and that’s why they vote.

My takeaway from the civil rights and voting rights years, which produced the spilling of blood, pouring of sweat and shedding of tears, is that they, “had to do, what they had to do” to end the "Jim Crow" system of segregation and winning the right to vote, not only for African-Americans, but for Latinos, Native-Americans, Asians, and others in the South and elsewhere in America. For many succeeding generations of African Americans and Latinos, the civil rights movement is now ancient history. And while discrimination based on race is a shared reality, the phenomenon is not uniformly experienced or understood by the newer generations of persons of color. However, now it seems that competition among the American people for employment, housing, education resources, economic development opportunities, health care, public safety and political power was made the central theme of the November 8th Elections. This, sadly, is resulting in the heightened negativity we are experiencing.

The timeline of this presidential campaign coincides with the specific reality of people of color in our nation. A resurgence of racial/ethnic stereotypes has appeared where, on the whole, communities of color are depicted negatively and White supremacy is being fostered. The gains made by past generations of civil rights advocates are being undermined make voting in the November 8th Election a means to protecting ourselves and our future generations of African Americans and Latinos in the United States.

I understand and share the frustration of many people of color with the promises that politicians of all political persuasions make to us, and forget after getting elected, but if there is one election in American history in which the votes of African Americans and Latinos really matter, this is the one. After the election, win, lose or draw, if we participate in record numbers, we will have the right to demand ours! So, let’s get out and win one for the generations that kept us alive and got us the right to vote.