Last month, we told you that the Code Switch team is embarking on a big reporting project we’re calling The Obama Effect. The series, coinciding with the final year of Barack Obama’s administration, will explore the ways that his presidency has (or hasn’t) altered how Americans talk and think about race, ethnicity and identity.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be narrowing in on how this story plays out within the Latino community — or communities, rather. How has the idea of Latino identity evolved over the last eight years, in light of America’s first non-white president, the frustrated push for immigration reform, and the simple fact that the U.S. is becoming increasingly brown?
I’m trying to figure all this out, and I could use your help.
This Friday, March 18 at 10:30 a.m. Pacific, 1:30 p.m. Eastern, I’ll be hosting a Twitter chat on these questions, using the hashtag #NPRObamaEffect. We hope you’ll share your thoughts.
I’d like to share a few impressions I’ve gathered so far, based on conversations with friends and acquaintances. One told me that she’s strengthened her resolve to be unapologetically brown over the past few months, especially as Donald Trump directed angry and disparaging comments toward immigrants, and specifically Mexicans. She sees Trump’s rise as a symptom of disaffection felt by many white people over having a black president — and she’s not the only one.
Another person spoke to me about how Obama’s repeated failures to deliver on his promises of immigration reform — and the millions of deportations carried out under his administration — have forced activists within the immigration movement into difficult conversations about their strategy moving forward. Do they continue to portray themselves as flag-loving, English-learning, aspirational Americans, or switch tactics and begin demanding a right to stay in the U.S. by virtue of the contributions they’ve already made here?
This week, I’m reporting at San Francisco State University, where I plan to speak with students who are involved in the fight to maintain funding for that school’s Ethnic Studies Department. One Latino student I met told me that, at a time when some political forces are seeking to define “American” in terms of a very specific set of mainstream, often white, often Christian values, the need for ethnic studies curricula on college campuses is more important than ever. There seems to be an increasing appetite for understanding the history of Latino identity and action in the States, on Latino terms.
These are the sorts of questions I’m reporting on this week. And now I want to hear from you. As a Latino or Latina, does any of this resonate with you? How has your perception of your identity changed over the past eight years? And what does Obama have to do with it all?
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