With a series we’re calling The Obama Effect, the Code Switch team is digging into all sorts of questions about how President Obama’s tenure has — or hasn’t — shaped how we all perceive our own racial and ethnic identities.
Last week, we asked you to weigh in on how this question relates to Latino communities across the U.S, via a Twtter chat. We wanted your thoughts on whether Latino identity has evolved over the past eight years under America’s first non-white president, and, if it has, what role Obama’s policies or even simple presence may have played in that.
We enlisted the help of fellow NPR journalist and Alt.Latino co-host Jasmine Garsd; NPR’s Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa and digital editor Julio Ricardo Varela; and Marlena Fitzpatrick and Hector Luis Alamo over at Latino Rebels.
Here’s some of what we heard from you.
The Obama administration’s deportation record loomed large in the conversation — immigration officials have deported more than 2.5 million people since Obama took office, more than under George W. Bush’s full two terms. A lot of people said this has contributed to a feeling, experienced by many Latinos in the U.S., of being under attack:
Others told us that increased levels of anti-minority rhetoric — which many have linked to the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump — has partly been in response to some white Americans feeling disaffected by the tenure of a black president. They feel that Latinos have become an easy target of that discomfort:
Of course, plenty of folks rejected the idea that the Obama presidency has had any effect on Latino identity, or even could:
Others said his presidency has shaped their views on their identity, either directly or through causing them to think differently about race and identity more broadly:
Some told us that Obama’s mixed-race background has encouraged many Latinos to be more vocal and curious about their own heritage:
At points, the conversation took a big step back, widening well beyond Obama. We debated whether pan-ethnic terms like “Latino” or “Hispanic” are useful, or even appropriate, at a time when more Latinos are identifying with specific nations or regions of origin.
Some argued that these terms have continued value:
While others say they hurt more than they help:
One participant pointed out that while our chat had focused a lot on anti-minority racism writ large, we hadn’t talked about racism harbored by Latinos:
And that got a big response:
We ended the conversation by asking about people’s greatest hopes and fears as the Obama presidency comes to an end:
The conversation is just getting started. In the months to come, we’ll be using what we heard from you last week as starting blocks for more reporting. And we’ll be hosting Twitter chats on how other communities of color have seen shifts in the ways they think and talk about race and ethnicity over the past eight years.
As always, we hope you’ll join these conversations using the hashtag #NPRObamaEffect.