Commentary: In Politics, Latinos Leave Black America Behind

Lenny McAllister | 2/1/2012, 1:39 p.m.

In an era of big problems that are tangled in long histories of political dysfunction, business abuses, and societal corruption, Latinos and Blacks have taken divergent approaches to getting results from elected officials. One avenue has taken an extremely narrow-minded, limiting view on how to fix the economic and social woes of the nation, particularly those that impact urban America the most. It has ignored the diversity within its culture, differences that form from geographical, socioeconomic, educational, and family backgrounds. It has ignored the possibilities of embracing - not disgracing - these differences in a fashion where relevancy did not vary based on the successes of 50% of the political equation. It has decided to disown some of the most powerful political players in the nation based on perception and misunderstandings, even when those individuals sit "on the right side of history".

And then there's the other approach taken by Latinos.

Some see the successes of Latinos within the Republican Party as nothing more than a numbers game. This is especially true when contrasting them to the struggles of Black Republicans within the GOP structure as well as the larger Black community. While this has merit, the bigger lesson from Florida GOP 2012 so far is this: politics may be a numbers game, but it is even more of a people-driven dynamic. Nationally, Latinos have done a better job of being more places politically more often than Black Americans have over the past several years. Latinos have done a better job of allowing both sides of the political argument to play out for the best of their communities.

This is unlike African Americans and the constant (and tragically reprehensible) soap opera involving Black conservatives and mainstream Black America insulting each other. Latinos have done a better job of embracing and pursuing the American Dream through all channels of government - including Republican ones - instead of allowing opportunities to disintegrate like desert mirages.

As we leave the Florida GOP primary and head into Black History Month, perhaps the recent history lesson America has received over the past decade from American Latinos can be the primer needed to jolt Black America back into greater political relevancy. Hopefully, it will be in time for Black voters to re-read and reclaim the pages from the civil rights playbook from the past, not just sing from the civil rights hymnal for another 28 days this year.