Non-Latinos need more understanding of Latinos, professor says
April 8, 2011 · Print This Article
By Jennie Rodriguez, J.D.
BCTV.org (April 5, 2011)
Reading, PA — On Monday, March 28 at 7 p.m., Alvernia University hosted its Annual Hesburgh Lecture as part of its Ethics, Leadership & Community Lecture series.
Alvernia welcomed Professor Allert Brown-Gort, associate director of the Institute of Latino Studies at Notre Dame University.
Brown-Gort spoke about “The Impact of the Growing Latino Population” in the U.S.
He discussed the forecast increase in Latino demographics over the next decade and the influence on various economies and the impact for communities.
Speaking to a capacity audience, Brown-Gort, a citizen of both Mexico and the U.S., began his lecture defining “Latinos.”
He noted that the words “Latino” or “Hispanic” exist only in the U.S.
They define people who have a “pan-ethnic” identity.
“They are U.S. residents – of any race – who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean,” said Brown-Gort.
Puerto Ricans are also Latinos but they are US citizens by birth and are not subject to immigration laws. Latinos share the universal root language of Spanish but their dialects, cultures and customs are diverse.
Puerto Ricans who emigrate from the island and who are bilingual and bicultural assimilate much more quickly into mainstream America than their pan-ethnic brethren.
According to Brown-Gort, “Latinos are at once one of the oldest, and one of the newest of American immigration stories.”
St. Augustine, Fla., was founded in 1565 by Spanish explorer and admiral, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. Spaniards held the first Thanksgiving celebration in the U.S. in 1597, and in 1723, the first Catholic Bishop in the U.S. came from Cuba.
In 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Latinos represented 15.7 percent of the U.S. population. The Census projects Latino representation will increase by 102.6 percent by 2050.
Other Bureau facts:
Latinos were responsible for half the growth of the U.S. population between 2000 and 2010.
Hispanic growth rate (24.3 percent) was more than three times the growth rate of the total population (6.1 percent).
13 states have at least 500,000 Latino residents.
Almost half (49 percent) of the Latino-origin population lives in California or Texas.
About half of Dominicans live in New York City.
Half of the Cubans live in Miami-Dade, Fla.
Brown-Gort also presented U.S. Census Bureau data indicating that U.S. born Latinos are young. In 2009, 18 percent of the estimated Latino population was less than 5 years old.
This generation, noted Brown-Gort, is the future workforce of the U.S. He observed: “Can any economy do well with a population that is not growing?”
Yet, representation of Latinos in leadership positions, including in for-profit and non-profit companies, and at higher-education institutions, is dismal.
The U.S. Census Bureau data reports that from 2005-2007, 17 percent of Latinos held professional positions.
When Brown-Gort asked the audience to guess the industries in which most Latinos work, many answered chicken farms or service industries.
In fact, less than 2 percent of Latinos work on U.S. farms, and 24 percent work in service-related industries.
The largest barrier to Latino leadership is education. Brown-Gort presented Census data from 2004 indicating that Latinos suffer from low education attainment.
Only 27.7 percent of Latinos graduated high school, 8.8 percent earned college degrees and 3.3 percent obtained advanced degrees.
Interestingly, Brown-Gort offered that ignorance of the English language was not the No. 1 barrier preventing Latinos from attaining education.
“I have never met a Latino child who does not want to learn English,” he said.
He did acknowledge, however, that children who emigrate as teenagers find it more difficult to assimilate into the U.S. education system. Family and poverty issues also contribute to low education attainment.
But Brown-Gort did present promising statistics. He reported that:
Latinos comprise 18 percent of U.S. elementary and high school students.
The proportion of college students who are Latino increased from 4 to 10 percent in the past two decades.
2.7 million Latinos, or 12 percent, have college degrees, double from 1994.
Despite these advancements, Latinos continue to be subject to discrimination because of their perceived illegal immigration status.
There is also resistance from non-Latinos because of strained municipal and educational resources. However, the Pew Hispanic Center 2010 study shows that U.S. unauthorized immigration flows reduced sharply from 30 percent to 4 percent since mid-decade.
Brown-Gort discussed the fact that where once Lady Liberty and Ellis Island welcomed immigrants from all lands, current immigration laws are confusing.
He acknowledged there are viable reasons to protect U.S. borders from illegal immigrants and terrorists.
But he noted that politicians have not presented a unified approach to manage this challenge without subjecting Latinos, in particular, to stereotypes or ethnic profiling.
Brown-Gort said, “the current immigration debate is fed by fear of displacement – and not for the first time in U.S. history.”
The U.S. was built by successful immigrants, many of whom were limited in English proficiency. Yet some communities in Berks County are threatened that Latinos are becoming the new face.
Perhaps it’s because of the “look like me, talk like me, s/he can’t be as good as me,” syndrome. Brown-Gort suggested some people are adverse to change or have simply forgotten U.S. immigration history.
He concluded his lecture by stating that unless non-Latinos break the equation: “Latinos = Immigrant = Illegal = Criminal ≠ Not worthy of being my neighbor,” both the economy and society will stagnate.
Latinos are not going to be equal inside our communities and workplaces until non-Latinos embrace the fact: They’re here.
It was held in the Bernardine Franciscan Conference Center. Ginny Hand, director of the Holleran Center, said: “Alvernia was pleased to host Professor Allert Brown Gort for our annual Hesburgh lecture and have him share his knowledge and expertise about the growing impact of the Latino population in the United States.
“His message of responsibility for active civic engagement and increased education for our youth was especially poignant for our greater Reading community as we struggle with the challenges of poverty and municipal and educational finances.”
Jennie Rodriguez, of Kenhorst, is education director at PACE Institute, is a BCTV board member, and is completing her MBA at Alvernia University.