The lack of Puerto Ricans and Latinos in the New York City mayor’s administration continues to come up as an issue. Unfortunately, it seems that no matter what mayor gets into office Latinos are always shortchanged when it comes to appointments and jobs. Perhaps many were expecting more because Latino’s voted overwhelmingly to elect progressive Bill de Blasio mayor.
The issue of the lack of Latinos employed by both city and state governments has always been a concern that I have been critical of. For decades, I have been asking, demanding and protesting for Latino economic empowerment. Back in the 1980’s I wrote an article when Time Magazine published a cover that read: “The 80’s The Decades of the Hispanics.”
I remember that quote and have used it several times while speaking to anyone that would listen to the falsehood of media and government when it comes to our brown skin communities. The 80’s came and went and I asked? If the 80’s were supposed to be our decade, I want to know who stole it because we never got it?
Little has changed since then and in many ways things are worse for many sectors of our community. However, lacking any well organized, or orchestrated reaction from our community we have basically opted to adapt rather than change. The media and our very government are in many ways responsible by distracting the majority of us from reacting to our own reality.
The media works well to appease us into thinking that we are progressing. When you see more and more Spanish surnames on the news channels, more entertainers with Spanish surnames and Latinos that seem to be appearing everywhere from the Weather Channel, CNN. ESPN to the Grammy’s they are also promoting a subliminal message that “we have made it.” Unfortunately, that’s totally false. My mother would say: “eso es pintura y capota,” Basically false coat of paint, not a real.
In government it works almost the same. We have many Latino elected officials. For example in my borough, the Bronx we have Congressman Serrano, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr, state senators, state assembly, and city council members. That seems like a lot when you reflect on those numbers. In fact you might also begin to accept the falsehood that “we have made it.” Unfortunately, that is not the reality. That’s like seeing JayLo, Fat Joe and Romeo in major concerts, on the big screen, or in a national television programs and think that the Bronx has “made it” because they are Latinos and they all started out in the Bronx. The fact is that they “made it” economically, but, not us, not the community that they came from, or the nationality that they represent.
That is why I introduced a basic formula back in the 1980’s and continues to introduce it whenever I can, or when I am asked about the issue of economic empowerment. The formula is called: Population Parity with Economic Parity. It’s simple and it goes like this. If we are 29% of the population of the city then I believe that we should have near 29% of the jobs in the city. The fact that Latinos at present make up 11% is totally unacceptable.
If we are approximately 19% of the population of the state, we should have at least 19% of the New York State employment, easy and simple formula right? At present I believe that Latinos might account for less than 5% of the states workforce and that is also unacceptable.
I ran for City Council in 2013 in the 17 Councilmatic District in the South Bronx. I ran simply because I believed that we had to demonstrate a message that we are no-way content with the status quo. I did not win and I believe God knows best. I do know that if I would have won, today I would be making a one man stand in front of city hall protesting this unfair and discriminatory practice. I would be assisting any other group, organization, or individual who wanted to change this. I would probably be on the outs with many other Latino and non-Latino elected officials who today seem to have accepted the status quo. Many have accepted the “trickle down” theory that the mayor’s progressive actions will in the long run “trickle down” and provide more for our community.
Many of our elected officials have accepted this belief from both the mayor and the governor.
“Trickle Down” economics did not work at the federal level when President Reagan introduced the concept, so why would that formula work today? That’s where the word “progressive” begins to bother me. It seems that the many progressive actions of a DeBlasio administration (which for the most part I support) have silenced them on the issue of employment for our community. The belief that his policies will “trickle down” and help us in the long run is probably true. But my question is, how long and when? Also since these are all variable factors, supposed they don’t? What then?
Therefore, I continue to promote Population Parity with Economic Parity because jobs are the fundamental base for any community. While we continue to wait for our community to develop our own employment opportunities, the fastest way to help us achieve economic empowerment is with government jobs. In fact, it has been solid government jobs with good benefits and a pension that has helped many previous communities move quickly into the middle class.
I recently heard a statement by State Senator, Reverent Ruben Diaz that was quite interesting and relates to this issue. He stated, “that every time we get close to power they change the rules and when we overcome the rules and still get in they come up with a new word, “reform,” to continue to keep us out.” I disagree with many of the Senator’s political positions. In fact we have been at opposite sides of issues since our undergraduate school days. However, I agree with that statement.
In the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King, perhaps its time for us to start looking at what can unite us, rather, than what can divide us. Only a strong united and diversified coalition of Latinos can force the change that our community needs regardless of who is the mayor, or governor and whether they are progressive, or not.