Latino Opportunities in America: Is Discrimination Hindering Latino Success

The recent election of America's first black American president, Barack H. Obama, comes less than a decade short of 150 years after the Civil War, which, for many Americans, symbolizes the struggle for racial equality in America. Every immigrant group to America has experienced unique hardships and discrimination arising out of the competition for resources. Black Americans were unique, because they were imported to the United States as slaves, and their presence here had nothing to do with exploring new worlds or fleeing religious persecution. Unlike the Americans who did that, black Americans were disconnected from their cultural heritage, which was broken with the slave trade.

Like black Americans, Latino-Americans and immigrants have a unique place in America, because while they did not arrive in America as slaves, but as the people of a strong and independent European nation, their descendants and subsequent Latino immigrants to America have been treated with the same racial prejudice and bias as have the black American community. Unlike black Americans, however, Latinos continue to be discriminated against, and have not yet been allowed to fully assimilate into the fabric of America's multicultural diversity.

This brief essay will examine the challenges that continue to face the Latino community. The question of whether or not the recent election of Barack Obama to the office of president is an indication that social and political change is now open to the Latino community as well. John F. Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic American president, and his presidency was significant because of that cultural and religious distinction. Barack Obama's racial and cultural heritage is likewise a social and cultural milestone in the history of America. Is it possible that the next president could be a Latino-American? What are the challenges that face the Latino-American on the academic, economic, political and social fronts that must yet be overcome before Latino-Americans can be fully assimilated into the diversity of the American cultural fabric? These are the questions that this essay will attempt to address, and in conclusion see if the research presented here can shed light as to where the Latino opportunity in America is today.

Opportunity Begins with Education

In America, education is at the root of all opportunity, even if it is not what forms the basis of individual success. That is to say, even if a person has the individual qualities of integrity, honesty, intelligence, and resourcefulness, those qualities alone are not enough to open many of the doors to success in America. These other qualities, however, begin with family. Josefina Contreras, Katherine Kerns, Angela Neal-Barnett (2002) have researched the Latino family in America in relation to the future direction of Latinos as an ethnic group, and as Americans. These social researchers express a very positive outlook for the future of Latinos in America. "This future is one in which the U.S. citizenry will literally look different than anything we have heretofore thought of when we think 'American (Contreras, Kerns, Neal-Barnett, 3).'" Public opinion, they contend, is greatly shaped not by the Anglo-American heritage, but by the ethnicity of the minorities and the action that it causes Americans to take (3), which might be described as the Anglo's never ending need to right the wrongs of the world.

The status of the Latino in America is as important and obvious to the Latino family as it is to the black American family. Just as there is the history of the black American going through the variations of imposed identity before they finally arrived at the "black" or "African" American reality of their identity, so to have the "Hispanic" family in America.

Indeed, the term "Hispanic," which is what Latinos are officially referred to by Census trackers and in other official documents, is a label of convenience that has been used to refer to people with family origins in Mexico, Central or South America, the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, and Spain. The term "Latino," which is preferred by many who are called "Hispanics" and was introduced into government nomenclature in the 2000 Census, refers to the same group minus those of exclusively Spanish-European ancestry. This distinction means little in terms of actual numbers, but it makes an important historical and psychological differentiation between those whose origins can be exclusively traced to the country that produced the colonizers of Latin America and those who are descended from the lands that were a product of this colonization (that is, a mixture of the colonizers, the colonized, and select others) (Contreras, Kerns, et al., 4)."

Americans have acknowledged the diversity of its children, and bilingual or Spanish speaking teachers are being aggressively recruited, not to teach Spanish, but to be able to communicate with the large numbers of students in the public schools whose first language is Spanish (Tyler, Naomi, Yzquierdo, Zina, Lopez-Reyna, Norma, and Flippin, Susan Saunders, 2004, 22). This progress in communicating with the Latino community's young students is perhaps the most important and significant area of progress that is measurable in the Latino struggle for equal rights in America. Social researchers Tyler, Yzquierdo, Lopez-Reyna, and Flippin say that the interest arises more out of necessity than it does the greater society's sense of social, because globalization has made the bilingual Spanish speaking citizen a commodity in and of itself (22). True, or false, as this may be, there is an emphasis now being put on improving communications with young school children at an earlier age than every before.

Education has always been the means by which children of immigrants to the United States enter the economic mainstream of our society. As a nation of immigrants, we have always taken pride in the idea (if not the reality) that our schools should give children from all cultures and backgrounds a fair chance to succeed in school and thereby in society (Slavin, Robert E., and Calderon, Margarita, 2001, 1)."

Today, schools are looking to match kids with academic paths that will lead them to careers or work that is consistent with their abilities and skills, and to educate them to success as students. There is an emphasis on reading, and there are rewards and incentives attached to achieving academic milestones. There is a greater emphasis placed on retaining students, and preventing and reducing the numbers of dropouts (67). Experts cite marked improvements, and attribute these improvements to the social milestones that are being in America in embracing its cultural diversity, or at least recognizing the contribution that the cultural diversity can make to American business interests in a global community.

This emphasis on education and awareness of the needs of businesses in a global community does not mean that there are not challenges to Latinos today. The challenges, especially in the work place, has given rise to a cottage industry in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) (Volpe, Maria, Baruch Bush, Robert, Johnson Jr., Gene, Kwok, Christopher, and Tudy-Jackson, Robert, 2008, 119). The field hails itself as one that champions inclusion, and it is fueled by special interest organizations and money that is geared towards bringing about Latino equality in America. There are relationships established between the representatives and the clients that are based on trust and a shared interest in the outcome of the goal as rectifying workplace biases or other areas where bias or racial prejudice would exclude members of minority groups in America, and most notably members of the Latino community. Alternative dispute resolution seeks to right those wrongs, but to do it in as inconspicuous a way as possible and to bring about an even playing field without closing doors to the Latino community (119).

Latino ethnicity, Latinismo, is the sense of who Latinos are as a group (Shaunessy, Elizabeth, Alvarez McHatton, Patricia, Hughes, Claire, Brice Alejandro, and Ratliff, Mary Ann,…