It’s as if the 32 million Hispanic – Latino eligible voters, the largest, nonwhite racial or ethnic electorate in the 2020 elections – part of the more than 60 million who call the U.S. home do not matter to Republican President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee.
The word “Hispanic” was only uttered once during the first presidential debate, and that was by Biden without much context or thoughtfulness.
Criticism falls on Fox News’ Chris Wallace for his lack of inclusion of Hispanic – Latinos in the 90-minute question and answer bout, especially in the COVID-19 section, but that does not excuse the candidates from integrating into their discourse a community that has been especially hit hard by the pandemic.
The death rate in the U.S. from COVID-19 among Latinos and people of color are rising sharply, heightening the already astounding racial divide in the impact of the pandemic.
Hispanic – Latinos accounted for 30-percent of the cases and 16% percent of the hospitalizations over the summer – even though they make up only 12-percent of Massachusetts’ overall population.
The Massachusetts Department of Health also noted that the Black community account for 7-percent of the state’s population but 14-percent of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
Even before this pandemic, people of color were more likely to live in poor health than their white counterparts and, for black residents, to die younger. These differences are not accidental, nor are they the result of biological differences between people of different races. Instead, they reflect differences in the opportunities and barriers to being healthy – differences that are rooted in structural racism and bias.
As this disease unfolds, it is important for Trump and Biden to recognize the roots of these disparities. The differences in access to health care, unequal treatment within the health care system, unequal access to resources such as stable housing and healthy food, and personal experiences of discrimination and racism that have lasting physical and mental health consequences need to be discussed during the presidential debates.
The worst fears of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) were realized when none of the community’s concerns were addressed by Wallace’s questioning as if the only relevant topic would have been a section on immigration (in order for the community to be mentioned). Hispanics -Latinos are NOT a monolithic group.
“It is preposterous to look at the state of our country; increasingly polarized communities across the nation, and not be left to wonder how is it possible that our community remains excluded?”, said Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), and Owner of NHLatinoNews.com (part of the Latino News Network) in a video statement denouncing the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) for not including a Hispanic – Latino journalist as moderator.
“If there isn’t a Latinx moderator, millions are deprived of having most important issues voiced and delivered during the presidential debates. Latinx figures continue to shape the nation every day, and to snub the second-largest demographic group in the United States again after dismal representation at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), would be another snub ahead of a presidential election”, wrote Ericka Conant, political reporter for AL DÍA.
The CPD says it will be making changes to the format of the next and final two presidential debates in order to avoid the chaos of the first, but it must also add a Hispanic – Latino moderator.
Top concerns for the Latino community do not begin, nor end at immigration. Health care, education, economic consequence, and job creation all live at the top of their minds.
“By not sharing a seat at the table, this irresponsible decision manipulates democratic principles and a chance for a future that is equitable and fair. It is inexcusable that not only in 2020 but in the midst of a racial reckoning, these three co-chairs and the CPD made a conscious decision to deny a voice in the most visible and opportune moment to rebalance the scales of equality”, said Balta.
“This is no longer solely an issue of fair and accurate representation of Latinos. The decision and complicit behavior by the commission on presidential debates perpetuate the erasure of our community.”