Communities of color must build coalitions and participate in the democratic process to improve representation in political offices and increase electoral impact, said Black and Latino leaders at a webinar Wednesday.
The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative hosted a webinar moderated by Politico reporter Laura Barrón-López to discuss how Black and brown communities can work together to build pipelines to political offices for prospective Black and brown leaders and become a part of advocacy efforts.
Julián Castro, a former 2020 presidential candidate and current mayor of San Antonio, spoke alongside U.S. Rep. Karen Bass about how lawmakers and political leaders can effectively address race-related matters, even after they stop making headlines.
Castro said Black and Latino people need to continue to share their stories and reform the journalistic institutions that report on them. The Los Angeles Times Latino Caucus recently demanded the newsroom hire more Latino leaders and editors to better reflect LA demographics, Castro added.
Tangible political change requires concrete commitments from a broad range of community members, from protestors to politicians to corporate America, Castro said.
“You can take symbolic but meaningful action like changing the name of your product or the logo or spokesperson for your product, but what are you going to do about hiring?” Castro said. “What are you going to do about changing the internal culture of the organization?”
Bass, who also chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said she was proud that Black and indigenous groups as well as other communities of color have continued to collaborate, especially on a legislative level, to address challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and racial discrimination.
“We have to never allow ourselves to be divided,” Bass said.
Castro said politicians and leaders must support prospective candidates that represent their communities.
“(We need to) be intentional about passing that baton on and helping to lift up the next generation,” Castro said. “Because they have the talent.”
Jonathan Jayes-Green, the vice president of programs for the Marguerite Casey Foundation, a philanthropic foundation that supports low-income families, said that in order to improve representation of Black and brown communities in political office, people need to acknowledge that the current systems are designed to exclude them from democratic participation.
“The fact is that our systems and our institutions … were built in such a way to make sure that people like us were kept out of the process,” Jayes-Green said.
Genny Castillo, the regional engagement director for the Southern Economic Advancement Project, which dedicates resources to organizations working to create economical equity, said people need to work with advocacy groups and show up to local council meetings to support fair wages and affordable housing to advance their advocacy.
Castillo added that the conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement is not meant to exclude Latinos from the conversation around police brutality. Rather, it is a recognition of the discrimination against Black people and anti-Blackness that persists in many countries, Castillo said.
“This is happening across our Latin American countries, this is happening across our generations, this is happening across every aspect,” Castillo said.
There is work for everyone to do to address one’s biases, Jayes-Green said.
“Needing to do work doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person, it just means that you’re earlier on the timeline,” Jayes-Green said. “That is work that is required of all of us.”