Back in February, when Time Magazine graced its cover with a group of Latinos and correctly predicted that the Latino voter would define this election, I was hopeful that something in mainstream media might be changing.
That starting then, stories featuring Hispanics would be seamlessly integrated into all other stories. How naïve of me.
Unfortunately, despite the accuracy of its prediction, instead of recognizing that, as a leading news organization it needed to start looking at Hispanics through a different lens, Time continues to look at this population as an abstraction.
“Undocumented immigrants” are now one of the 40 candidates for Time’s “Person of the Year” cover. Is that all Hispanics are to general market publications? The voter? The undocumented immigrant? The low-paid worker? The sexy Latina?
A bunch of stereotypes that don’t deserve sharing the front page, top-50 lists, or individualized recognition side-by-side with non-Hispanic influential people? (And if Time is going to choose an abstraction for this year’s cover, didn’t the Latino voter influence the news more than undocumented immigrants anyway?)
I understand that Hispanics are not a monolithic group and therefore they themselves might be hard-pressed to come up with the name of a leader who they feel represents the entire community. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a host of well-known, high-achieving, critical players on the world stage that could be part of the list from which voters select the “Person of the Year.”
The fact that there aren’t any individual Latino names at all begets the question, how diverse is the network the Time editors are tapping into for recommendations?
My wild guess: not diverse enough.
We still have a long way to go to better integrate the different races and ethnicities that make up our country
- Mariela Dabbah
Above and beyond the political leaders who are shaping this country like U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, or Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, there were plenty of Latino men and women who played relevant roles in the news this year such as Ryan Lochte, María Elena Salinas, Jorge Ramos, Shakira, Sofía Vergara, Felipe Calderón and many others.
You could argue that they are great examples but that they aren’t mainstream enough to have made it to the cover but, you know what? neither would many of the other 39 people listed as candidates, like Psy, Mo Farah, or Sandra Fluke, for that matter. Nevertheless, they are part of the list. Someone got them there. Someone gave them their due.
I was reminded yesterday of how slowly things move when it comes to inclusion when I saw Lincoln, Spielberg’s latest movie.
It’s easy to feel rage and disbelief about people’s narrow mindedness when you watch a bunch of U.S. congressmen viscerally oppose the 13th amendment to end slavery. When you see how terrified they were about black people voting and gaining other rights. (“What’s next – women?” is one of the scariest lines in the movie.)
Yet Lincoln is a timely reminder that although that discussion took place almost 150 years ago, we still have a long way to go to better integrate the different races and ethnicities that make up our country.
And one place where this lack of integration continues to be evident is in our newsrooms. You don't have to look too hard to find out that media networks, likely in response to their advertisers’ demands, continue to keep their publications and shows segmented. As if our multicultural market had not radically transformed who reads and watches the news at any given time.
Mariela Dabbah’s latest book Poder de Mujer will be out in English April 2013 by Penguin. She’s the founder and CEO of Latinos in College, a not-for-profit organization, and of the Red Shoe Movement, an initiative that invites women to wear red shoes to work on Tuesday to signal their support for other women’s careers.