The year 2020 has brought with it many challenges and lessons that will not soon be forgotten; a virus that continues to kill thousands by the day, fires burning across the West Coast, hurricanes that are showing up in batches of three, and an election that no one knows what the end result will be, despite what we have been seeing and witnessing for the last four years.
On October 3, the jobless claims were over 800,000, according to an October 8, New York Times article, and as we wrap our minds around what the upcoming presidential election means for so many in this country, we also have another situation at hand — concerns of voter suppression in Black and Brown neighborhoods.
In Philadelphia County, great emphasis has been placed on increasing voter turnout, and despite being sued by the Trump administration, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania triumphed on behalf of its citizenry. For the first time in history, Pennsylvania has three solid weeks to vote, with 17 satellite ballot drop off and voting centers located across the city of Philadelphia leading up to Election Day.
Philadelphia City Commissioners Lisa Deeley and Omar Sabir have been going through the media circuit teaching people what they need to know and how they need to do it in order to make their ballots count.
However, there seems to be a group of people in Philadelphia County, it is assumed, that has largely been ignored — Philadelphia’s Latino citizens. Chris Diaz, deputy coalitions director for the Pennsylvania Biden campaign, spoke about the intimidation efforts being used to make sure that people do not vote in the Latino communities.
“Trump’s dog whistle that ‘bad things happen in Philadelphia’ and that mail-in ballots are not to be trusted, along with an army of intimidating Republicans in our communities to dissuade people from voting, has impacted our people,” Diaz said.
That said, he went on to stress that bilingual poll workers will be at the poll locations to make sure the questions are answered, and said that the coming days are most important in helping people to register to vote by the October 19 deadline.
Diaz says that Latinos are less likely to go to the polls, because historically they have a lack of trust in the system anyway, as the Democrats have done an awful job of explaining the mail-in-ballots to them and the Republicans have done it better — by sowing fear and discord. Because when people stay home, they do not vote, and that is what works for them [Republicans].
Diaz had some advice for voters leading up to the elections.
“Look at the two candidates and ask yourself, which one has demonstrated a track record about serving others or themselves? “ he asked. “Which one goes beyond insulting Puerto Ricans and Mexicans and sowing discord?”
According to Diaz and other Latino leaders, the fear is real, even as the numbers of Latinos registering to vote have gone up. The quest now becomes getting them to vote.
Kimberly Lamberty is a community partner who has been engaged in politics since she was 18 years old.
“I am scared, it is a scary time,” she said. “I felt so much more positive about Obama running, but I do not feel the same confidence in this race because of the deceit. Latinos struggle with the new mail in ballots, for we may not be up to the challenge (English to Spanish) and no money [has] been poured in to educate them in our community.”
The good news are the community leaders like herself, who stopped waiting for the cavalry of help to arrive and began helping themselves, Lamberty says.“We have this word that we use in Spanish — call presente, which means to be present — but in the Latino community, it is used as I am here, or I am available, or count on me,” she said.
Lamberty and others like her have increased voter registration, are knocking on doors, and are helping the neighborhoods in Kensington and North Philadelphia to understand what this election means while deciphering the ballot itself.
Lamberty grew up in North Philadelphia, but felt she was not American enough there — and in Puerto Rico her familial motherland, she wasn’t Latino enough and always felt like she was in limbo as a direct result.
Her advice to the many others who were born in Puerto Rico and are natural citizens of this country, along with the children born to Columbian, Dominican or Mexican parents was this, “To my Latino brothers and sisters, we are American, we have a right to vote and do not let anyone make you feel you don’t have the right to be in the process from soup to nuts,” Lamberty said. “It is crunch time and we need to make our voices heard, since we are underrepresented.”
According to Wikipedia, there are, as of the 2010 census, 187,611 Latinos and Hispanics in Philadelphia, constituting over 12 percent of the city’s population, the vast majority of which are Puerto Ricans. Most Philadelphia Hispanics self-identify as either White, Black, mixed, or other, for government purposes, i.e. United States Census.
That number is one we cannot afford to ignore in this upcoming election. So, as we fight for the rights and common goals for Black citizens, let us unite and not forget the Brown ones, too. Every vote counts. The voter protection hotline is: 1-833-728-6837