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Watchdog report warns about the dangers of racist media, particularly for Latinos

The Government Accountability Office’s findings raise alarms about the lack of Latino representation in media and its harmful effects.
IMage: A restaurant employee moves between tables in Manhattan on Dec. 11, 2020.
 Latinos employed in the media industry disproportionately work in service jobs, a new report found.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

The Government Accountability Office released a report Tuesday that showed just how drastically underrepresented Latinos are in media relative to their share of the U.S. population.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the House Oversight and Reform Committee asked the GAO in October to investigate how many Latinos work across the film, television and publishing industries.

Although Latinos make up about 18 percent of the U.S. population, they are only 12 percent of the media workforce, according to the GAO’s report. And Latinos employed in the media industry disproportionately work in service jobs, making up 22 percent of service workers. In contrast, Latinos hold only 4 percent of senior and executive management positions in media. 

The emphasis on Latino representation acknowledged the outsize roles news and entertainment play in creating narratives about racial and ethnic groups.

In his time with the Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, has made it a point to call out harmful stereotypes that marginalize the Latino community. He has repeatedly tied hateful stereotypes about Latinos — spread by politicians like former President Donald Trump — to acts of violence committed against Latinos. 

Castro issued a statement denouncing Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric in response to the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that left 23 people dead — many of them Latinos. He tweeted that Trump’s use of the word “invasion” to describe hopeful migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border resembled language in the shooting suspect’s manifesto.

In an op-ed last year for Variety titled “Latinos Love Hollywood, but Hollywood Hates Latinos,” Castro wrote that there’s a “dangerous nexus between the racist political rhetoric and the negative images of Latinos as criminals and invaders that Americans see on their screens.” And he’s correct. 

Even before the age of television, when radios were becoming the primary source of in-home entertainment, trailblazing Latin American artists and producers knew the power of the airwaves to counteract — or stoke — racist stereotypes. 

As President Herbert Hoover conducted one of the most sweeping anti-Mexican deportation efforts in U.S. history in the early 1930s, Mexican musician and radio host Pedro González was among the most popular voices in the media defending Mexican Americans’ humanity. His pleas for humanity sound similar to those of Latino lawmakers and activists today. 

“They say that this government campaign is to secure jobs for North American citizens,” González said in one broadcast. “It’s a trick. It isn’t true. It’s really nothing more than a racist attack against all Mexicans. We are neither illegal nor undesirable.”

Head over to The ReidOut Blog for more.


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