Happy Latino/e/x Heritage Month.
It should be a cause for celebration, enjoying the many cultures, comida, music, entertainment, and vibrancy that Latino/e/x’s have contributed globally, setting trends, breaking barriers. We’re the majority in California, and on track to be nationwide.
But in one of powerful cities in the country, with a large Latino population, San Francisco Latinos are treated as an afterthought, as non-citizens, therefore non humans. We are forcibly thrown out of our homes due to speculative greed, forced to live in congregate settings with 10 or more people to a room. Our children have among the lowest in graduation rates, and the academic achievement gap grows further for the 26 percent of Latino students in the San Franicsco public schools.
Mission murals. Wikimedia Commons photo
In San Francisco leadership, we have one Latina on the Board of Supervisors, six elected officials in total, one of whom works actively against Latino interests as our current District Attorney. On commissions, we have nine percnet Latinos, even less for Latinas. Latino department heads are minimal, and our leadership is dwindling daily.
Our cultural staple community and neighborhood, La Miśion, has some of the highest commercial vacancy rates in this city. Yet, there is a concerted effort to criminalize the poorest of us trying to sell scraps for a living. Open drug use is common on our Bart plazas, because of the lack of an overdose prevention center where people can use safely.
All the while this city criminalizes newcomer immigrants fleeing hostile countries with crises our own nation helped foster. We’re blamed for the drug trade this country helped fund, and scapegoated directly from the Mayor’s Office as being drug dealers, and chastised instead of celebrating when one of us becomes the first Latino senator from this state.
When LA Councilmember Kevin De Leon along with Nury Martinez and Gil Cisneros were caught on tape saying racist remarks while openly discussing gerrymandering the redistricting process, the Latino community called loudly for their resignations from up and down the state. We expect the same from our elected leaders and community members when racism happens here blatantly in San Francisco as well. Our people are more than racist tropes of criminals.
As one of the elected presidents of the San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club, along with my other executive board colleagues, we have a responsibility and duty to advocate for our people, our gente. The Mayor’s Latino City Hall celebration was Thursday, but how can we celebrate when our community is in desperate need? How can we support a mayor who clearly doesn’t care about Latinos?
We must heed the call to action for a dignified, healthy, and prosperous Latine/x community in San Francisco.
Kevin Ortiz is Co-President of the San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club.