His­pan­ics up­beat about fu­ture

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Es­ther J. Cepeda Colum­nist Es­ther Cepeda is syn­di­cated by The Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group.

If one’s per­cep­tion is, ef­fec­tively, one’s re­al­ity, then we can ex­pect life to get bet­ter soon. That’s be­cause de­spite the me­dia — and a cer­tain pres­i­den­tial can­di­date — bat­ter­ing us with neg­a­tiv­ity about de­mo­graphic change, racial strife and po­lit­i­cal po­lar­iza­tion, Amer­ica’s 55 mil­lion Lati­nos are feel­ing sunny about the fu­ture.

In a new Na­tional Coun­cil of La Raza poll of Latino reg­is­tered vot­ers’ views on the econ­omy and health care, 51 per­cent of re­spon­dents said the econ­omy is get­ting bet­ter. Forty-eight per­cent said that a year from now, they ex­pect to be do­ing bet­ter fi­nan­cially, with 63 per­cent of 18- to 35-year-olds say­ing so com­pared with 36 per­cent of re­spon­dents 36 and older.

A full 66 per­cent said they ex­pect that their fi­nan­cial fu­ture and op­por­tu­ni­ties will be bet­ter than their par­ents’.

Though the in­di­vid­u­als polled ex­pressed fears about So­cial Se­cu­rity not be­ing around when they re­tire, about debt loads and about po­ten­tial job losses, ma­jori­ties (61 per­cent of 18- to 35-year-olds and 55 per­cent of those 36 and older) still said they be­lieve their hard work will pay off and they will be able to get ahead. To give you an idea of just how rad­i­cally pos­i­tive these young Lati­nos are com­pared with other groups, let’s look at the Har­vard In­sti­tute of Pol­i­tics’ most re­cent na­tional poll of Amer­ica’s 18- to 29-year-olds.

When asked whether they are “hope­ful” or “fear­ful” about the fu­ture of Amer­ica, 51 per­cent of all re­spon­dents in­di­cated that they are fear­ful. How­ever, of the whites, blacks and His­pan­ics who were polled, no group was more fear­ful about Amer­ica’s fu­ture than white men and women.

Sixty per­cent of white women and 54 per­cent of white men were scared about the fu­ture — about 10 per­cent­age points more than His­panic women and men. And only 36 per­cent of white males and 32 per­cent of white fe­males said they ex­pected to be bet­ter off fi­nan­cially than their par­ents, com­pared with 45 per­cent of His­panic males and 52 per­cent of His­panic fe­males.

I blame this on a decade’s worth of alarmist news head­lines about mi­nori­ties dis­plac­ing white peo­ple as the new ma­jor­ity. Without a doubt, 10 years or so of pit­ting mi­nori­ties against white peo­ple in a high­stakes game of de­mog­ra­phy-is­des­tiny was the im­pe­tus for this year’s pres­i­den­tial con­test in which mak­ing Amer­ica “great again” was code for mak­ing it white again.

There are up­sides to the pop­u­la­tion shift that — be­cause they are bor­ing com­pared with screechy ar­ti­cles about im­mi­nent white ex­tinc­tion — don’t get enough play.

The de­mog­ra­pher Wil­liam H. Frey says the “di­ver­sity ex­plo­sion” that is driv­ing our pop­u­la­tion growth is a le­git­i­mate rea­son for optimism. Put bluntly, Amer­i­cans are ag­ing — and a young gen­er­a­tion of His­pan­ics, Asians and mul­tira­cial Amer­i­cans are com­ing of age just as the largely white, older U.S. pop­u­la­tion needs peo­ple to care for them and to pay in to So­cial Se­cu­rity.

Frey is op­ti­mistic that if poli­cies align to ad­e­quately sup­port this next gen­er­a­tion, the im­pact will be a net pos­i­tive.

Imag­ine the progress and pros­per­ity that could be un­leashed through the hope­ful­ness and en­ergy of a young Latino pop­u­la­tion if the coun­try started see­ing them as a ben­e­fit.

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