Did you know that Dallas-Ft. Worth is home to the sixth largest Hispanic population in the United States? Dallas is almost half Hispanic today, and soon Hispanics will be the majority. Yet only two of 15 Dallas City Council members are Hispanic, and we have never had a Hispanic mayor. It is time to end this madness. The fact that a giant segment of our population is underrepresented in city leadership is not only problematic for Hispanics; it’s problematic for Dallas as a whole.
It’s easy to understand why it’s a problem for Hispanics to lack representation. Without advocates who have the personal experience and cultural understanding needed to fully grasp the issues that Dallas Hispanics face, problems may not be addressed and solutions may not be provided. For example, the unemployment rate for Hispanic workers in Texas is 7.0 percent, more than one and a half times the white unemployment rate of 4.3 percent. Why do Dallas Hispanics experience higher rates of unemployment and higher rates of poverty among the employed?
Close to 40 percent of Hispanics 25 or older didn’t complete high school compared to eight percent for the white population, according to the 2010 census. Experts say there are several reasons why Hispanics are dropping out of school: inadequate funding for school programs in Hispanic neighborhoods; teachers who don’t know Spanish; and some Hispanic parents having little time (due to multiple low-wage jobs) or money to invest in their children’s educational success. Some Texas public schools already struggle with how to teach a growing number of poor children who don’t speak English. We have a large number of students who do not speak English who are in classrooms with teachers who do not speak Spanish. Obviously these students are doomed to struggle and oftentimes fail when their teachers have no clue how to help them. Demographers, education experts and civil rights advocates all warn that if the public school system doesn’t address the demographics and the poverty, Hispanics will be exiled to low-wage jobs or dependency on already over-taxed social services.
In 2006 federal officials said Texas was “under-monitoring” school programs aimed at Spanish speakers. The state was criticized for having low achievement standards and not doing a good enough job of identifying all the “English Language Learner” speakers in a classroom – ones who could use some extra attention. Hispanics are now almost 70 percent of Dallas Independent School District’s enrollment, which means we must create appropriate educational opportunities for our Hispanic youth in order to ensure the health of Dallas’ future economy.
Does it benefit Dallas to have an education system that fails the majority of students? No. Does it benefit Dallas to have ¼ of its population in poverty? No. For now, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. No one is adequately addressing these issues in City Hall. That’s why it is time for Hispanic voters to become electrified. It is time to get informed, mobilized and unified. Every Hispanic that is eligible to vote needs to register and get out and vote on election days. Every Hispanic that is not eligible to register due to undocumented status needs to get to an immigration attorney, get legal and become a voter.
If you’re not doing everything you can to make sure your interests are represented in this city, then you cannot hope for things to improve for yourself, your children or your grandchildren. As a community, we have the power to shape the future of this city if we only dare to exercise it. We invite you to join us in making the dream of a Dallas that serves the interests of Hispanic residents come true.
In the past, strong Hispanic candidates for mayor have received a poor showing of community support. In 1995 and 2002, Domingo Garcia ran for mayor. In 1999, Margaret Donnelly ran for mayor. Last year, Marcos Ronquillo ran for mayor. In the future, we need to do a better job of supporting the candidates who are looking out for our interests. We need to volunteer to help their campaigns. We need to tell our friends and families about our candidates. We need to make sure we are doing all that we can to get a good voter turnout on election day. The future of Dallas depends on us.
To register to vote in Dallas county: how to register to vote in Dallas
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