And what if he were president? Would he be able to use his Spanish (albeit limited) in any public setting? Coates talks about the concerted effort to essentially delegitimize the Obama presidency as “foreign”: “While [Glenn] Beck and [Rush] Limbaugh have chosen direct racial assault, others choose simply to deny that a black president actually exists. One in four Americans (and more than half of all Republicans) believe Obama was not born in this country, and thus is an illegitimate president.” Can you imagine what it would be like if the same crowd saw their President speaking a language that wasn’t the King’s English?
Furthermore, how would a President Castro react to the killing of Anastasio Hernandez by border agents? How would a President Castro talk about the plight of Nathaly Perez, forced to grow up in foster care after both of her parents were deported. After all, if Castro had a daughter, she’d look like Nathaly.
Coates argues that President Obama’s blackness actually prevents him from addressing the most pressing issues of race in America, especially mass incarceration and the war on drugs. Would Castro’s Latinidad actually make it harder for him to do something for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country?
The growth of the Hispanic population in the United States is reshaping the nation. How our politics react to this dramatic shift will define the coming decades. How our country works together to educate a community that woefully lags behind in achievement, how we empower a community that lost 66 percent of its net worth in the recession, how we bring 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows of deportation will be critical in determining our nation’s success in the 21st century.
What is clear is that the first black president will have provided a road map for any future minority president. As the nation goes through the growing pains inherent in becoming a true multicultural society, President Obama has already provided a first, major step, inevitably making the road a little less treacherous.