Why is there so much disinformation in the Latinx Community? What does young Latinx Voting Power in 2024 look like? That’s what we’re discussing in this episode Diana talks to Maria Teresa Kumar, the Executive Director of Voto Latino, about the possibilities that young Latino voters bring as so many turn 18 before the 2024 election.
what I’d like to see in 2024, I’d like to see that the headline that says Latinos welcomed the White House, the Senate and the Congress, because it’s literally because of the Latino vote that we actually changed the direction of this country back in 2020.
Diana and Maria Teresa discuss why and how bad actors are targeting the Latinx community by spreading disinformation to wreak havoc in USA elections, and what we can do as a community to ensure disinformation doesn’t spread, especially to older adults targeted with direct messaging by nefarious groups such as M4L.
Listen to find out why Maria Teresa excited about the coming electoral cycle and what makes the young Latino community those that can turn the tide and make a real difference in 2024.
READ TO FIND OUT WHY THERE ARE SO MANY ATTEMPTS OT SPREAD DISINFORMATION IN THE LATINX COMMUNITY:
00:08 – Diana (Host)
Welcome to Parenting in Politics, a podcast for parents who want to make a difference, where we look at parenting through a political lens. I’m Diana Limongi. Today, I’m so excited because our guest is Maria Teresa Kumar, who is the executive director of Voto Latino, and I feel like Maria Teresa needs an introduction. But a tiny snippet is that she was born in Colombia, so she’s a fellow Latina and grew up in California and she co-founded Voto Latino in 2004. Is that right?
00:35 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
We are going to be 20 years young next year.
00:38 – Diana (Host)
Wow, that kind of blew my mind. Yeah, that’s amazing.
00:44 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
It blows my mind. I can’t believe it. It’s like my first child and I can’t believe they’re 20.
00:50 – Diana (Host)
Voto Latino. I’m sure everyone who is listening has heard of Voto Latino. They work to encourage and empower younger generations of voters to vote, become politically engaged. They do tons around voter registration and getting out the vote and they have really awesome like creative campaigns that are super culturally relevant and fun with. You know work with spokespeople like America for Era and Willmer Valderrama, so they’re just all around fun and you know are getting the work done in a way that really resonates with young voters. So welcome, maria Teresa. Thank you for being here. Gracias, gracias.
01:31 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
It’s a pleasure to be here.
01:33 – Diana (Host)
So, before we dive into the conversation, I always ask my guests the same question, which is parenting and politics. Why are we talking about these two things together? Tell me what you think.
01:43 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
Because everything a parent needs to thrive and get it and make sure that their kids are doing well and that you’re having healthy meals and that you’re, that you are basically getting paid equity. It all boils down to equity and representation in government, and oftentimes you don’t realize that. But if you’re, if you’re talking about being a mommy and trying to juggle multiple, you know multiple responsibilities. If you don’t have good childcare and you can’t afford your child care, it kind of the thread kind of gets unraveled. Right? If you’re saying all of a sudden that you have a child that is sick with diabetes and you can’t afford an insulin, but now you can, it’s $35, it’s because you voted and now the government actually did what it was supposed to, and so people oftentimes say that politics is now out about us and I said no. The moment you say that they make it about us because all of a sudden they started infringing on our rights and what access we have.
Right, when we talk about all these government programs, it’s your tax dollars, and so I you know I always have a joke that you never go into Target and just put $20 on the table and don’t walk away with your product, right? You never do that, because that would be crazy. Well, it’s the same thing with your tax dollars. We need you at the table so you can say we’re we’re sure your tax dollars be going and, as a result, when you start electing people that pay attention to that, then your life does change, and that’s that’s why I’m in it. And so I think parenting and politics are absolutely messed together.
03:09 – Diana (Host)
So today we’re going to talk about the 2024 election and, at the risk of sounding cliche, because I we’ve all said it, so there’s so much at stake and it feels like with every passing day there’s more and more at stake. And we recently just wrapped up Hispanic Heritage Month, although I like to say I celebrate it every day and you know there’s always like discussion and like trying to figure out the Latino vote. How are Latinos going to vote? And you know, we know it’s not a monolith, so there’s not one type of Latino voter. So today we’re going to talk specifically about kind of the efforts to spread misinformation in the Latinx community. But before I get into that, I want to set the stage. When you think about the Latinx Latino vote in 2024, is there anything that kind of stands out that you want to highlight before we get into the nitty gritty, anything we should be looking at?
04:10 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
The amount of opportunity that is before us to take and harness our energy to change the direction of our country, and I don’t say that lightly. So you know I’ve looked at Latino. I like to say you know, we’re 20 years young. We have registered, to date, 1.4 million Latino voters. In the last election, it was more than half of those folks that we registered, and that was because Latinos, while we’re the second largest group of Americans, we didn’t become the second largest eligible group of voters until 2018. And that is because we’re expecting a million young Latinos to turn 18 every single year for the next decade. So the tsunami of possibility literally broke, and so even in just the last election, we’re expecting close to 5 million Latino youth to turn 18. That’s bananas, and that means we need people in the game, because once you’re in the game, you actually can start changing the direction of our country. And I would say that, if you don’t believe me, you just have to look at the states where Latino youth started participating and Latino started participating at scale, and they’re the same states that they’re trying to take our vote away. And it’s because they see our power and, instead of fighting for our policy positions and issues, that we care about. They think that it’s the easiest thing to do is to prevent our vote. And yeah, when we started doing the work that we did, our job was just to register people to vote and convince them that the system worked. And then, all of a sudden, all these voter restriction laws happened because we became the second largest population of eligible voters.
And trust me when I say that now we actually have to go around suing people, suing states. Specifically, I was in Flagstaff a couple of weeks ago with the vice president, interviewing her at Northern Arizona University. The whole place was filled with young people. It is a Hispanic serving institution. The majority of the people in the audience were Latino. It was a beautiful, exciting thing. And at the end of the conversation, one of the people who administers elections in Arizona, an older woman, came up to me and said you’re suing me, you’re suing us, thank you, because she had been. She’s on the verge of retiring. She has been, you know, officiating and overseeing these elections in Arizona, you know, for over 30, 40 years and she’s seen how the rules are changing and why they’re changing. I mean, I don’t know about you, Diana, but if someone ever to say you know you’re suing me why instinct is to go run the other way, right she?
06:42 – Diana (Host)
was like, yeah, that’s the turn. I wasn’t expecting that, and I saw your eyes get bigger.
06:45 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
But you know, she’s like thanking, she’s like thank you for being there because what they’re doing is wrong. And that is what. When we say 2024, everything is on the line. And I don’t say that lightly, because my daughter, who is considered the alpha generation she’s 11 years old, she’s in sixth grade, she’s a majority minority, she is a little bit of everything, meaning that she is quintessential American.
She right now is on a trajectory to have less rights than the two of us had, yeah, and when she’s 18 years old and cannot have agency over her body, she’s going to look at me in the eyes and say what did you do? And what I want is my daughter to be able to thrive, to be the best version of herself, and I don’t want judgment from government interference of what she can and cannot be. And that is why 2024, we are ancestrying with our vote for the kids that are in the classrooms right now and we wanna make sure that they can enter spaces and thrive. I mean, my family is an immigrant family. We came to this country so that I could have opportunities that my mother didn’t. My job is to secure that she, my daughter, has the minimum rights that I did, if not more, and that is one of the reasons why, when we’re looking into the 2024 election, I see tons of possibilities, because we’re talking about close to 5 million Latino youth who were not in the game that if we can convince them that the system works when they participate, then we can actually help change the directory of this country.
And I will be honest, when we started, we were very apolitical at Voto Latino. But then when you see all of a sudden someone going into the speakership that was voted by his peers, who tried to overturn 80 million Americans who voted by trying to orchestrate an attempted coup, who doesn’t believe in a woman’s agency, who doesn’t believe in climate change, who did that? They’re kind of telling us who they are and they are not aligned with our values. And that is why we need to make sure that we are participating, because one we’re a force when we do. They know that, because that’s why they’re trying to prevent our vote. But we’re wiser for it when we can get ourselves in the voting booth and talking to other people. And I’ll be as bold as possible. Also, consider running for office. I need as many mommies and daddies running for office because I don’t know you guys already kind of know what we’re all facing in the front lines of trying to manage home and great education for our kids.
09:15 – Diana (Host)
That was a lot and all super powerful. I’m so excited.
09:19 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
That was a lot. That was a lot.
09:21 – Diana (Host)
It’s a lot. It’s a lot every day. So, when it comes to disinformation, what are you seeing on the ground and for listeners, I want to make a quick distinction. Disinformation is when people, organizations, dark powers go in and purposely, you know, put information out there that is false in order to shift public opinion or to instill some kind of riot or fear mongering, you know, et cetera. Misinformation is not exactly that. There isn’t that malicious intent. I want to say right, it’s not. It’s misinformation If I say, oh, you know, if I give an incorrect fact, that can be in misinformation. It’s not disinformation where it’s very calculated.
10:14 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
So I just want to put that out there, well, and disinformation is when someone does it knowingly, nefariously, and the misinformation is when you don’t know any better and you repeat it.
10:27 – Diana (Host)
So disinformation is what we’re talking about. What are you seeing on the ground when it comes to the Latinx community?
10:33 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
So some of the stuff that we saw early last in 2021, leading into the elections was that there were nefarious actors that were targeting Latinos in particular, and young Latinos in particular. That was basically saying that their vote didn’t matter, that both parties were the same, that the institutions didn’t care about them, and that was a form of voter suppression, because, instead of trying to persuade you to like one person or the other, they were saying, actually, just get out of the game. And I can tell you that the people that were funneling millions of dollars trying to convince our community that it wasn’t, that they shouldn’t be participating, they voted, they went out Because they recognized that this is how our system actually changes and you’re able to move agendas forward. And so one of the things that we learned was that, when people were saying that Latino men did not care about abortion, we actually found that young Latinos and men did because they wanted. They didn’t think it was anybody’s business what a woman did with her body. That was mind blowing for most people, but not for us, who are working authentically in the community every day. Right, I have joke is that the dad doesn’t wanna know what their daughter’s doing, but, at the same time. They don’t want someone infringing on her possibility, right. And so we were able to find messages to say look, there are two distinctions here, and we want our children and our families to thrive without having to be interfered by saying something that wasn’t true.
Then we stumbled on something that was really kind of super scary and not true, and there were these ads that were being run by Stephen Miller. For folks that can’t, who have forgotten, stephen Miller worked for Trump and he created, he was one of the people that was the architect of family separation. Last year we get a call from the Human Rights Campaign and then the NAACP, because it turns out that Steve Miller is behind these ads, saying that they’re anti-trans, that the government is basically putting medicine into children to change their gender. None of it true. None of it true, right, but they were running specifically in black radio and Spanish language, and it was a form again of suppressing the vote, because if you think that your government’s gonna harm you or your child, you’re not gonna trust them with anything.
And so we actually had to do research on the disinformation they were getting. We had to be able to find the receipts, identify who it was, because we didn’t know who it was in the beginning, and then, when we found that the culprit was Stephen Miller, we kind of all looked at it. Of course it is right Because, let’s be honest, this guy actually doesn’t care what Latinos are impacted how they’re impacted because they already showed us who he was, and so we had to run information that was correct on these same radio stations, and some were expecting to see more of that very anti-trans disinformation targeting our communities, because, at the end of the day, what is our commonalities? That we deeply care for our children and if we think that someone’s gonna harm them, we come out right.
But what was interesting is that their message was so poor, is that it was really confusing, and so it allowed us of opening to have conversations of what was really happening. But those are some of the things that we’re already starting to see. My concern is that we’re gonna start seeing deep fakes and we have to figure out, like through your podcast and how do we start informing people what they should think of before they see something that might be real, when it looks like that person is talking to them directly and, in fact, they are not right. So those are the things that we’re researching right now with clear eyes, saying this is gonna be something that none of us have ever seen before.
14:21 – Diana (Host)
And the so. For example, the example you just gave for the radio ads is it targeting specific states?
14:32 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
At the time it was, it was targeting Spanish language. Arizona, nevada, georgia, north Carolina, pennsylvania, where the Latino vote decides who goes to the Senate. I mean no. So one of these days, if you ask me, like what I’d like to see in 2024, I’d like to see that the headline that says Latinos welcomed the White House, the Senate and the Congress, because it’s literally because of the Latino vote that we actually changed the direction of this country back in 2020. And there’s no headline. But had not been for our vote in a place like Georgia and our collective efforts in a place like North Carolina, had it not been our collective efforts in Pennsylvania and absolutely leading the way in Arizona and Nevada, it would be a very different calculation of the resources that we wouldn’t have. I don’t think we would have recovered out of the COVID pandemic had we not been able to change the course of the country, but it was because it came through the Latino vote, and so I’m waiting for that headline that screams Latinos did this.
15:37 – Diana (Host)
So we need to get more Latinos in the right media. That’s right. The media stories are always the same and they always neglect the listening. Not always, often, most of the time.
15:49 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
No, most of the time they do, and I think it’s because the people that are running a lot of these shops they don’t know Latinos and they carry their own implicit bias of who they think we are. And so when someone says, oh, latinos don’t believe that climate change is an example, people are like oh yeah, why would they care? But it’s because they don’t actually have a curiosity, they just assume based on their minimal understanding of us, and that’s nonsense.
16:13 – Diana (Host)
They don’t know and they don’t know. We’ve been caring for the environment ever since. We reuse all our Tupperwares and all of those things right.
16:21 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
I know, I mean I don’t know about you, but in my household I would get yelled at if I left the lights on or if I turned on, left the light water running for too long since Pekingita. So yeah, they don’t get it.
16:33 – Diana (Host)
And another thing, and are you seeing a shift? Are our candidates, our parties, putting more money into targeting Latino voters? Because I’ve also heard that that, like I’m going to say, the Democratic Party says, oh, they’re going to vote Democrats, so we don’t need to invest, we don’t need to go out there and get them, we don’t need to talk to them Like it’s kind of in the bag, which it shouldn’t be, because, again, not a monolith, but don’t take people for granted, right.
17:11 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
Well, no, it’s kind of like you know, I always make the. You know the I always, you know, use it as an example of when you, if you’re dating somebody and then you really like them and they don’t call you, that’s not going to work. You get the, you get started thinking like they’re just not that into you and so, and then they call you right before you know an event and you’re like I don’t think this is real. Anyway, so, going down that illusion, that’s the same thing happens oftentimes at the Democratic Party and I have to say what has been wonderful to see is that you do see a young, professional group of young Latinos who’ve been working with Obama, who’ve been worked, who’ve worked on different elections, and they’re starting to climb the different echelons of the Democratic progressive movement, and that’s really important because they bring their life experience into the table and they are making people think differently on how to tackle the community, and so we also need to make sure that we’re flooding the zone. You know, oftentimes you’ll talk to voters and they’re like oh my gosh, I just want my phone to stop ringing, I want them to stop calling me. Of course I’m going to go vote. And then you ask a Latino and they’re like a call would be nice. And so that’s one of the reasons what we do at Vota Latina is that we actually focus on low propensity voters.
The way elections work oftentimes, anna, is that they will. They will talk to the person who’s voted at least five times, but they won’t vote. They won’t call you, for you’ve only voted once. But if 60% of Latino voters are under the age of 30, you’re not talking to us at all then Right. And so what we try to do is we try to fill that void and we basically keep calling you until you voted five times. And once you’ve voted five times with us, then we basically, you know, we know that you’re going to be in great hands once you get there.
But it’s the biggest missed opportunity. But from the Democratic side. But for us, if we’re not participating in talking to them, the stakes are so high and there’s so much to lose if we’re not bringing in young Latinos into that fold, because Arizona and Nevada would not have said senators to DC had it not been for the youth Latino vote. And I don’t say that lightly. And when you say that we’re not a monolith, it’s absolutely true, but we’re not a monolith more on generations and so like. Close to 40% of voters in Arizona are under the age of 40. If you’re not talking to them, what are you doing?
19:46 – Diana (Host)
Speaking about generations. That’s a question. I have a question about that. How do people of so? I’m January 82. So technically I’m supposed to be a millennial, but I feel more like an exer. Anyway, story for another day. But you know, I see the messaging that, like someone like my mom who’s in her 70s, gets on Facebook and I wanna say even probably like Spanish language media and some of it, you know, sometimes I have to walk away because she’s my neighbor. I need to preserve my relationship. But how can we combat these talking points that our older parents are getting?
20:36 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
So hard? Because if you were to say, where does the genesis of disinformation happen and where do they target? They target non-English speakers and it’s awful. I’ll just give you an example my mom, who’s in the healthcare industry. She was really reticent of getting a COVID vaccine, even though she I mean I was vaccinated my whole life. She was vaccinated in her life. But she had started getting Spanish language disinformation that looked very real on her WhatsApp from her friends and it was like this is the space I live in.
My job is to convince people every day to do something Right, in this case voting or getting shot. And it took me almost two months to convince my mom and it’s humbling, but sometimes it’s real because she cognitively knew that it seemed off. But just in case you know, for Silas Mosca, she didn’t wanna get it, you know. And so it takes a lot of that conversations with our parents to really try to get.
And one of the things I’ve learned, dan, is that you can’t judge them, cause the moment you judge, like where they’re getting their information, they kind of shut down cause they don’t wanna feel dumb, they don’t want. I mean, the rest of society is already trying to make them feel bad because they may have an accent or something Right. So you just have to figure out how do you open those avenues of communication so that they can tell you where they got the information, why they think it’s real and then start, you know, walking them through the journey. But it is, that is I mean. I’m glad you brought that up, because it’s one of the other red flags that we have coming into the election of how do you talk to your parents and your grandparents about something that is trying to prevent them from thriving, with a lot of patience, with a lot of patience, I know, and a lot of calling.
I don’t call it with any of it, though. That’s the problem. I mean, I wasn’t, I was fine, oh, me neither.
22:25 – Diana (Host)
Okay, so the podcast is about parenting and politics and I wanna talk about one particular group that’s getting a lot of traction, which is Moms for Liberty, and the kind of messaging that I’m seeing that they are targeting and sending to voters in Florida, nevada in Spanish, culturally relevant, that, if I saw it and didn’t see that the logo was the you know the group that it is, which, for people that aren’t familiar, moms for Liberty is a group that has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. You know they are kind of for restricting books access, the books in school and actually other stuff that I actually don’t wanna repeat because it’s just nefarious and I don’t wanna do it. But it is very concerning to me because if I didn’t do the work that I do, then I would see the messaging and I’d be like oh yeah, I agree with this family friendly, I’m using air quotes as I say that right, messaging, but then you kind of remove the layers and you’re like oh wait, maybe, maybe not right.
23:46 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
No, I think that. So, first of all, what’s nuts about them is that they’re not that big, but they know how to use messaging really well, and the Washington Post did a piece around the people that are with them and it turned out that in one case there’s about six people who are removing books and banning them in mass. And that should frighten all of us, because the moment you start, someone starts telling you what your child shouldn’t read. That is not up to them and it could be as innocuous. I mean, what’s happening, for example, in Texas? They were able to convince people in Texas that they should basically whitewash Chicano history out of the textbooks. What you saw in Florida most recently, where they weren’t leaving there, they were part of trying to reimagine and restate that slavery wasn’t bad because it was giving people skill sets. That’s baloney and it’s so dangerous because our job is actually to learn from our history so that we don’t repeat it. And you’re right in the way that they message, because they recognize that Latinas are one of the largest demographics of mommies. So I’m gonna give you something that is gonna blow you away, because it always blows me away when I repeat it.
If I were to put a plot graph on the Zoom and tell you where the majority of whites, blacks and Latinos. None of us know this because we don’t know our history or our demographics, but this is where our power lies. The majority of whites in this country are 58 years old. The majority of blacks are 30 years old. The majority of Latinos are 11 years old 11.
By default, that 11-year-old has a Latina mommy and that Latina mommy really wants that child to excel and to do incredibly well in school and they want all the resources. And so you have a nefarious group of people who know what our challenges and our insecurities and our dreams and hopes are for our child and they are preying on that by giving us false narratives to feel that all of a sudden, we are not doing the best for our child, and through intimidation, through lying, through any means necessary. And that should concern us, because then we don’t have agency with the wrong information. We don’t have agency to make the real decisions that will make sure that our family and that our children are doing okay and better than okay right, and so the beef with Moms for Liberty is that they know how to use language.
They know how to everything that comes out of there is really message tested. So it’s almost kind of like psychological warfare, and we just have to be aware that they do not have our child’s interest in mind, because they’re the same people that are also very racist. They are dotted line to the replacement theory that there’s too many Latinos in this country, and the list goes on. But what they’re doing is only showing a side of you, a side of what they want to achieve their purposes. But at the end of the day, those purposes are in an effort to defund public education, and in that effort then we don’t have equal education access.
26:56 – Diana (Host)
I sometimes have nightmares about this group. It’s awful, it’s awful, it’s so scary. Well, where are you seeing?
27:04 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
I’m curious to see. Where are you seeing these messages?
27:07 – Diana (Host)
So if you go to like their Instagram, which is the platform that I’m on the most, because I just stated myself and I’m not on TikTok you know there was a lot of like, especially during Hispanic Heritage Month. Bilingual messaging. Yeah, and they’ve been holding rallies in some of the key states you mentioned earlier.
27:34 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
Yeah, it’s something that you can find those rallies oftentimes they’re called astroturf because they pay people to be there, so it’s not even organic.
27:41 – Diana (Host)
That makes me feel a tiny bit better that it’s not organic and you know they’re getting paid, but it’s still because. Then what happens is, I feel that you know it propagates, right, like you get the invitation and then you invite your friend, and then you send the WhatsApp message that they probably send after you know, and there it goes, it’s snowballs. Yeah, no, you’re not wrong, it’s true. So I want to wrap up the conversation by looking at the big picture, and I feel like we’ve been talking about 2024 since literally as soon as Biden was elected in 2020, we’ve been like, oh, let’s look at the next one, right, let’s look at the matures, look at the next one.
So I feel like we’ve been talking about and dissecting I haven’t punted on TV have how Latinx people are going to vote, how are noneducated Latino men? Why are they voting Republican? You know all of that stuff. So my question is what? What are you, what is what Latino doing to kind of mobilize those different segments? And I know you focus mostly on youth and I want to ask is your, is one of your goals or hopes, that the youth is going to mobilize their older peeps?
29:04 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
It’s like you, it’s like you’ve been in our meetings, I know. So one of the things that it was funny I recently had a conversation with Alejandra Capo Verde. She just wrote a book called First Gen. If you haven’t read it, you must, because it really talks about how you we go as first generation. We are often not navigating the country for our families and we are leaders long before we turn 18 because of that. And so both of Latino very consciously recognize that we are agents of change in our family and if we target, you know, a 17, 18, 21 year old, especially a Latina, they use that information and it’s not, they pay it forward. We like one of the things that we learned about those we love to share stats as a community because we don’t know anything about ourselves, and so when someone tells you a really cool stat about us, we’re like, oh my God, so, and so has to hear it right. And the same thing we don’t know oftentimes how to navigate different systems, and so we target young people with the understanding that if we give it them the information in a digestible way and easy way to share it, they’ll talk to their parents about it, they’ll talk to our their way less than their teals and stuff, and that’s actually been a. We’ve been able to demonstrate that, actually, we pay it forward that way, and so going into 2024 election.
One of the things that we are doing, though, is we’re trying to better understand what is it that is preventing young people to go en masse into the system and what is preventing mommies specifically, because, by default, a lot of the young people that we’re talking about are young mommies, and, for us, we define young as less than you know, less than 33. And what is it that they need to thrive on the side of? Why are young men and older men receiving different messages? It’s strategy, right, this is strategy, and we have to figure out how to message them. So I’ll give you an example.
When we were talking about the anti abortion message and we were able to find that when we had someone a young woman looks straight to Cameron says I’m a preacher’s daughter, I never had an abortion, but who am I to judge? It’s about freedom that messaging went through the roof among Latino men, moderate, republican men, and it was because we resonated with them. They’re like right, it is a private issue. Why are we judging this person? And you know, I think it was all right, like that’s, like it’s almost like I don’t want to know and stuff, and so why are we going to restrict them?
And so it shows that there’s interventions, but in order for those interventions to be real, it has to come from a sincere, authentic place and understands the community, and it’s very important that we are, when we are doing this research and learning as well, that we know the right questions to ask. But we also do it without judgment. And you know, the moment that you start asking someone well, why can you, what can you voted for this person when this person’s demonstrated the moment you get into that argument, I kind of joke. It’s like if you have an argument with your spouse, like the moment you kind of dig in your heels I’m like, not the right, I’m right. Even if I’m wrong, my pride is on the line, you know. And so it’s more of like how do we actually provide spaces and and messaging for people so that they feel that, look, you may have made a mistake and that’s cool, but this time we need to make sure that you are paying it forward for the rest of the you know, the rest of your community and for your family, and so we’re testing that to figure it out.
But we need to make sure that people are keenly aware that there are people who are not, who are trying to get them to stay home or to change or change their mind, but it’s not because of the best interest in mind, right?
They have a clear direction of what this country should look like and it basically involves us working but not thriving, being underrepresented in the chambers of power.
But they’re okay with our labor, they’re okay with our interests and with our ideas, but they don’t believe in the equity of all of us.
And I think that you know it’s hard for me to say that the end of, because I’ve seen the political winds shift so drastically that when we started at Voto Latino, when someone would, on the Republican side, really talk about immigration reform, we would applaud them because we wanted to, because we know that the solution is involved with parties. But now you have one party that doesn’t want to talk about immigration at all and we need to have that conversation. Then there’s another party that actively is on the campaign trail with their members and with candidates talking about replacement theory and deporting all of us. Right, and that’s absurd. And it’s having that conversation with young men and older men saying they are wolves and sheep clothing and it sounds nice. But if someone can mainstream such a radical idea of eliminating the 14th amendment, that gives you rights as a citizen and they are being mainstaged as a presidential candidates, we should take them seriously and to me that is the most shocking, like everything that has been said about immigrants.
34:02 – Diana (Host)
Right, mexicans are right, this and you know. And, like you said, they want our labor cheap, they want the cheap labor, they want the taxes because, even if you’re an undocumented person you pay taxes.
34:13 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
However, and billions of dollars every year taxes, but that’s it.
34:17 – Diana (Host)
That’s you know you can’t get health care right, you can’t get education or you know anything. And the part I struggle with it’s like you heard them say all of these things. I will never forget when I heard number 45 say they’re looking at birthright citizenship, and I remember that I went on Facebook and I think I shared a screen chart or something and I said why are you not paying attention?
This is literally like if you were, because another thing that I struggle with is when Latinos who, like I, was born here right, so, like I had citizenship from birth and it’s okay these people are saying that, like if you’re one of your parents or both parents were not born in this country, they are going to take your like. Why are you not outraged by this? Like Why do you think you’re safe? Why do you think that’s one side that enrages me, and then the other side enrages me is okay.
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I guess I was born in this country, for you know, my parents came the sacrifice, yada, yada, I’m here, I have a blue pass for it. I feel like that comes with so much responsibility that I can’t possibly turn my back on the people that are arriving now, for example which is another thing I struggle with when I see the rhetoric out of some people saying, well, you know, there’s no more room, or I don’t know, you know I’m not gonna, there’s a.
35:41 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
Really interesting book I don’t think I have my bookshelf, but it’s basically by Matt Iglesias. He’s one of the co-founders of Vox and he basically makes a case for a billion Americans and talks about how we actually have. Not only do we have room, but in the future we’re going to need these different types of mixed labor, and it is to our benefit. And the moment that country let me just break that the moment that countries thrive is when they have a young population. Europe is in decline because their population is aging out. Japan, a wonderful culture, is also aging out. China, so is China.
What has been America’s secret sauce is that we have brought in young, whip, smart, ambitious young people who believe that they can become the best version of themselves the moment they’re here. And I say that that person, whether they are MIT working in a laboratory or the person that came to sweep, they said I can become the best version of myself here because, if not for me, then for my child and with my child, they are my investment and they are my entrepreneur result. And so when people start saying that we’re too full, it’s like no. The only way for us to maintain our competitive edge is that. We learned early on that it is through thriving immigrants, and don’t take my word for it.
“The biggest Achilles heel that we have is racism, and that’s why you have foreign powers trying to divide us through the issue of immigration, because they don’t want us to thrive.”
Those are real tactics. I mean, we talked about disinformation earlier. The Russians used disinformation around race openly during the 2016 election, so much so that the Facebook had to go in front of Congress to talk about what they found and what they saw, because it was a gurious. But it’s because they recognize that our strength, our human capital, is our multiculturalism. That is our superpower, and if I was a foreign power wanting to make sure that America wouldn’t continue to thrive, I would look at what is that one thing that makes us so different than everybody else? We’re the only multicultural democracy on earth. How you prevent our growth and our leadership is to create this nonsense that immigrants are in trouble and not our life, giving blood to regenerate and to actually be very strong as leaders in the 21st century.
38:03 – Diana (Host)
Okay, so I like to end the podcast with action and hope, so let’s talk about that Always. Yeah, so what is like a concrete action and you can invite everyone to take the action on your website, whatever you want, where we can really work to counter the disinformation in our communities, from older adults to children.
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38:31 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
Yeah well, the children not yet. Hopefully, they’re pretty savvy on how to decipher things. I’m really impressed. I would say that, juan, please go to vototinoorg. I would say register to vote, volunteer. If you have an extra 10 bucks, donate as well.
But, as importantly for folks who want to volunteer, we always need folks to help us text message, to write postcards, to get people, because, at the end of the day, it is going to be each other that makes sure that people are knowing what the truth really is.
We have done all this research and it’s oftentimes your peers that you trust the most, because why would they try to cause you harm? They’re not. We’re not trying to cause harm, and so I would encourage folks to follow votolatino. We are going, as we get into closer to the throes of the election season, we’ll be calling for volunteers. We hold if you can’t go to a live event from us, we’ll hold zooms, and we actually do zoom parties and trivia and make it fun and make sure that we’re in community, but, as importantly, also making sure that you have the right information to share it with your friends and family.
In 2020, when everybody was in lockdown, we had roughly 7,000 volunteers, and those 7,000 volunteers contacted more than 5 million voters right. So there is work to be done in a fun way and the impact is real because most Latinos they’ll get a contact from anybody. No one calls them and that’s why they don’t show up. And so I’ve come to the mind of just like when you’re growing up and you’re like you know what happens in the family, stays in the family. We have to work together to get it done. That’s kind of what we have to do with this. We don’t like the direction of our country is taking. We actually have the numbers now. We didn’t tend 15 years ago, but now we do to change this direction.
40:14 – Diana (Host)
And is votolatino concentrating on specific states.
40:18 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
So we do work everywhere, but our biggest stakes that we will do a lot of investment in is we’re really looking at Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada and Texas, and it’s because those are the largest population booms of Latinos that are coming of age. Just a fun fact, you know in Arizona, both the Latino registered and turned out 32,000 voters in 2020, 19,000 of them were first time voters. That state was flipped by 12,000 votes. We’re super proud of our work, but we’re expecting 163,000 Latino youth to turn 18, just in that state. So more than 10 times the margin of victory. That’s exciting and we need all hands on deck.
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41:02 – Diana (Host)
I’m excited and I have to tell you, most of the time by the end of the interview I’m feeling a little uh, because we talk about heavy topics right or right now. You’re just excited me with what you said. So thank you. And the final question that I ask all my guests to wrap up is what keeps you hopeful?
41:23 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
What keeps me hopeful is that, when you survey Latinos, we still believe that we are charged with our destiny and we are still the most hopeful group, and le damos ganas a todo more than any other group. And, at the end of the day, the only way you win is having that spark of possibility that no one can diminish. And so, when we’re going into what’s going to be a very tumulus, tough year, latinos, I you know, I always do it because, like that’s our environment, siempre estamos en la lucha so they’re putting, they’re setting up a game that we actually know how to win, and that’s what gives me hope, oh, I love that.
42:02 – Diana (Host)
Maria Teresa, thank you so much. This was so great. Before I hit record, just sharing with everyone, I told Maria Teresa that I felt like I I was fan girling her from years ago because I’ve been following Boto Latino, not since 2004, because I didn’t know that you’re gonna be 20, but close to you know, definitely double digits. So thank you so much for joining me today.
42:28 – María Teresa Kumar (Guest)
It was wonderful and I would ask congratulations and thanks for having this conversation, because folks need to be informed so that they can actually shake it all up.
42:38 – Diana (Host)
Thank you, maria Teresa. Thank you everyone for tuning into this episode. Be sure to share it with your friends, subscribe, leave a review and follow us on Instagram at parenting and politics. Until next time, don’t forget hope is our superpower. Bye.