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The political-correctness police at the Washington Post’s Outlook section must have been snoozing last week.
The feature piece in Sunday’s Outlook section, “Latino Power?” by Pew Hispanic Center Director Roberto Suro, pointed out that the political influence of Latinos is lagging behind their robust population growth. The killer statistic was that whereas one of every two white U.S. residents votes, the ratio for Latinos is one of every five.
Outlook editors found a compelling way to represent this phenomenon graphically: They stacked a pair of illustrations on the page in the form of equations. Two white people equal one vote, and five Latinos equal one vote. The illustrator, Val Bochkov, used silhouettes instead of stick figures to breathe some life into the art while not including too much detail.
“We made them in silhouettes expressly to avoid stereotyping as to facial characteristics,” says Outlook editor Steve Luxenberg.
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Fair enough, but the silhouettes convey just enough detail to depict the white folks as serious and professional and the Latinos as far less so. For instance, the white woman is a June Cleaver prototype, an icon of dignity and gravitas that none of the Latinas even approach. And the white guy appears to be carrying a suit coat, a prop not available to the Latinos below.
And just who among the five Latinos represents the professional class? Luxenberg says it’s the woman on the far left, who’s apparently talking on a mobile phone and showing off her shapely ass. “She’s dressed as someone you’d see walking down the street on a cell phone,” says Luxenberg. The others in the Latino illustration exhibit varying degrees of casualdom and working-classness.
Far from demeaning Latinos, Luxenberg says, the illustration merely reflects their demographic reality: The Latino population in the United States is younger than the white population, and many are noncitizens, meaning that they often have to take low-paying jobs. “We chose to make it look like a younger crowd and to try to suggest noncitizenship by making them look nonprofessional,” he says. He adds that Outlook hasn’t received many complaints on the illustration.
Bochkov says that stereotyping isn’t in his repertoire. “Four years ago, I immigrated from Russia. For me it [would] be absolutely inappropriate. For people in the same situation as I am, it’s the last thing I would do.”