Latin Looks: Images of Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. Media

By Clara E. Rodríguez | Go to book overview

18
What We Can Do

Clara E. Rodriguez

As the chapters in this volume make clear, Americans of Hispanic descent are truly "out of the picture." What can be done? Although it may seem that the prospects for change are dim, there is much that can be done, particularly if we join with others in these efforts toward change. 1 Even simple individual efforts, detailed in this chapter, that we can make as consumers of media can do much to change the current situation. That change is possible is evident from the success of other efforts at social change that appeared to be just as formidable. Who would have predicted in 1980 that no smoking legislation would permeate universities, airports, restaurants, and corporations, and that cigarette ads would be banned at some athletic events? Who could have foreseen the important role that shareholder resolutions played in corporate divestment in South Africa? Who would have thought megadevelopers like Disney and Donald Trump would have to complete environmental impact statements and mitigate environmental impacts in their projects?

Small victories are also evident in the media field. Wilson and Gutiérrez ( 1995) document the results of earlier successful change efforts for many various groups, including Latinos. More recent victories have also been claimed. 2 These victories have generally not been acknowledged, however. Media outlets seldom discuss (particularly in the media) their inadequacies with regard to misrepresentation and underrepresentation of Latinos or other groups in programming and staffing. Moreover, few will admit to being pressured. Thus, awareness of the victories gained is limited, and many victories claimed as successes by advocacy groups such as the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) or smaller, more local groups such as Latinos for Positive Images (LPI) 3 are denied by their targets. 4 But the reality is that such efforts do have a substantial effect, particularly on those who invest in the ventures that are objected to, including corporate sponsors, investors, and producers.

Clearly, problems remain to be confronted. This is an area in which artistic freedom is often sacrosanct, and the line between its defense and discrimination or exclusion is blurry at best. This is also a period of escalating costs for media productions and cut-

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