Young Latinos in Costa Mesa, California, wanted to be heard last night. They gathered at the OC Fair and Event Center as a political rally took place inside, but the protest escalated and got out of control. In the end, some 20 young people were arrested as fights erupted and property was damaged. I want these young Latino and Latina protesters to know: we hear you and we see you. But I submit to them and all frustrated Hispanics across the country that there is a better way.
Our community has heard candidates spew hatred against Latinos, yet rise in the polls. We have heard the most offensive comments toward women and other minority communities, and these candidates still win their elections. The struggle of the protesters in Costa Mesa was to be heard and to prevent these offensive messages from entering their community. I believe we should all take offense to the hateful rhetoric that is dominating our political conversation. And we should all take action to ensure that the highest office in the country, if not the world, stays out of the hands of someone who does not represent the best interests of all Americans.
Make no mistake, violence should not be condoned. Peaceful protests will always have a valid place in our society, but violence is not acceptable. What we do have to acknowledge, however, is that the Hispanic community in the United States is reaching a critical level where we feel at best invisible and at worst hated. This is not about a revolution. We do not have to lower ourselves to crime in order to be heard.
There are approximately 54 million Hispanics in the United States. 44% of Hispanic eligible voters are Millenials. Every 30 seconds, a Latino U.S. citizen turns 18. Yet, only 50% of Hispanic Millenials were registered to vote in 2012. Rather than protesting in the streets, we need to register to vote. And spend our energy making sure our family, friends and neighbors are registered to vote. We need to work smarter and harder at exercising our rights as citizens. We need to make sure that they all know what is at stake and why it is important to cast a vote. We need concerted efforts to get everyone to their polling places on election day.
That is how we make our voice heard. In one collective pull of the proverbial voting lever, we can speak in a clear, unified voice and let those who aspire to serve our country know that we do not tolerate hatred or fearmongering or sexism or racism. Know your power. Choose voting over violence.