How to Sound the Alarms: Untangling Racialized Threat in Latinx Mobilization
By Vanessa Cruz Nichols, Indiana University and Ramón Garibaldo Valdéz, Yale University
If academic work on Latinx political mobilization had to be summarized in one sentence, it would be that attacks or threats intended to marginalize one’s identity – from xenophobic rhetoric to anti-immigrant policy – tend to mobilize people to vote, apply for citizenship, contact elected officials, and protest. Recent work, however, has found that rather than mobilizing, political threat may sometimes demobilize Latinxs – spreading fears of even going to the doctor or seeking government services. So, which is it? Our critical review argues that work around political threats misses two key dimensions of human cognition and collective action. The first one is that fear tactics alone are not enough to mobilize people. Rather, hope must be part of sounding the alarms. The second is that political threats are often paired with promising political changes through the work of collective action frames: messages through which mobilizing groups and organizations empower Latinxs to not only take action against collective attacks, but they also use frames to push for political victories. We provide an analysis of the #Not1More Campaign to illustrate this process. Ultimately, we argue that rather than merely scare people, organizations seeking to mobilize must empower them and provide a path forward.