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race to equity

The Race to Equity team plans on releasing a report on Madison's Latino community and hope to create conversations about the challenges they face as a minority group.

The Race to Equity project report from October 2013 centered on the grave disparities between blacks and whites in Dane County. But some have wondered if that focus ignored the struggles of other groups, like Latinos, in Madison.

“Over the last year or more I’ve been feeling particularly isolated in the community, feeling a little bit like an outsider, feeling a little bit like I’m in the shadows, not really understood,” Karen Menendez Coller, the executive director of the nonprofit Centro Hispano of Dane County, said in a recent interview with the Cap Times' Paul Fanlund.

Coller said there are a lot of assumptions about the Latino community and her goal is to clarify them, while bringing the group out of the shadows by giving them a voice to speak.

Now, a fuller picture of Latinos' experience in Dane County is in the process of being documented by the Race to Equity team.

Erica Nelson, Race to Equity’s project director, said the organization is currently doing research and collecting data on the Latino community.

“Our hope is to raise the discussion around the well-being of Latino and Hispanic communities so that we can have greater understanding and be more aware of what some of the challenges are,” Nelson said. “We’re also looking at where some of the strengths and the successes are, and be able to target solutions where they’re needed.”

The project has gathered the necessary data and hopes to analyze the numbers within the next few months.

Nelson said one group Race to Equity is collaborating with is the Workers’ Rights Center to use findings from its Latino Workers Project. The Workers’ Rights Center is a community dedicated to educating and advocating for worker justice. The LWP, which is in the process of being updated, highlights issues low-income Latino immigrants face in Dane County, such as increasing poverty and unemployment rates.

Once the findings are complete, the Race to Equity team members will be involved in community outreach to discuss their findings with Latino residents and neighborhood organizations. Before reports are published, they hope to engage with community members to discuss the impact of the data and listen to ideas on what needs to be done to address disparities.

Although African-Americans and Latinos may share similar struggles as minorities, Nelson stressed the importance of examining each group separately, instead of lumping them together in comparison to whites.

“The history of different ethnic and racial minorities is different and that can be reflected in different indicators. If you compared educational outcomes between African-American children and Latino children to white children and you just look at the outcomes, you may not take into consideration English may be a second language for some of the Latino population. That may not necessarily be the case for African-American children.

"So you’re missing nuances if you’re not doing a separate, isolated analysis for each community,” she said.

The goal of the project is to have a greater understanding of the Latino population in Madison, while hoping to dispel stereotypes of the community. In the future, Race to Equity hopes to conduct studies on other minority groups in Madison, such as the Hmong community.

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