Social Media, Social Change: How the National Council of La Raza Uses Social Media to Advance Latino Issue

The national debate on immigration reform has fueled anti-Latino sentiment in the United States, particularly in the southwest Border States, with new laws like Arizona SB1070 that critics argue encourage racial profiling.  The divisive debate has created a racist climate for Latino-Americans as groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform argue that the countries economic woes are a result of the influx of Latino immigrants that take American jobs, don’t pay taxes, and cost taxpayers money with pervasive use of U.S. social services and high rates of criminal activity (Rock, 2011).  The National Council of La Raza (2011a), a Latino social justice organization born out of the civil rights movement, seeks to combat discrimination and advocate for Latino rights, using social media to educate the Latino community, challenge discriminatory stereotypes, and help the community take action, using effective techniques firmly grounded in modern communication theory.

Community Education

            NCLR is active across a variety of issue that impact the Latino community, including advocacy, education, immigration, civil rights, the economy, and wealth-building, to name but a few (2011c).  While each program or issue is treated individually based on its unique requirements, NCLR uses its web site to frame each issue and publicize supporting research to educate the public.  Some of the more engaging media on the site including use of embedded YouTube video that links to the NCLR You Tube channel for sponsored public service announcements.  A more interesting educational technique employed by NCLR is the use of online video games to education Latinos on money-management and wealth building.  One such game is Farm Blitz, an interactive game with social elements, that use the metaphor of farming to educate players on the best way to use both credit and savings to maximize wealth and avoid overextension (Doorways2Dreams Fund, 2011).  Using games, NCLR helps players to “gain a fresh perspective on material and can potentially engage them in that content in more complex and nuanced ways” (Johnson, Smith, Willis, Levine, & Haywood, 2011, p. 21), helping to make the content more accessible for a young, Latino, audience.  NCLR uses sophisticated techniques and a number of channels to frame issues of collective importance to the Latino community.

Challenging Pervasive Stereotypes

            The National Association of Hispanic Journalists conducts annual studies of the coverage and treatment of Latinos on the evening network news broadcasts.  The most recent report published in 2006 found that “Latinos make up 14.5 percent of the U.S. population but less than one percent of stories on the network evening news” (Montalvo & Torres, 2006, p. 5).  Montalvo and Torres also found more than 30% of stories included unidentifiable groups of Latinos that go unnamed and do not speak in the segments, typically in a story on immigration, where “images of day laborers standing in a parking lot or immigrants crossing the border often provide viewers with a negative, menacing and stereotypical depiction of Latinos” (2006, p. 13).   NCLR seeks to combat the pervasive use of Latino stereotypes in a variety of ways, by providing alternative, positive, views of Latinos as leaders and role models.  One such example is through public service announcements that use Latino role models from sports, politics, and entertainment.  Another example is through the hosting of the ALMA Awards, a nationally televised awards program that honors Latino entertainers, and promotes ” fair, accurate, and representative portrayals of Latinos in entertainment” (Murgia, 2011, p. 1).  Viewers that witness the opposing portrayals of Latinos, as criminals or immigrants, and as role models or leaders, like experience a cognitive dissonance and will seek to resolve it to achieve consonance.

Direct Action Using Social Media

            One of the most crucial goals of NCLR’s media use is to motivate people to take action either through volunteer or fundraising efforts.   Waters (2007) describes a two-way symmetrical model as being most effective for e-philanthropy efforts that create a dialogue with potential donors and NCLR uses a variety of techniques to do that.  NCLR links out to their Twitter and Facebook pages.  While Twitter appears to be used as a one-way dialogue, NCLRs use of Facebook is clearly a two-way dialogue where comments are not only welcomed, but responded to as well.  Waters (2007) additionally noted that successful online fundraisers typical allowed for a variety of donation type that included both one-time, recurring, and planned donations.  NCLR use all three methods and also allows donations to be made in honor or memory of an individual (National Council of La Raza, 2011b).  Additionally, NCLR incorporates donation tiers with varied levels of recognition according to tier (National Council of La Raza, 2011b).

Another important element of NCLRs presence is the ability to subscribe to their action network.  NCLR uses geographical information to inform the public on the voting record of lawmakers on key issues impacting Latinos.  Additionally, the public can subscribe to the NCLR Action Network via both email and text, in order to be informed of campaigns and events that use direct action to influence change.


            The Latino community is under fire because of politicians, the media, and special interest groups that favor immigration reform are using the national media to reinforce negative stereotypes of Latinos and attempt to link U.S. economic woes to Latino immigrants.  The National Council of La Raza makes effective use of social media in a two-way symmetrical model to combat discrimination, advocate for Latino rights, educate the Latino community, challenge discriminatory stereotypes, and help the community take direct action.


Doorways2Dreams Fund. (2011). Farm Blitz | Financial Entertainment. NCLR  Retrieved August 26, 2011, 2011, from

Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., & Haywood, K. (2011). The 2011 horizon report (pp. 1-36). Austin, Texas.

Montalvo, D., & Torres, J. (2006). 2006 network brownout report: The portrayal of Latinos and Latino issues on network television news, 2005. In N. A. o. H. Journalists (Ed.), Network Brownout Report (pp. 1-24). Washington DC: National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Murgia, J. (2011). ALMA Awards 2011  Retrieved August 26, 2011, 2011, from

National Council of La Raza. (2011a). National Council of La Raza | About Us. NCLR  Retrieved August 26, 2011, 2011, from

National Council of La Raza. (2011b). National Council of La Raza | Donate Now. NCLR  Retrieved August 26, 2011, 2011, from

National Council of La Raza. (2011c). National Council of La Raza | Issues and Programs. NCLR  Retrieved August 26, 2011, 2011, from

Rock, R. (2011, August 15, 2011). Immigration Lack of Debate. journey24pointoh  Retrieved August 26, 2011, 2011, from

Waters, R. D. (2007). Nonprofit organizations’ use of the internet: A content analysis of communication trends on the internet sites of the philanthropy 400. [Article]. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 18(1), 59-76. doi: 10.1002/nml.171




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