Black vs. Brown
In Moline, Ill. in June 2011, a large group of Latino men chased down a group of Black teenagers. They allegedly beat them with sticks, rocks and bats while shouting racial slurs and robbing them. One of the teens was severely battered and bruised and the group of Latino men was charged with aggravated assault.
On March 14 of this year, seven African American boys beat up a young Latino boy in Palmdale, Calif. The suspects, ages 13 to 16, were arrested and charged with the beating.
On April 22, 2011, Cheryl Green, a 14-year-old from the Harbor Gateway area in Los Angeles was shot to death by gang members. Police said that at the time Green was killed, Latino gang members were looking for any Black person to shoot. The triggerman, Jonathan Fajardo showed no emotion as he was sentenced to death and over 200 years in prison.
In Peekskill, N.Y., more than 100 activists called for an end to Black and Latino hate crimes, after an incident on May 28, 2010 when an Ecuadorian immigrant was severely beaten by four African American men.
Three of these incidents were captured on video and posted on YouTube, and shows a growing dislike among young Blacks and Latinos.
This in an era where Blacks and Latinos have been making unbelievable strides in the United States in the 21st century in the public, private and political spectrums.
Crimes involving the two groups have been on the rise at a time where the two minorities will shortly become the majority in the U.S.
So why the hate?
There are many factors, but not one clear reason. Many believe that much of it has to do with economics and culture. As the bad economy continues to be a thorn in the side of Americans everywhere, it seems like everyone is looking for a scapegoat.
The unemployment rate among Blacks currently stands at around 13 percent while it is at roughly 11 percent for Latinos. One blames the other for the lack of jobs.
Then there is the cultural aspect. Latinos came to the U.S. from other nations where there is a proud history and language, and African Americans pretty much had their history, language and heritage stripped when their ancestors were brought over as slaves over 400 years ago.
Gene Crisp, a retired children’s social worker in the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, said that it is a mystery as to why so many young Blacks and Latinos are so indifferent to each other when you consider how much they have in common.
“Blacks and Hispanics definitely have different cultures,” said Crisp. “But they seemed to enjoy each other’s cultures in the past and both generally have strong family bonds. Both have economic disparities that cause them to compete with each other for the same scarce resources such as jobs and territories. Many of the problems today seemed to have started when the two started living in the same neighborhoods.”
It was 50 years ago when Blacks were moving into many neighborhoods owned and dominated by Whites, who apparently did not want to live in the same neighborhoods with Blacks, and left in what was commonly known as “White flight,” and this has also been the case today.
Many Blacks have left those same neighborhoods for greener pastures in the suburbs for and with better education and better jobs. Plus, many are escaping the violence that plagues many inner cities; sort of a “Black flight.”
But the ones who remain in many inner cities seem to be having a difficult time living with each other. The problems range over everything from language and culture, to more competition for jobs and education.
“I believe that the growing racism between the groups stems from lack of knowledge and respect for one another’s struggle,” said Jamaul Montgomery, 30, an Independent Associate at LegalShield in Long Beach, Calif. “Many Latinos I have spoken to feel that Columbus did not set sail and find the Americas but that it was settled already and land taken from their ancestors. Latinos feel like this is their land just as much as it is [White] America’s. They feel that they’re just as much or more American than Americans.
“On the flipside, I have heard Blacks say they feel that they were taken from their land stripped of their culture and sold into slavery, used to build the infrastructure and not given their due justice. This is where the dilemma lies: Latinos have their culture but not their land and Blacks do not have any culture or land due to the injustices on both groups.”
Southern California has one of the biggest Black and Latino populations in the nation. The most recent census has Hispanics making up 36.6 percent of California’s population. That’s tied for second in the nation with Texas and behind New Mexico with 46.3 percent.
Consequently, African Americans make up just six percent of the population in California with just under three million, but ranks fifth in the nation behind Georgia, Texas, Florida and number one New York.
Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, and along with African Americans, Asians and Native Americans, will soon be the majority in the U.S. But growing problems persist between Blacks and Latinos.
“I just don’t like the language barrier among other things,” said Shari Davis, 27, a Black bank clerk from Cleveland, Ohio. “I mean, I find it disrespectful when Latinos are speaking Spanish right in front of you and pretend they don’t know any English. In some cases I’ve found that they use that as an excuse to make fun of other people. But as Spanish is almost being required in schools, they are going to be found out a lot faster. That’s pretty sad for other people here in the U.S. where English is supposed to be the dominant language. Asians go out of their way to learn English to assimilate into American society. Why can’t they?”
With so many people living around and next to each other in overpopulated areas across the country, that can cause plenty of disharmony.
Over the past few years, tensions have been so bad among young Blacks and Latinos that many high schools have gone on full lockdown with fights and race riots.
“Young people tend to be a little more outspoken and aren’t afraid of confrontation,” said a Los Angeles Police Department officer of more than 20 years who chose not to be identified. “It’s pretty much that segment that much of the differences and hatred comes from. A big problem also lies within the gangs and prison systems. People tend to align themselves with their own because of survival as much as race. They come out of prison and want to continue to stay with their own, because it’s become a comfort zone for them. The bad ones continue with crime and gangs and the good ones try to do the right things in their own communities.”
In a 2007 story in the Los Angeles Times titled “Roots of Latino/Black Anger by Tanya K. Hernandez, a professor of law at Rutgers University Law School, she wrote that the problems between the two groups dates back hundreds of years and its core may have come from slavery.
“Over the years, there’s also been a tendency on the part of observers to blame the conflict more on African Americans (who are often portrayed as the aggressors) than on Latinos. But although it’s certainly true that there’s plenty of blame to go around, it’s important not to ignore the effect of Latino culture and history in fueling the rift.
“The fact is that racism — and anti-Black racism in particular — is a pervasive and historically entrenched reality of life in Latin America and the Caribbean. More than 90 percent of the approximately 10 million enslaved Africans brought to the Americas were taken to Latin America and the Caribbean (by the French, Spanish and British, primarily), whereas only 4.6 percent were brought to the United States. By 1793, colonial Mexico had a population of 370,000 Africans (and descendants of Africans) — the largest concentration in all of Spanish America.”
A 2007 study by the Pew Research Center says that Latinos are less likely to say that they get along well with Blacks. While Blacks believe by far that they are racially discriminated against, more than what Latinos believe. The study says that more than all, Blacks surveyed believe that the influx of Latinos all across the United States have reduced all job opportunities while only four in 10 Latinos agree.
And while there is admitted tension and even some cases of hatred among Blacks and Latinos, many feel that it’s a small minority that feel that way.
“Come on! You know how many Latinos supported and voted for Barack Obama and will do the same this year?” said Jesus Alvarez, 24, a student in Las Vegas. “There are going to (be) tensions everywhere, but to say that in 2012 that Blacks and Latinos don’t get along is just crazy. You may have a few fights and skirmishes, but when you go to colleges almost anywhere you’ll see many of us mingling.
“We go out, have fun and even work together. Some of us even end up marrying each other. Of course there are cultural differences, but the fact of the matter is that we’re all Americans, and the more educated we become the more we realize this.”
That may be an underlying theme with young Blacks and Latinos as more and more feel that the best way to end their differences is to become more educated and work together and emphasize more on what they have in common than the differences.
And as tensions seem to escalate almost daily, many also believe there is hope for the future as more and Blacks and Latinos graduate from college, become homeowners and productive members of American society.
“I believe that Latinos and Blacks have many commonalities in the communities in which they live,” said Montgomery. “They enjoy the same music, family settings, and ultimately have the same fight and pride in both groups, but the lack of knowledge and respect for one another plays a pivotal role in the separation of the groups. If each group could focus on the similarities and see that we are both humans before we see color and comprehend that we are fighting the same fight of life is when growth begins instead of separation.”
Hunter is a contributing writer for Regal Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.