Black & Brown tensions, a review

By Donna Hernandez Jul 02, 2007

Last week, I read a story about a Black politician in Salem Country, NJ, who sent flyers to Black residents warning them against electing a Puerto Rican politician during a recent race. While some say tnews exaggerates tensions between Blacks and Latinos, I say, whatever the case, the reality of these tensions seem to pop up everywhere, from sports and politics, to post- Katrina community relations. For example, there’s the Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson drama. Both are sport heroes and well-known humanitarians, but people are torn over the decision to retire Clemente’s number so that no incoming players can use it. The fear is that recognizing Clemente will undermine Robinson’s contributions to baseball because so far, he is the only number that is currently retired from all of baseball. Robinson’s daughter said her father’s career was "very unique and historical." And that "(Roberto) Clemente did an awful lot of good things and was a terrific ballplayer, but I don’t think it’s the same type of situation as Jackie Robinson." But writer Willie Perdomo disagrees: “Did he not encounter the same Jim Crow injustices that were experienced by Robinson, Willie Mays and Don Newcombe? Did he not, unlike the aforementioned players, have the courage to speak up about these injustices? Then there’s the issue with Latino immigrants in New Orleans after Katrina. After the hurricane, immigrants came in droves to New Orleans to begin the reconstruction process, that’s despite Mayor Ray Nagen hate-ensuing promise to keep New Orleans the chocolate city it’s known to be. Nagen’s statement later trumped news of Latin Jazz Legendary Hilton Ruiz’s alleged accidental death in the city during a Katrina benefit concert. This story is now becoming one of the biggest police cover-ups I’ve ever heard of. Mr. Ruiz mysteriously died in one of the city’s bars notoriously known for killings and beatings. Information regarding the case has mysteriously disappeared. So have the stories about the backlash experienced by immigrants going to work in the new so-called gold mine. And how can we forget the Latino versus Black gang violence in LA. In the past year, there have been several stories of Latino gang members targeting young Black children and killing them as a gang-initiation. In cases where gang-related violence crossed racial lines, LAPD data show an 11% jump in incidents from 2002 to 2006. That’s from 213 to 240 Black-on-Latino attacks; and from 247 to 269 Latino-on-Black attacks–causing some to point to other factors besides economic desperation and competition. This also probably explains the reluctance of some Blacks in California to support immigration reform that resulted in a standoff last week. Reading these stories, I am concerned that we’re on the eve of a persistent and even more dangerous racism between Latinos and Blacks. I am also stunned at what these stories reveal—a real lack of awareness many Latinos and Blacks have about our shared struggle, while different, stemming from the same problem of this country’s’ social and economic oppression of people of color. Regardless of whether we came in centuries ago or are still dripping wet – didn’t we all have to cross some water to get here? Perhaps we need to take a closer look at the divide and conquer methods historically used to keep our communities down. We can start by holding our counterparts accountable for their racist views and challenging them when they work against the goal of building cross-cultural communities.