Black and Brown
(AP Photo/Jackie Johnston)
She's not the problem
Erin Aubry Kaplan: Is black-brown unity even possible?
Alliance can only come from looking honestly at differences.
May 24, 2006
THE IMMIGRANT-rights movement, in addition to raising anxiety among blacks, has also renewed hopes for a black-Latino alliance. This is a lovely idea. It is also doomed to fail.
The mission of the moment — the subject of panels and forums flowering all over town — is how to bring together two ethnic groups that, after all, share so much: neighborhoods, public schools, economic struggles, experiences of racial bias. Coalitionists argue that black-brown unity is not blind idealism but visible reality. We don't have to create it so much as point it out. Once we all recognize how much we have in common, the theory goes, we'll be on more equal footing and better able to augment each other's political strengths. There will be a formidable front of people of color better able to effect changes that benefit us all.
The problem with this ideal is not just that it is simplistic. It also overlooks the same critical gray areas ignored by people such as homeless activist Ted Hayes, who persists in his campaign to get blacks to join the Minuteman Project, which monitors the U.S.-Mexican border. In the matter of black-brown alliances, the devil — and deliverance — has always been in the details.
The unity is seductive on the surface, but how deep does it go? Blacks and Latinos have different experiences and ideas — not only about what America is but about what it means. And these differences have been suppressed, not examined or celebrated, by the cult of multiculturalism that dominates race relations and fuels the renewed call for black-brown unity.
It gets even more complicated. Though blacks and Latinos live peaceably side by side in South L.A. and elsewhere, for example, blacks are alarmed by the steady erosion of the last of the city's black neighborhoods. Latino immigrants are not intentionally pushing us out; they are simply living where it's feasible. And many of us have left our neighborhoods voluntarily, fleeing the urban rat race for the (supposedly) greener pastures of the outlying 'burbs or even the "new" old South. Still, it feels as if we are being pushed out, and we react — not well, for the most part. But there you have it.
This is vastly different than how New Yorkers see black and brown issues. Most minority neighborhoods are a mix of black and latino to some percentage, so interests align on many issues. This kind of seperation doesn't exists for the most part. When 50 percent of Latinos voted for Bloomberg in 2001, 30 percent of blacks joined them. They didn't split like blacks did in LA with Hahn vs. Villagrosa.
But then in New York, most latinos are Puerto Rican and often emulate black culture to some degree. While there are differences, there are often grounds for working together on a major number of political and social issues.
They also share the same jobs and neighborhoods, and there are no real conflicts like the one in LA. Ted Hayes would be laughed at
here, as Charlie Barron and Al Sharpton humiliated him.
posted by Steve @ 12:00:00 AM