Festering Black-Latino Relations A NON-Priority
Intense anger, fear and distrust generally characterize the feelings of Blacks (and Latinos) over the recent spate of senseless violence and killings of and by youthful members of both groups. Racially motivated or not, even innocent lives are also being snuffed out. Open hostility is replacing an already tenuous Black-Brown co-existence. Increasingly, violence, especially among young adults, is more brazen but still based on codes of behavior palatable only to the combatants.
Black/Latino relations have always languished on the political back burner, but the heart wrenching horror of recent incidents brings into full view the utterly inhumane ascendancy of normalized violence. Until prevention is accorded proper priority-greater than suppression and intervention- not just gang-banging, but violence of all kinds will likely increase, unabated.
This column focuses on violence’s antecedents that shaped and continue to influence behavior and conditions that breed conflict among and between Blacks and Latinos.
Los Angeles has always been de facto segregated and continues to foster racial tensions. And public policy-- official and unofficial—reinforces conflict between the two groups. For example, the federal census previously listed Latinos (Hispanics) as white, which reinforced us versus them mindsets. Many still believe Latinos consider themselves superior to Blacks --presumably based on color. Some also cite disparate treatment of Black students, Latinos’ “taking Blacks’ jobs,” (largely untrue), etc.
The city and county have never adopted prevention strategies designed to improve race relations/conflict, and segregated schools, reflecting segregated communities are a large part of the problem. (The landmark Crawford vs. the Los Angeles City Board of Education case failed to integrate the schools that are now more segregated than ever.)
LAUSD’s policies still perpetuate segregated schools (court orders notwithstanding), and the district remains indifferent to the special needs of Black and Brown children. (Parents and school communities have not met their responsibility either and do not hold themselves or the school district accountable for failing to educate their children. Thus, institutional negligence bears directly, not only on low achievement of students of color but perennial conflict spawned by racial isolation in schools.
Note: Despite increased gang-related violence between Blacks and Latinos the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) continues to deny or downplay race as a major contributing factor.
Immigration also remains a bell weather issue. Massive demographic shifts in population aggravate problems between the two groups and the absence of sustained, honest discourse by leadership on both sides virtually guarantees a crippling stalemate, to wit: Two year ago, in the face of huge pro-immigration demonstrations, Los Angeles’ Black leaders were silent and their failure to take a public position on this critically important issue is reprehensible.
Congress’ pathetic waffling also contributes to racial divisiveness. Arguably, immigration will help shape the battle lines for civil and economic rights, and related issues, for the 21st century.
Unfortunately, the media and corporate America’s divide and conquer messages have mostly succeeded. But rather than go after the real culprits, i.e., employers who benefit from exploiting immigrant workers, Blacks tend to direct their anger exclusively on the immigrants. (“Illegal immigrants” is often code for those opposed to immigration in any form—at least from Latin America.) Immigrants are further victimized by threat of deportation while all of the data indicates that immigrants contribute, not take away from the economy.
The single most important factor in response to immigration and other key issues is informed leaders committed to developing effective strategies that unapologetically benefit Black constituents. This requires alternative leadership models based on group, not self-serving paradigms that focus on the individual.
Stereotypes abound on both sides, and without mutually beneficial efforts, Black-Latino relations will worsen. A word of caution: Traditional attempts to improve relations between the two groups with politically correct, superficial stabs at dialogue, do not work. They actually make things worse by raising expectations and prolonging implementation of political and economic models that operate to the benefit of Blacks and others of color.
The recent spike in racially motivated violence in Los Angeles is a manifestation of long-neglected festering issues between Blacks and Latinos and the problem will not be solved with greater suppression and intervention; Resolution demands concerted emphasis on prevention, taking into full account underlying causes. Anything less practically ensures continuation of conditions, attitudes and behavior that benefit neither Blacks nor Latinos.
Of course, the political will indispensible for solving the problem currently does not exist but without it, the future of Blacks in Los Angeles (and the nation) is in jeopardy. Previous Black gains (such as they were) are rapidly eroding a drastically different course towards change is critical. There is a distinct possibility that unaltered, the present course, will propel Blacks backward to an earlier, lesser status.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail