Larry Aubry (File Photo)

Improving Black/Latino relations was never really a major political priority in Los Angeles but should have been. Why? Sustainable collaboration between the two groups, based on mutual respect and an explicit commitment to honor the terms of any agreement to work together, is really the only way to strengthen their relationship and respective goals.

In Los Angeles, among the reasons this has not happened, at least for many years, is the huge increase in the Latino population and a lack of political will and leadership initiative and coordination on both sides, to make improving relations between the two groups a real priority.

Today’s column does not address this issue of Black and Latino per se, —it has done so in the past and will do so in the future. Rather, the reason today is to stress the sheer importance of mutual respect and self-determination by Blacks and Latinos themselves as well as the harm inflicted by paternalism and arrogance of any other group (s) attempting to define another’s agenda. This column’s reference to an earlier op-ed by a group of diverse Los Angeles’ liberal leaders on improving relations between Blacks and Latinos illustrates the point. In that case, the problem was, and remains, no matter how well-meaning   the groups’ intentions, only Blacks and Latinos themselves, working together, can legitimately determine what is, or is not in their respective best interests.

More than a decade ago, (2006) four prominent liberals Angelinos—an Asian, Black, White and Latino, collaborated on an op-ed calling for a “Blueprint for African American and Latino Cooperation on Shared Goals.” The authors included the president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, director of the Pat Brown Institute, Cal State University LA and president and CEO of the California Endowment.

For this and similarly constituted racial/ethnic groups to make recommendations on what Blacks and Latinos should do was and is presumptuous and patronizing.  It is inconceivable that this group, or any other, would do such a thing if the “target” groups were say, Chinese and Japanese Americans, Jewish and Arab Americans, Whites and Blacks, or any other two racial and/or ethnic groups.

The op-ed group asserted, “As the most demographically diverse metropolis in the country, we (Los Angeles) can set the pace for eradicating the increasingly violent clashes between Blacks and Latinos in neighborhoods, schools and jails, and provide a model for the U.S.”  Two recent reports were cited as pointing to similar challenges faced by Black and Brown communities:  “The Latino Scorecard: Grading the American Dream” by the United Way and “The State of Black Los Angeles” by the Los Angeles Urban League and the United Way.

The authors also cite two conferences as important first steps, the LA County Sheriffs’ Multi-Faith, Clergy Breakfast and the First National Conference on Latino and African American Race Relations.  Neither of these conferences had significant follow-up and appeared well intentioned but were not substantive.

Inadvertently, or not, the group was quick to patronize, asserting that to be effective, a “sustainable and energetic Black/Brown alliance needs to be formed capable of carrying out a policy agenda and working with committed elected officials, business and civic leaders of all races and ethnicity….”  Certainly Blacks and Latinos are appreciative of such sage wisdom, but the groups’ observations were hardly revelations.  Rather, they seemed more expressions of liberals’ intent to suggest ways proceed, than thoughtful concern for improving Black and Latino relations.  It is difficult to ascribe validity to observations and recommendations that come from others, and not crafted or validated by the subjects of such observations and recommendations.

The op-ed authors may have relied too heavily on the two ecent reports mentioned, and two or three community organizations’ efforts to support their position.  Issues covered ranged from culturally relevant healthcare and public school accountability to affordable housing, development and greater police accountability. “Different” priorities and feelings in Black and Latino communities are acknowledged, e.g., HIV/AIDS, homicides, jobs and immigration.

The authors also proclaimed a new level of civil empathy is required and, “African Americans and Latinos must commit to thoughtful dialogue, especially regarding the flash point issue, immigration.”  (Such patronizing pronouncements border on insulting because they lacked the necessary participation and concurrence of Black and Latino leadership and much broader representation from both groups.

SO a fundamental flaw was the authors’ presumptuous attempt to recommend uncorroborated strategies for improving Black/Latino relations. They may have been genuinely concerned, but frankly, crafting such strategies and recommendations was, and is not their business. Blacks and Latinos themselves must do that

In other words, the op-ed failed to understand, or recognize, that Blacks and Latinos separately, then together, must craft mutually beneficial agreements that address their respective concerns and interests. Directly related, but highly sensitive and seldom discussed,  is the failure of Black and Latino leadership, political and otherwise, to clearly set forth their strategies, action plans and proposals that unapologetically advance the interests of their Black and Latino constituents.