For centuries Black people have been fighting an uphill battle and standing up against a system meant to repress, a system that continues to be unfair, unjust, and dare I say, inhumane. Standing up against injustice, Black people have taken the lead in defense of their communities, which we all benefit from and we have seen a steady growth in the Black Lives Matter movement. At the same time, it is not hard to see that we Latinos have been largely absent from widely standing up with Black people. Why? Are Black people’s struggles so much different than our own that we’ve lost empathy? Are we so engaged in oppression Olympics that we think, “at least it’s not us”? Or are we light-skinned and privileged just enough that we don’t have to think about Black lives? The reality is the Black struggle is our struggle and we need to be present and vocal in support of Black people.
There are many parallels in our communities’ struggles, and I struggle to come up with reasons why we Latinos have not been more vocal. Black and Brown men are over-represented in our prison system. Our communities have been affected for decades; Crips, Bloods, Norteños, Sureños, what’s the difference? They’re all detrimental and divisive. From rap to corridos, we both have resistance music. Black women and Latinas are still at the bottom of the earnings ladder, and we all know how hard they work. The Black community is demanding fair treatment by police, an end to racial profiling, and justice where justice is due. Is that not what we expect both from police and in our case, la migra?
Injustice and grief is difficult regardless of whom the perpetrator is, we too have experienced the pain of losing loved ones due to institutionalized repression in our own Latin American countries. Through centuries of conquistas and religious missions that have wiped out millions of indigenous people and all the residual effects of manifest destiny, we know suffering, we know pain. Today our Latino communities continue to have many needs and it’s important to continue to fight for our needs. But we also need to follow the lead of our Black brothers and sisters as the Black community fights against systems keeping our communities in fear. Fairness and justice for Black people is fairness and justice for Brown people, what’s good for Black people is good for Brown people. In the face of racism, discrimination, and stereotypes, can one really distinguish the difference between Black, Cubano, Dominicano, Puertoriqueño, or Veracruzano? In a world where race continues to matter, the darker the skin, the harder the battle.
As Latinos, we have a long history of fighting political, religious, and social oppression and have great history of fighters who sought justice. Emiliano Zapata, Cesar Chavez, Che Guevara, Frida Kahlo, el Padre Romero, and Rigoberta Menchú to name a few, all stood up against injustice. I believe that if they lived in our community today, they would be standing side by side with the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement. To date, according to the Washington Post, 509 people have been killed by police. If these deaths were proportional to the demographics of our country, 61 would be Black. 123 Black people have been killed by police, twice the demographic average. This is a problem that must be addressed and we Latinos have a responsibility to speak up and be part of the solution.
So how do you know it’s your responsibility and it’s time to support the Black Lives Matter movement? Here’s a start.
- If you’ve experienced racism…it’s time.
- If your foot trembles when you see red and blue lights in the rear view mirror…it’s time.
- If you’re afraid someone you love will be incarcerated or killed…it’s time.
- If you’ve gone to an immigration rally and wondered where the non-Latinos are…it’s time.
- If you or someone you love fears la migra…it’s time.
- If you’ve been followed by security at the mall…it’s time.
- If you’ve dyed your hair blonde because it would make you look more White…it’s time.
- If you’ve been told you are not college material…it’s time.
- If you’ve ever played loteria and said buenas con el negrito…it’s time.
- If people slowed their speech so you could understand their English…it’s time.
- If your name has ever been changed so it’s easier to pronounce…it’s time.
- If you’ve ever heard the word “illegal” in reference to brown people…it’s time.
- If you’ve ever watched novelas and realized all the dark-skinned people are “the help,”… it’s time.
- If you’ve ever been told to stop speaking Spanish…it’s time.
- If you’ve ever been told to go back to your own country…it’s time.
- If you’ve never experienced any of the above, it’s time to ask yourself what unearned privileges you enjoy and how you can use that privilege to make an impact in Black lives…it’s time.
As Latinos, we experience these micro and macro-aggressions and fight through implicit and explicit bias on a daily basis. We are also impacted by institutional isms (racism, sexism, ableism, etc.) in education, health care, the criminal justice system, politics, and business. These are the same battles Black people are fighting and in order to make collective progress, we must unite and support the movement. There is no doubt in my mind that our country, communities, and even our own families are divided. There are many divisions between Black and White, Black and Brown, Black and Blue, republican and democrat, rich and poor, men and women, and many others. Division cannot continue between police and our communities, we have a symbiotic relationship; we need each other in order to thrive. Is it too much of a stretch to think that if Black people feel safe in ALL our communities, then police officers will feel safe in their own police duties? Fear on all sides must be eradicated. Trust must be rebuilt, and that requires dialogue, collaboration, healing, empathy, and an end goal of love and peace. I challenge all of us to find ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement and to use whatever level of influence we have to demand respect, justice, and accountability. Como dijo Benito Juárez, “Entre los individuos, como entre las Naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.” Let’s unite and demand respect for Black lives…it’s time.
Gerardo Ochoa is Assistant Dean for Diversity and Community Partnerships at Linfield College. You can follow him on twitter @gerardoochoa
Here’s further food for thought:
5 Steps Latinos Can Take to Combat Anti-Blackness
Latinos Cannot Be Silent to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile
11 Powerful Photos of Latinos Standing ins Solidarity With Black Lives Matter
The Problem with Saying ‘All Lives Matter’
The next time someone says ‘all lives matter,’ show them these 5 paragraphs