There have been many examples offered in an effort to suggest that Latinos are anti-black. We read that in Los Angeles African Americans are targeted for violence by Latino gangs. We routinely hear about race oriented gang warfare in prisons. Former Mexico president Vicente Fox's comments as well as the product caricatures from Mexico were offensive. All of these are, in fact, disturbing. They indicate that – as in any relationship - real work needs to be done between our communities. That said, however, they say nothing about the ability of our communities to identify common ground on which to work together for mutual benefit.
Let's cut to the chase: "divide and conquer" is a real and ever-powerful tactic of white supremacy. The existing power structure has an extraordinary (and growing) interest in dividing us - in keeping us focused on petty differences, rather than see us aggregate our power and influence to push for social, economic, and political change in America. Despite differences, Latinos and African Americans are not natural enemies by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, we have far more in common than not. It is critical for us to see this aspect of our reality clearly and capitalize on the potential in our collective efforts to make life better for our families and children.
We need to clearly consider the idea of a Black - Brown coalition for what it is. A coalition or alliance is when two or more groups come together on a particular issue where their combined strength gives each a greater chance at success for all. Some think that aligning will, by definition, weaken us. An alliance is not a marriage - where two people must frequently subordinate their individual interests for the health and welfare of the unit. It is much more like a transaction - where parties do business when and where and how it makes sense. The United States and Russia were allies in World War 2. Was this because the two nations were, somehow, in love with each other? Of course not. They aligned because it was in their interests at that moment to do so. We all know what happened to that relationship after WW2. When it no longer made sense, the two nations went their very separate ways.
We need to think about the Latino community and a Black - Brown coalition in this type of strategic way. We connect and work together on matters that make sense to both of us. It made sense for the American Jewish community to support the African American community on the issue of civil rights. It didn't make sense to them to support us on the issue of Affirmative Action. That's cool. That's the way alliances work. No hard feelings. There are a variety of issues where a Black-Brown coalition could yield extraordinary benefit to both communities - helping each to create a result that alone it might not be able to secure. That's what alliances are all about and we need to be thoughtful and strategic about how we can 'hook up' with Latinos to make things happen for us.
Personally, I'm proud of the work that the African American community ˜put in' to create a better country for all. Among the myriad of ways that we contribute to the fabric of our nation, I'm happy that civil and voting rights, among others, are in place for all. The fact that others can "stand on our backs" doesn't burden me - it uplifts me and makes me proud!
The bottom line is that any coalition is only as strong as the common interests that bind the parties together. White Supremacy Inc. would have us believe that Latinos and Blacks should be at each others throats. Why? Because it serves their interests for us to think that way. We can be smarter and more strategic than that to see that there are a number of fundamentally common interests around political and economic and social issues where the combined leverage of our communities in America could be formidable. If African American progress is a real objective, it is our duty to identify the proper tools we need to achieve our objective. For example, Congress recently failed to pass a bill that would have raised the minimum wage. As we all know, there are a disproportionate number of African Americans and Latinos who work at the minimum wage. Think about the marches that occurred all over the country recently in favor of Latino immigration reform. Think of what an African American and Latino March on Washington for Wage Fairness could accomplish? If a couple of million Black and Brown folks converged on the Capitol to express our common interest in this issue - I believe - it would have an extraordinary impact on multiple levels. We would, no doubt, have a higher minimum wage!
Creating a Black – Brown coalition has the potential to be an extremely powerful way to make things happen for us. We need to think of it as a strategic tool – one that is pulled out when and where it makes sense. No more. No less. It deserves our thoughtful consideration.