Blacks and Latinos: Parallel Histories
Blacks and Latinos: Parallel Histories
Pilar Marrero, Award Winner 2006: Black-Brown Relations, La Opinion (
Part One of Three
Like many African-Americans in
“We came to look for work. The South was a poor place. All my brothers and sisters, and there were eight of us, came to
At that time,
Racial segregation was the norm: special clauses in property sales contracts prohibited non-white people from living in most of the city. They were called covenants and they were originally instituted against Asians, Mexicans, Jews and African-Americans.
That was why there were greater numbers of Blacks – no matter whether they were nurses, barbers or whatever economic condition – in the neighborhoods along
“Discrimination was everywhere; we couldn’t bathe in public swimming pools, and we couldn’t be in certain public places.
“Blacks and Mexicans returned from World War II and realized that nothing had changed. That although we had won the war in
In 1946 the courts declared the restrictive housing contracts illegal and from then on, middle-class African-Americans started moving west towards the area of
Even though Blacks and Hispanics shared similar experiences of institutional racism and educational and economic marginalization, the communities did not mix as much as they now. “There wasn’t a strong relationship, but there wasn’t a lot of mixing either, not even in schools.”
So the movements, which awoke both communities and achieved a certain amount of progress in civil rights, were parallel.
For example, while Cesar Chavez was creating the United Farm Workers Union in 1962, African-Americans were boycotting racial segregation in the South. In 1963, they marched on
“It’s very important to see that Black history is a unique and special thing. Because it all started with slavery. They brought our ancestors here by force as slaves. They took away their culture and everything they knew. They separated their families. When you take absolutely everything away from someone, the situation is very different,” says Aubry.
“And that’s what happened to my people. I’m not saying it to say that we had it worse, and not to compare with what others have suffered. But that’s a description of what happened,” he says.
Even though it now seems like something new that Mexicans and other Latinos live or coexist in the same neighborhoods as African-Americans, history says that not only is it nothing new, but it has also been the norm since the city’s foundation.
Of the 44 original inhabitants that settled in El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula [The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula] in 1781, when the area still was in Spanish hands, 26 were of African origin.
And that is how Mexicans, descendents of Spaniards and Native Americans, founded
Najee Ali, an African-American activist and one of the young leaders who has insisted most on creating alliances with Latinos, learned not long ago that Cesar Chavez, farm worker leader, was profoundly influenced by the non-violent philosophy of the most important civil rights leader that this country ever had: Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Many people in our communities don’t realize that we share a common history,” comments Ali. “Chavez modeled many of his organizing activities and techniques on the ones that King used.”
There are even parallel organizations that emerged in the 60’s as an expression of radical activism. Among African-Americans, the Black Panthers and among the Mexicans, the Brown Berets.
In 1965, marginalization and tensions with police, who were primarily white and repressive, created an explosion during the famous Watts Riots, which involved hundreds of African-Americans.
The McCone Commission, which later investigated the causes of the riots, concluded that the most profound ones were poverty, inequality, racial discrimination and the approval in 1964 of an electoral initiative that brought back the covenants or restrictive contracts that allowed discrimination against racial groups in housing sales.
On the other hand, the Mexican-American community experienced its own movement. In 1968, students from
Both communities stood up against the lack of education and jobs, and marginalization.
(Tomorrow: Latino growth affects African-Americans)
1781 - At least 26 of the 44 original inhabitants of
1863 - For the first time Blacks are allowed to testify in court against a white person.
1872 - For the first time Asians and Native Americans are allowed to testify in court against whites.
1962 - Cesar Chavez founds the National Farm Workers Association.
1962 - Martin Luther King, Jr. leads the massive march on
1963 - Martin Luther King, Jr. wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
1964 - African-American riots in the
1968 - Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Hundreds of student youth take to the streets in
1969 - More than 30,000 Mexican-Americans march against the war in
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