"When speaking on the topic of racism one usually refers to the negative relationships among Whites, Latinos and Blacks. However, I witnessed a different type of racism growing up; this racism was between Latinos and Blacks. The battle between these two races has led to violence, a lack of communication and ultimately, a social divide.
Unity is an important aspect of society because it symbolizes progression. However, progression is the direct opposite of the current situation between Blacks and Latinos in many places. The ideal situation would be that Latinos and Blacks unite because both groups have a shared experience of oppression and exploitation. Latinos went through struggles caused by the early Europeans whom discovered the "New World" and set up harsh systems, which have prevented advancement in Latin America. The exploitation that Blacks suffered came at the hands of white Americans whom enslaved them for hundreds of years, and in return, prevented them from participating in various important aspects of society. In contemporary society when supposedly everyone should have learned to live with each other, the tension between Latinos and Blacks still exists heavily. One of the reasons why this is the case is because both groups of people tend to live in close proximity with one another in urban low income areas.
This racial divide has caused negativity between both racial groups in neighborhoods such as my hometown, Boston. I remember as early as middle school there would be fights after school, and it would always be a group of Blacks against a group of Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. It did not stop there, both within and outside school there were always many stereotypes going around, a lot of which was name-calling. Many Latinos were referred to as "Spics," while Blacks were referred to as "Cocolos" and "Morenos." Latinos tend to assume that if a Black person is in a heavily-populated Latino neighborhood, that they are trying to steal something or start problems and vice-versa. In Boston, specifically my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain there is an obvious racial divide. There is an area called Jamaica Pond, which is one of the nicest places you could live in. Then there are areas like Egleston Square, Heath Street, Mozart and Boylston that are low to middle income areas. In these areas there are sectors heavily populated by Latinos, and others sectors heavily populated by Blacks. Some of the problems would take place when there would be parties thrown in the neighborhood. You will never see a Latino go into a "black party" just out of fear because he would be the only Latino there. In this case, it is evident that being different is not always accepted. Latinos and Blacks are not always accepting of each other, and most of the time it is because they put no effort into doing so.
I find it strange that Latinos and Blacks can live in the same neighborhood, but will not work together because of their cultural differences. Perhaps a reason for Latinos not being so accepting of Blacks is because in most Latin American countries, people with darker skin are usually looked down upon, and it is the lighter-skinned people who tend to have the most control over the country. However, there are cases when a Latino could pass as Black, but the shared language and culture distinguishes them from Blacks. Language barriers are also a big issue between Latinos and Blacks with regard to communication. There are countless arguments between Latinos and Blacks which end up with comments like "go learn some English" or "I do not understand what you are saying." Although these are universal comments, in my neighborhood it is very common to hear such an argument between Latinos and Blacks.
When it comes to differences in languages, negative comments can be heard from Latinos towards Blacks as well because Spanish is not the only language spoken in Boston, especially by people considered "Black" in the eyes of Latinos. The other languages spoken in Boston include Haitian Creole and Cape Verdean Creole. Many times problems will start because of miscommunication, and I have witnessed this first hand. When I was younger I remember going to the Registry of Motor Vehicles with my mother, and witnessing the impatience and rudeness of a Black woman who worked in the RMV towards a Latina. This happened during the years when my mother was still learning to speak English and would have some trouble explaining her situation, but would eventually get her point across. When it was my mother's turn to be attended to after a long wait, my mother was only able to get three sentences out before the lady said, "You're going to have to come by another time because I don't know what you're saying, and I don't have time to sit here and try to attend to your issue." This was one of those disrespectful moments I will never forget even though I was too young to get involved and defend my mother.
Despite the racial divide between Blacks and Latinos, there are still signs of unity today. The most recent sign was during the 2008 presidential elections when Barack Obama won the presidential election. During the election period, we all could sense the unity amongst various racial minority groups in support of Barack Obama's campaign. In a way, Obama being president alone has united people who have traditionally been divided because they have a shared experience of electing him into office. Furthermore, unity is the key to progress and in order to see unity in the future between Blacks and Latinos, both racial groups must learn to live with each other and get accustomed to each other's culture because there are many things both of these rich cultures can learn from one another."
Sergio Roque '11
Treasurer, ALANA Network