For years there has been talk from both Black and Hispanic leaders about building a black/brown coalition in America. But due to a number of factors this coalition has yet to happen.
One can point to any number of factors that have prevented this coalition from happening—starting with the different beginnings of each group in this country, to their geographical and cultural differences, to the diversified nature of the Latino community versus the more monolithic nature of the Black community.
And let’s not forget the competing factors for a slice of the federal civil rights pie.
Initially, the Black community didn’t exactly welcome other minorities especially Hispanics, to share in whatever benefits might come to the Black community from the Civil Rights Act; i.e., Hispanics were primarily absent from the struggle leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act itself.
Admittedly, there have been some past efforts to bring Blacks and Hispanics together. When I was the director of the community relations service at the Department of Justice during the early 1990s my agency sponsored a two day seminar at Harvard’s Kennedy School to begin a dialogue between Black and Hispanic community leaders about ways in which both communities could foster a stronger relationship to prevent or resolve conflict.
The seminar was a success in that it got both groups talking about past failures and identifying ways to improve communications and to build bridges between the two communities.
However, anytime the federal government gets involved in something that has long lasting implications it’s bound to lose its momentum. I’ve learned that it takes the same person who starts something to see its completion.
Since I was a political appointee my term ended in early 1992 and sadly the ideas from that seminar ended up in the archives of the federal agency. But much has changed in our country since that seminar that makes me think a coalition between Latinos and Blacks has in recent decades been building and from all indications seems to growing by the day.
Relationship between Hispanics and Blacks change
Currently, the kinship between Latinos and Blacks has begun to evolve in ways that were unheard of years ago. And why shouldn’t it, after all there can be more things to bring these two groups together than not.
Take for example, the August 28, 2013 March on Washington to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the I Have a Dream speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. III. There were three Hispanic speakers compared to zero when Rev. King gave his speech in 1963.
Dolores Huerta, the long time civil rights activists and labor leader spoke at the rally and by the time she finished talking she had the mostly African American audience, chanting, “Si Se Puede!” Sofia Campos, of United We Dream also spoke as did Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas’s 20th District.
The audience included many more Hispanics this time around than in 1963 when mostly Puerto Rican union workers from the New York area were in attendance.
Latinos and Blacks come together
This year’s March on Washington was a defining moment for Latinos and Blacks to come together. But there are other factors of an undercurrent nature that are bringing these two groups together, a key one being the unwillingness of Whites to embrace Latinos especially those newly arrived immigrants, legal or illegal.
Recently, I spoke to a group of teenage Latinas from the DC area and during the course of the seminar, the majority of them mentioned favoring friendships with Blacks rather than with Whites. It came as a surprise to hear the young women say that they don’t feel Whites like them while Blacks make them feel welcome and are nicer by comparison.
If more Hispanics across the country feel the same way the DC area Latina teenagers do about the lack of regard from Whites and if intermarriages between Latinos and Blacks continue to rise, relations between Latinos and Blacks in America are bound to become stronger.
While there are many events taking place to bring Latinos and Blacks together my sense is that if any one group will make this happen it will be the Black and Hispanic members of the Y Generation or Millennials (those born from the 1980s to the 2000s).
This group overall, has demonstrated they are of a more tolerant nature and along with that trait, they are less bound to veer from fulfilling their ambitious goals as other generations before them, they are multi-taskers and more politically independent.
Add to this group’s influence is the ever growing digital technology age that allows for a more different way of thinking, communicating and interacting than any other generation before them.
The Latinos and Black Millennials are not that much apart from their White counterparts in seeking to change the world except in this case they are more poised than ever to build that long awaited brown/black coalition.
Hopefully when that happens, it won’t be at the risk of alienating their White counterparts. But only time will tell if Whites “get it” and accept Hispanics and other minorities as partners in building this country’s future not as a “us and them” kind of an attitude which has only served to divide this country.