"Our separate struggles are really one. A struggle for freedom, for dignity, and for humanity."--Martin Luther King, Jr., in a telegram to Cesar Chavez
The 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s were pivotal decades in the histories of the African American and Latino communities in the United States. Throughout that thirty-year period, these two groups found themselves united in a battle for the guarantee of basic civil rights. The collaboration of African Americans and Latinos in landmark cases Mendez v. Westminster and Brown v. Board of Education dismantled segregation across the country. Efforts between the Young Lords and the Black Panthers were pivotal to advancing the Nuyorican Movement and improving poverty-stricken neighborhoods in New York and Chicago. In the Southwest, labor activist Cesar Chavez proudly marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., in a struggle for equality. Yet these successes were wracked by tension and acts of violence that kept both communities from forging a permanent relationship and utilizing the political power that a coalition would afford.
Today the situation is much the same. As African Americans and Latinos seek to redefine their struggles after the tumult of the twentieth century, the continued relationship between these communities has been accompanied by a growing tension. In areas of New England, African Americans and Latinos work together to improve their local communities and fight injustice, while in Southern California, racial tension manifests itself on a daily basis through violent outbreaks in schools and on the streets. In New Orleans, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has seen the Latino population bloom from approximately 6 percent to more than 20 percent. The declaration that Latinos are now the largest minority group in the country, combined with the uprising of a largely Latino-based immigrant rights movement, has left many African Americans feeling ignored. The presumption that Latinos are destined to replace African Americans in low-wage jobs has only increased the perception that these populations are competing for valuable and limited resources.
This volume aims to explore the nature of the relationship between African Americans and Latinos in the current social context. Our content makes it clear that the forces shaping this relationship are not just political, but historical. And while the media and political analysts depict these two communities in constant war with each other, our contributors clearly demonstrate that such pessimism is unwarranted. Addressed correctly, the relationship between African Americans and Latinos presents numerous opportunities for collaboration and the continued revitalization of American politics today.
This year, the Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy is proud to feature several articles and commentaries that probe the nature of this relationship as it pertains to various aspects of public policy. Commentary by Kristen Clarke explores the …