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4 de Octubre, 2007

The Latino Challenge to Black America: Q &A With Earl Ofari Hutchinson

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LAST WEEK I mentioned that today I would be posting the questions I posed Earl Ofari Hutchinson in reaction to reading his book The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation Between African-Americans and Hispanics, and that if readers were around at 4:00 - 4:30 or so, and had any further questions or followups, our esteemed guest would be available in the comments.

Here are the questions I sent him. I came up with many, and narrowing them down was not easy:

[Remember, readers: Those orange symbols at the bottom of the page (Aztec glyphs) will give you a choice in stylesheets, i.e., change the page's font size]

Mr. Hutchinson,

 First, I'd like to thank you for this opportunity, I appreciate it. Secondly, I'd like to both applaud and thank you for your work, for the courage and heart shown in writing this book and approaching such a timely and touchy and important issue. Finally, I'd like to communicate that I understand I have included more than five questions, please answer as you see fit. I thought that if nothing else, you might want to see what at least one Latino (Mexican American) person thought to himself as he read your book, even if you do not choose to address all of these.

Thanks again; "see" you soon

Nezua,
   http://www.theunapologeticmexican.org



question one

Q:  Mr. Hutchinson, throughout your book you reference the reasons that Mexicans migrate to the USA:  "fleeing civil strife, massive land dislocations, the chronic lack of industry [...] and an
 exploding population crisis." These are all valid and true. Yet, Mexicans have been not only naturally migrating back and forth across the political invention we know as "the Border" for hundreds of years, they have been actively encouraged and recruited (such as in the Bracero program, which you do acknowledge.) How does this fit into your views—the fact that migration across this area is more natural (and older) to humans indigenous to this land than a Border?

EOH: That's an excellent point and one that certainly I should and could have delved into in greater detail to show that migration from the South is hardly new. In fact, for much of the 19th and into the
 20the century the US-Mexico border was very fluid with workers and their families steadily migrating to the US to seek better job opportunities and for many a better life. The border has been
 tacitly an open border. So the scream to close the borders ignores to much history, as well as the economic and politics of immigration.



question two

The agendas of African-Americans and Latinos have at times drastically diverged and clashed on immigration, political empowerment, bilingual education, and, of course, jobs. The
 diverging agendas are at times driven by the fear of many blacks that Latinos are getting an unfair boost up at their expense, and by many Latinos that blacks are getting an unfair boost up at their expense."

The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation Between African-Americans and Hispanics


Q:  Mr. Hutchinson, how can we find an overlap on migration? Especially when the consistent media consistently and continuallygives us is the "irreparable divide" narrative you mention? In your experience, is there any awareness in the greater black community about historical similarities, or shared persecution, or colonization? Especially considering that blacks are one of the peoples who have populated Mexico (though in smaller numbers) and have mixed with the Indians and the Spaniards through time to give us the blend that is the modern day "mestizo" in some cases?

Even though blacks have a unique history and experience, do we have any history in common that could unite us on this, if
 highlighted properly? Or is that an overly optimistic thought?

EOH: No, it's optimistic, but not overly. There have been points in
 the recent history of the civil rights and social justice movement where progressive, politically sensitive blacks and Latinos have worked together on justice, race and poverty issues. I gave specific examples in my book MLK-Vesar Chavez, the Panthers and LA Raza Unida, Karenga and Reis Tijerina (and the Poor Peoples March) And even now the Congressional Black Caucus and Hispanic Caucus have frequently joined forces.

In most neighborhoods (urban) where blacks and Latinos now live side by side. There is more harmony than friction and many do pull together on education, neighorhood services, crime and gang concerns. The key to building alliances is the willingness of progressive, forward looking community leaders and activists to join hands on common race and poverty struggles.



 question three

Q:  Mr. Hutchinson, you note that the media pump up fear between blacks and Latinos by constantly touting Hispanics/Latinos as being the New, Biggest Minority group. Each time in your book you discuss the numbers, you list "illegal immigration" first, and then the growing birthrate. Are you aware that according to The Population Resource Center,
 ( http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/05/10/hispanics/index.html ) of the 1.3
 million increase in population numbers attributable to Hispanics, 800,000 are due to natural causes--births minus deaths--rather than immigration? Do you think that by using the framing of the Right's ”"illegal immigration"” as well as stressing immigration rather than natural causes in your book, you are part of that media now that are pumping up the fear?

EOH: No, for two reasons. One, the count of illegal immigrants is
 official, by all estimates this is a gross undercount of the actual numbers in the country illegally, and it's a fact that birthrates among immigrants are higher than native born Americans. Second, even if the numbers were accurate, the impact of increased numbers of illegal immigrants in certain job areas has bumped lower wage blacks out of some positions. So it's those numbers that count more in shaping black ill attitudes toward illegal immigrants.



question four

Yet the dread many blacks have of being bypassed in the eternal battle against poverty and discrimination is not totally groundless. Corporations have leaped over each other to grab a bigger share of Latino consumer dollars and are slowly retreating from affirmative action programs for upwardly-mobile, college-trained black businesspersons and professionals, and are decreasing funding for job and skills training programs for the black poor.

The day the Census report was released, the AC Nielson firm, one of the country’s top marketing information companies, predicted that retail stores and supermarkets would launch a massive campaign to market their products to Latino buyers."

The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation Between African-Americans and Hispanics

Q. Mr. Hutchinson, it is true that the label "Latino" covers a lot of different peoples from different places. However, marketing aimed toward Latinos can focus on language, if nothing else. Is it more difficult for business to market to blacks? Are there equivalents (i.e., easily recognizable and targeted cultural signifiers) that businesses could appeal to with blacks?

EOH: Yes, and the Burrell Survey on marketing trends to and among
 blacks has spotlighted them. More black faces, appeal to black
 consumer tastes in buying, targeted promotional campaigns, and spend spend spend more dollars with black PR and marketing firms.



question five

Most Asian-Americans would not be here in America today, but for the civil rights movement led by African-Americans that resulted in the change to racist immigration quotas. Though Stewart Kwoh, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California, referred specifically to Asian immigrants, the Cubans and the other post-civil-rights-era immigrants from Latin American countries owe the same outsized debt to the civil rights movement. Not only did it help ease their entrance and increase the degree of acceptance they found in America, it also helped ease their march up the social and economic steps in America.

The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation Between African-Americans and Hispanics

Q:  Mr. Hutchinson, would it ease tensions between blacks and
 Latinos if the great contributions by blacks were recognized in some way by the Latino community? What would a way of doing this be that was both sincere and non-patronizing? You mention how the model of "Freedom Rides" in the 1960s was used by blacks to attack legal segregation, and how in 2003 civil rights activists used the same model to drum up support for immigrant rights. You go on to explain how when that model was ignored in 2006 by immigration rights organizations, it was perceived as an insult to the black community at large. Given that these types of dynamics are not always seen, perhaps, by immigration rights advocates and may be unintended slights, what ways can you offer to combat this type of reaction?

What other things might be done to fight for immigrant rights while at the same time paying tribute to blacks, who paved the way in so many of these important battles? (a mention of this issue by blacks, on another blog here:
 http://www.intrapolitics.org/node/24)

EOH: The great mistake of the immigrant rights groups was not to
 aggressively seek to unite with civil rights groups and black
 community activists on the issue of demanding more jobs for all and including blacks in the call to end job discrimination. That would have given those who say that immigrants rights groups were selfish, narrow, ethnocentric, and racist in focusing on illegal immigrant rights while not at least giving a nod  toward the tormenting high unemployment among blacks nowhere to go with that argument.

 



question six

Q:  Mr. Hutchinson, your book often points out how Latinos and Blacks piggyback on racist memes or legislation or literature that has been forwarded or initiated by whites against each other, thus hurting each other, and their own people, in reality, and strengthening a wedge driven between our peoples. When you consider the history of the USA—be it the legacy of slavery or the "Indian-killing' mentality that began this nation's quest for resources and might (and the memes that are constantly reinforced by
 so much media about "criminal," "diseased," or "thieving" Mexicans) it can seem impossible that we might ever escape the racist currents against both our peoples.

Realistically, can we ever escape this trap? And if so, what kind of USA will we have to become to bring blacks and Latinos, on the whole, into enough power that both escape the insecurity and fear and resentment that so easily jump between our people? Can you suggest a few ways we might work toward that? In our own personal lives?

EOH:
• Wage Common fights on problems that sledgehammer both blacks and Latinos
• Failing inner city public school
• Effective political representation
• Crime and gang violence
• hate crimes
• more and better jobs
• improved neighborhood services

This is not rocket science stuff. These are problems that affect both groups and therefore the seeds of working, formal and informal, alliances are there. it's happened and happening in some places in the country



question seven

Q:  Mr. Hutchinson, your book does a good job of illustrating the complexities of the tensions and challenges that stand between many Latinos and blacks, and especially between Latino immigrants and blacks. However, one valid view of resistance on the part of the blacks against immigrants is that even if validly fearing for their own jobs and resources and positions in society, by ignoring the lessons of their own victories in the civil rights era of the '60s and taking an anti-immigrant stance, blacks are acting much like whites did in resistance to cultural change and perceived loss of power and prevalence in American culture. Is this irony lost on many in the black community?


EOH: No, that's why I had two chapters talking about warped racial perceptions on the part of blacks and Latinos toward each other. Tragically, many recent immigrants do bring their racial baggage about blacks with them from Latin American countries, and blacks sense it and recoil at it. That's a tough one to get around but fortunately it's a point of grumbling, not ethnic internal conflict.



question eight

Q:  Mr. Hutchinson, I am personally sometimes a bit ashamed that Latinos heartily embrace war and service in the military,
 understandably equating it with USA patriotism and being a real citizen. As you point out, blacks in large part shun these wars. But then again, blacks had their lessons in the time of the Vietnam War.

I think of Robert Franklin Williams, who (though quite radical) said:

   

The idea is that the black man, if he is going to fight, if he's going to be soldier, he should fight for the liberation of his own people; he's got no business in Vietnam. And the idea is that he is fighting for his own enemy, for the rights of his own enemy to oppress others, to destroy others, but he is not fighting for his right to live as a human being... [...]

Man's first duty is to his brother; Man's first duty is to humanity. Not to governments, not to brutal savage governments and oppressors.



How can blacks communicate the important parts of this wisdom to Latinos as it applies to modern day enlisting and aiding in wars that ultimately oppress other non-white peoples in other lands? Is it possible? Is it desirable? (If I assume too much about your politics, please answer the parts of this question you find salient and relevant.)

EOH: Actually, polls show that Latinos by big margins oppose the war, and though many more do sign up for service than blacks, it's less due to rah rah patriotism than to get education and job opportunities. Until, those opportunities exist more widespread in society Latino enlistment will remain steady. The answer is till stop the war!

Okay, Some questions were better than others. That last one was a bit of a speech! Thanks to Mr. Hutchinson for the conversation, and good luck to him on his book. It was an easy read, and engaging. And I do think it is a very important issue to bring forward.

Okay, I kick it out to you, dear readers. If you have questions of your own on the topic, would like clarification on anything, or have something to add, please feel free to engage Mr. Hutchinson, who will be around from 4 - 4:30 today. Or comment any old time, Nez is around.

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Comentarios (26)


Carmen D. dijo:

GRVTR

Fantastic. Thoughtful questions, thoughtful answers. I will read this book and I hope "The Latino Challenge to Black America" jump starts HONEST, no holds barred discussion of the critical issues facing and dividing black and Latino people. Nez, thanks for providing this much needed forum.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:

GRVTR

the pleasure is all mine, amiga.


earl ofari hutchinson dijo:

GRVTR

Greeting Hola beinvenidos
podemos discutir el tema in dos idiomas
ingles o espanol


Carmen D. dijo:

GRVTR

Greeting, Mr. Hutchinson, why do you think prominent black voices (not necessarily leaders) were silent during the immigration legislation debate?


Nikki dijo:

GRVTR

Carmen -

The book is packed with great information for everyone involved in this ongoing struggle in our nation. I thought it also provided insightful and helpful information for people who aren't part of the struggle, but who would like to better understand under currents in our society.

Enjoy the book, I did and I learned so much about these topics. Mr. Hutchinson did a great job and covered the topics in an insightful way that I think can help people identify the problems and possible solutions. Working together would be very advantageous to many people. Its a current topic that needs to be discussed.

Nikki


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:

GRVTR

¡Gracias, y bienvenido, Señor Hutchinson! Ingles works for me. :) Good to see you.


atlasien dijo:

GRVTR

The last response was interesting.

When I was teaching ESL, a Mexican immigrant student told me her cousin had signed up for the army. He was under the impression he could choose where he was stationed (probably lied to by the recruiter). Of course they sent him to Iraq right away. A great thing that could be done locally is to produce some kind of brochure telling people exactly what they can expect when joining the military... not from an overt anti-war perspective at all, simply, "here is a list of things your recruiter might not be telling you". Military service is being sold like crazy as a shortcut to citizenship. In fact I'm afraid the next step means going right to the source and opening up recruiting offices in Guatemala City and Port-au-Prince...


atlasien dijo:

GRVTR

Oops, forgot to ask the question. What do you think about the political chances of promoting transnational unions? I recently read about some efforts in this article: Worker Solidarity Doesn’t Have to Stop at the Rio Grande.


earl ofari hutchinson dijo:

GRVTR

black leaders weren't silent!
the NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus, and the SCLC all backed immigration reform
but remember many blacks were upset that immigraiton reform groups didn't reach out aggressively to black organizations


earl ofari hutchinson dijo:

GRVTR

nezua
thanks for having me the dialogue between African-Americans and Latinos on the hot button issues is crucial for our times


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:

GRVTR

thanks for coming, my friend. estoy de acuerdo, it is.


earl ofari hutchinson dijo:

GRVTR

de acuerdo
adios


Carole dijo:

GRVTR

Re: Question Seven:

The question seems to imply that Blacks are being racist toward Latinos. In some instances, true. But we should also be clear that many Latinos do come to the United States with prejudices. Not all, of course, but many. The United Nations has spoken about racism in Ecuador for instance. (report on the internet) and I have seen many cases where a latino immigrant shows such racism towards me as a black person that the immigrant is the one who seems to be backward. One Ecuadorean actually said blacks were filthy and dirty. Sounds very "old-fashioned" to me and like it's many of the Ecuadoreans and other latinos who are acting like racist whites.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:

GRVTR

Yes, I agree Carole. You are right. It goes both ways. And also that my questions can say things at times about my own biases.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:

GRVTR

however, as i read question seven, i was refecting on what i interpreted/experienced in reading his book. i didnt mean to pose it as my self ruminating upon things and coming up with the idea that , for example, blacks fear for their jobs. i was talking to ideas EOH put forth. i probably was unclear on that, maybe there i should have cited something, or quoted.

but i still do agree, there are feelings on both sides, sometimes extreme sometimes valid. on all sides.


luisa dijo:

GRVTR

Great questions and answers.

Yeah, I agree the racism is a two way street.

I think it is interesting that many Native Americans in the USA have a completely different view on immigration than some Black Americans I run in to. I don't think I have ever met a Native American that is anti-immigrant (even though the same fight for resources agrument could apply). Even though the Native and African American oppression that built this country seems to be common knowledge in both groups regardless of their views on immigration. What do you think of this, Nez?


RC dijo:

GRVTR

The concept that Native Americans are not anti-immigrant is one I will study. Given the history of the Americas that is phenomenal. I await further knowledge related to the statement. I know nothing at present. Any suggestions for reading Luisa?


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:

GRVTR

well, i don't know much about it, luisa. to be honest i only have one native american in my life, we're good friends, and we haven't really talked much about mexican migrants. i have black friends, but we don't talk much about it either. however, if they were violently opposed to mexican migration into the USA, they don't say anything about it to me, and they read my stances. so out of this small group i have no anecdotal useful info.

but if i were to muse on your offered situation, i'd say that it is probable that collectively, there is a different consciousness among the overall black community vs. the native american on many things, due to their different self-image and history here. as you say, and as i mentioned in my questions, there is commonality. but as humans here for a limited time, we often dont focus on what we have in common. i'm sure i could guess on that difference of opinion in a few ways.

sometimes i wonder if the black community is very used to being the hated-upon/cherished. and as much as its a constant struggle for them to have their personhood recognized and respected, and as many setbacks they have and as easy as it would be to see their struggle barely moving, at least in the spotlight—even if its a spotlight of crime and abuse against your people—you feel you can make progress. and now the spotlight is wandering. i think that must be scary in and of itself.

that's the perverse sort of situation that is given a minority when it gets so much attention by the dominant white culture. you re despised and fetishized all at once. but maybe that's better than being forgotten about. native americans are, maybe, used to being "forgotten about" in the sense that they dont feel the need to compete over that slot, while african americans have been "THE" minority in this place.

in the USA, we think of things as black vs white. and so much talk of la raza bronce throws off the balance, like a third wheel. so i think maybe that is part of the resentment. "maybe white america will forget all about the black struggle with this greater amount of not-white, not-black people." my opinion on that is that none of us should rely upon the WHITEOPINION or focus on that in the first place. screw those ads, those marketing blitzes, those new sitcoms, the hate radio, the fearboxes shriekin, forget the false adoration. we buy into it at our own risk.

but i'm only guessing. and on the other hand, maybe "native americans" relate on some level to the indian ancestry of mexico. maybe not, often when i imagine solidarity i am being romantic. i'm sure it can all vary from person to person, family to family, tribe to tribe, suburb to suburb, day to day.


luisa dijo:

GRVTR

great points, nez.

"...maybe "native americans" relate on some level to the indian ancestry of mexico. maybe not, often when i imagine solidarity i am being romantic.."

I think this might have a lot to do with it. In the Xican@/immigrant activist community there is a lot of talk about colonialism and indigenous peoples--it is a stance that shares common themes in Native American activism. i.e. the whose-land-is-this-anyway? argument. Many Native Americans view the U.S. as a state that has no right to exist therefore, it is ironic for politicians to be anti-immigrant. Politicans do not argue that illegal immigration is bad for native americans (they do not talk about native americans at all!) but they argue it is bad for Black people in places like New Orleans. Also, many Native Americans--even tribal members--are biracial and they might identify with other mixed peoples (most Mexicans). (?) Being that the border is imaginary, it might help us to use the same term when discussing the original inhabitants of the Americas instread of Native Americans vs. Indigenous...

I guess I should read more about this. I have no references, RC, this is just from talks with others.

Maybe it is also because of population. The Native American pop. is very small compared to African Americans so their fight for rights is different strategically (and far less public). Or maybe it has more to do with African Americans and immigrants living in the same areas? hmmm.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:

GRVTR

good questions. good lines of thought, either way. thanks for that.

--

atlasien, i'm sorry your question was overlooked!


Bruce dijo:

GRVTR

I wonder why the picture of the book has two left hands. Is a left-handed handshake a common custom with which I am not familiar?


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:

GRVTR

that's an interesting observation, bruce. i only know the left-handed handshake as "bad luck."


RC dijo:

GRVTR

Maybe the graphic designer who did the layout mirror flipped the handshake. You have a sharp eye Bruce.


nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez Author Profile Page dijo:

GRVTR

I'm guessing the publisher wanted the black hand first (left to right we read here) reaching out. But they surmised that hving the black hand be open was a better message. Those two decisions forced the third, a left-handed shake.


luisa dijo:

GRVTR

In some countries, it is rude to shake with your left hand. This has something to do with the lack of tiolet paper in poor nations...your left hand is used to, well, just think about it.

I am guessing the left handshake on the cover is a comment about the political left and is meant to symbolize the cosmic brain control methods that Martians brought this country in 1300 B.C.-- or maybe it doesn't really mean anything.


abw dijo:

GRVTR

Some of the reasons I see black people respond the way they do on this issue are:

1.Plain old xenophobia. We picked this up from mainstream society.
2.Anti-ThirdWorldism. Some us believe the worst about people from the Global South and ourselves.
3.Competition in jobs and opportunities. This reason alone is a cause for the animosity SOME blacks have for ALL immigrants!!!!There are other domestic minority groups that have segments of their group that feel apprehension about their own people that are not native born like them
4.Selfishness. Like other people, some of us are out for our own interests, everybody else be damned!
5.In the past, the same way some blacks had prejudice towards immigrants-it went the other way.
6.The racism of some immigrants.
7.This country has not dealt with black or domestic issues fully; and some blacks feel that folks use the very real issues of immigrants as a way to totally downplay the real grievances of blacks and other minorities here. That the focus on immigration is another ruse to ignore African Americans concerns. I do feel that the perspective of Latinos, Native Americans, and Asians should be heard more at some point MYSELF-shoulda been heard EARLIER but the idea that somebody would do this is not that offbase to me. As far as I'm concerned the folks the least at fault in this incident are Latino citizens-whether documented or not!
8 There are no doubt other reason that I am unable to thing on!