I was contacted by a representative of Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a social critic and activist, about mentioning his latest book, The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation Between African Americans and Hispanics. It is a quick read, but it provides a historical context for some of the obstacles that exist in trying to unify black and brown communities in the struggle for empowerment. There has been some cooperation over the years within both groups, as is evidenced by the Mendez desegregation case (the case that laid the foundation for the Brown decision), communication between MLK and Cesar Chavez, and in the fight to save affirmative action. However, within both communities, one could infer that the average African-American does not know much about the Latino struggle for civil rights in the US and vice versa. Earl Ofari Hutchinson explains that both groups need to understand something about the other’s struggle in order to build a collective conscious and an effective coalition. I asked him a few questions that came to mind as I read the book, and his answers are posted below:
In regards to chapter 5, Reluctant allies in the classroom, I noticed that you don’t touch on higher education. I think that in the higher education realm blacks have achieved more than Latinos have and do an even better job of nurturing their own leadership in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Latinos don’t have their own institutions of higher learning, except for National Hispanic University and Boricua College. We do have Hispanic Serving Institutions, which is a designation based on the percentage of Latino enrollment, but many of these colleges have only recently become “HSIs”. In the past few years, more Latinos have been enrolling in the HCBUs, as it referenced in this article:
What role if any do you perceive the black colleges having in exploring our issues, leadership strategies and skills to build more successful coalitions that can transcend from the academy into “the real world?”
I’m not optimistic at least in the short run that Black Colleges will do much in the area of black and Latino relations, not to mention examining leadership and strategies for coalition building.
1. Their focus is almost exclusively on funding, attracting more black and white students, and maintaining a standard teaching curriculum.
2. They are not innovative, cutting edge centers of social and political issues analysis and exploration.
3. Black and Latino relations are still too new, evolving, and controversial.
In terms of coalition building, I think that the Latino leadership can learn from the blacks again. The NAACP is already fighting for the rights of Hispanic citizens in West Virginia regarding racial profiling as local law enforcement teams up with ICE. http://www.fredericknewspost
No,and a handful of other places are still the rare exception. In time, that may change. But these organizations are still for the most part rooted in the old civil rights (black and white) advocacy and activist mode. How fast that changes, will also depend on the willingness of Latino leaders and organizations to reach out to the traditional civil rights groups on issues from failing public schools to voter empowerment. I haven’t seen that happen to any appreciable extent.