November 10, 2006


Who’s Side Are You On?

Building a Black / Brown Coalition

By Lizette Escobedo

Blacks and Latinos...better yet lets say Blacks and Mexicans... speaking in terms of LA and its surrounding counties.

Are undocumented immigrants really draining the job pool for African Americans? What job pool? Picking strawberries and tomatoes for less than a liveable wage and less than humane conditions? Should we even dare to call this a pool?

Aren’t Mexicans and Blacks fighting for CEO positions, draining the pool of engineering job possibilities, draining the pool of jobs within the medical industry?

The mainstream media and our political system has been succesful in portraying and highlighting tensions amongst Latinos and Blacks. A few Black minorities yell: They’re taking our jobs!

A small Latino (ignorant minority) yells back: They’re lazy and don’t want to work!

Is this really representative of Black and Latino confrontations? No!

Unfortunately, this ignorant minority have become the face of a larger population of Black and Latino majority who don’t feel this way and have formed united fronts across racial lines, with its central goals.... Human Rights - Civil Rights - Workers Rights.

The media has decided to play a childish game of he-said-she-said. Has our history shown us nothing about colonial tactics? Divide and conquer.

Our government is known to act out of fear - what fear? Unity. What would happen if the Blacks and Latinos embraced this idea of coalition building all under a common goal for social justice? Just imagine a million man march plus the 20 million undocumented immigrants plus their bicultural offspring (me, being one)- this can be seen as a high threat.

Hmmm, what would we call it this time? “Terrorism” or “inner city riot”?

But folks, don’t be fooled, we Latinos and Blacks are not at each others throats fighting over who is going to clean those restrooms or pick those strawberry for $6 an hour. We are uniting; we are forming coalitions; we are fighting for common goals; we are embracing our differences and understanding our similarities and understanding our common struggles.

One example is in May of this year, during the great Latino boycott, media from everywhere and anywhere showed up: print, television, and radio media was all there. However, after running a couple of searches I could not find one article that would talk about the presence of the Nation of Islam during that march and the fact that they voiced their support for the march and our efforts for just immigration reform and the recognition of the important role that undocumented workers play on our nations economy. Why is there no sign of the Nation of Islam’s presence? Because, it is not in the convenience of our government to present us on a united front. What would come next a People of Color March bolstering the lack of resources? This is too much of a threat.

Thus, if you agree with what I am saying, you are understanding the efforts of our unjust-unequal-and unbalanced system in its efforts to get us to fight each other in essence to divide us then conquer us through subjugation as we accept our positions as lower-income-disadvantaged minorities. However, if you dissent, it might be that you have decided to embrace the role they have prepared for you. you have decided to fight against those in the margins with you, in attempts to legitimize your story of colonialism and oppression while belittling other group’s stories.

The question here, it’s not who is more oppressed - there is no oppression contest here - or even who is more “American” - the question here is why are we not challenging the system and the forces that make us want to compete for these low income jobs. We should not be questioning “Why there are so many undocumented workers taking low income long hour jobs that Blacks might want” - we should be asking ourselves, why are there almost no Latinos and Blacks in our collegiate institutions? Here lies the common struggle!

There are still those who believe we should fight alone and that we are in a competition not a struggle- and to those I ask: Who’s side are you on?

Lizette Escobedo, 22 year old, BA: Communications & Ethnic Studies from UCSD. Offspring of immigrants from Mexico. Worked with both the L.A. and San Diego communities. Areas of focus: immigration policy, bilingual education, civil-human-worker rights.

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