A thoughtful political/historical essay on the profound gulf that yawns between America’s most populous minority groups.
The US is browning, writes attorney and publisher Vaca, but not in a single shade. Although African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans share overlapping, sometimes even identical, political interests as long-oppressed minorities, and although many efforts have been made to forge rainbow-coalition alliances among them, he argues, “the reality is that there exists a divide between Blacks and Latinos that no amount of camouflage can hide.” This divide has been widening recently, Vaca observes. Charlotte, North Carolina, for instance, saw a 785 percent increase in its Hispanic population from 1990 to 2000; the influx caused local African-Americans to voice fears about their new neighbors, with one remarking to a newspaper reporter, “[Latinos] travel in packs. . . . They could be plotting to kill you and you would never know.” Such sentiments, Vaca writes, put the lie to the longstanding assumption that blacks and Hispanics are natural allies, both having been marginalized and victimized over much of the last two centuries. Such an alliance is ever more rhetorical, where it exists at all, especially now that Hispanics have surpassed blacks as the nation’s largest minority group and have acquired significant political power on their own. In this regard, Vaca cites several cases where Latino voters have broken from the largely Democratic minority bloc to pursue their own interests in places like LA, which has seen a pitched struggle between African-American and Latino leaders over control of local government boards, and Houston, where a popular black mayor nearly lost office when Hispanic voters deserted him for one of their own.
Can an alliance be forged? Vaca doesn’t rule out the possibility. Demographers, activists, and political forecasters will want to consult his analysis.