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Power to La Raza

The earliest instance of Black and Brown unity that I can recall learning about is Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr. existing in the same lifetime and working towards their respective civil rights movements. Even Black Panther leader Fred Hampton’s Rainbow Coalition strived to bring together people of all colors in acts of resistance to dismantle white supremacy and capitalism.

Because of white supremacy of course, racial relations between Black people and Latinx people in the United States has had a rocky course of action.

Latinx people in the early 1950s and 1960s where exploited as cheap labor and often used as pawns in “employment wars”. In a conversation with my dad, he said that it was not uncommon for white employers to threaten Black employees that they would be fired and replaced with an “illegal who’d work for cheaper.” When this started to happen, of course, it build resentment between the two groups of people.

So, I didn’t truly understand the implications of anti-Blackness from the Brown community until 2012.

George Zimmerman, right, shot Trayvon Martin to death during a confrontation in a Florida gated community in 2012.
Credit:Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press

Insert long fucking sigh. I really hate George Zimmerman.

But, if there’s any perfect place to initiate the discussion of modern anti-Blackness among the Latinx community, this would be the start. Although the Brown community shares a history of “colonial violence, slavery, genocide and exploitation of natural resources” with Black people, many harbor anti-Black sentiments as they strive to assimilate to the white dominant culture. Fuck boy Zimmerman is the prime example of this. His maternal family is Peruvian, his grandmother is even Afro-Peruvian. But his engrained anti-Blackness and racist thoughts led him to murder a seventeen year old boy.

In the years after this, seeing Cuban people rally in support of Trump was astounding to me as well. Fucking Florida.

Growing up in Dallas though, I never personally experienced any qualms with my Brown peers. Most of the schools I attended were equally mixed with Black and Latinx students and I found myself befriending people from both sides. I mean, my first unofficial boyfriends in elementary school and middle school were Mexican boys named Jonathan and Armando, respectively. I even took ballet forklorico classes when they were offered and it was not uncommon for my Mexican friends to participate in Black History Month celebrations. My neighbors were Mexican and our families often got together to grill carne asada, drink beer, and smoke weed together.

Of course there was the bullying I went through, but I never correlate childhood bullying to outright prejudice or racism unless it was just that. The Black versus Mexican fights that ensued in the last days of school of 8th grade. And unless I was just severely oblivious, I can’t recall really experiencing anti-Blackness from Latinx and Mexican identifying people until I reached my adult years.

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