Black-Latino Tensions in Perspective


Ta-Nehisi Coates has a great item up about the need to bring some perspective to the question of whether or not the country is afflicted by a substantial level of animosity between Latinos and African-Americans. He’s responding to Tim Pagett’s idea that Sonia Sotomayor’s appointment “is perhaps the most potent symbol yet of a 21st century rapprochement between the U.S.’s two largest minorities, Latino Americans and African Americans, who in the 20th century could be as violently distrustful of each other as blacks and whites were.”

I have not known Latinos in the 20th Century to perpetrate a Red Summer. I have not known blacks to lynch Latino veterans, returning from war, in their uniforms. The fact is that there was no violent distrust between blacks and whites in the 20th century. Rather there was a one-sided war waged against black people by white terrorists, which government, in the best cases, failed to prevent, in many cases, stood idly by, and in the worst cases actually aided and abetted. [. . .] Leaving aside the differences between how blacks relate to Puerto-Ricans in the Bronx, versus how they relate to Cuban-Americans in Florida, it is borderline delusional to pretend that some beef between some folks in L.A is the equivalent of Martin Luther King. Or even Rodney King. It isn’t. And the fact that we can’t tell the difference is still haunting us.

That’s exactly right. And while the worst of white violence against blacks is in the past, there continues to be a very tangible legacy of this kind of thing. Jefferson Davis was the political leader of an organized insurrection against the United States government, whose aim was to perpetuate the enslavement of black people. And there’s a highway named after him just a few miles from where I type. When I drove back to DC from North Carolina on Tuesday, I passed the Stonewall Jackson Shrine, which is an official National Parks Service site. Black-white racial conflict has always been the racial conflict in the United States and to a pretty shocking extent white America continues to decline to live up to what it’s been all about.