In a fascinating article at City Journal
, Steven Malanga explains why
the much-anticipated, much hyped political alliance between American blacks and Latino immigrants has not only failed to materialize, but has in fact resulted in exactly the opposite outcome.
Many blacks are also uncomfortable with the more prosaic cultural changes that accompany rapid immigration. Akbar Shabazz, a telecommunications consultant, moved out of Gwinnett County, a middle-class Atlanta suburb with a large African-American population, after a huge influx of foreign-born Spanish speakers suddenly created a bilingual culture in the public schools, as well as such overcrowding that some schools had to hold classes in trailers. Since 1990, Gwinnett’s foreign-born population has increased tenfold, to about 185,000—now making up about 25 percent of the total population. “There were so many students speaking Spanish in my daughter’s kindergarten class that she felt isolated,” says Shabazz, who has joined a group of blacks supporting immigration restrictions.
Some observers, aware of the historical irony, have even begun talking about “black flight” from Latino migration. In Los Angeles, for instance, the black population has declined by some 123,000 in the last 15 years, while the Hispanic population has increased by more than 450,000. “Black communities are being transformed, and it isn’t going down so well,” says Joe Hicks.
Blacks may also be starting to realize that many Latinos hold intensely negative stereotypes about them. In a 2006 study that ten academic researchers conducted of various racial groups’ attitudes in Durham, North Carolina, 59 percent of Latino immigrants said that few or no blacks were hardworking, and 57 percent said that few or no blacks could be trusted. By contrast, only 9 percent of whites said that blacks weren’t hardworking, and only 10 percent said that they couldn’t be trusted. Interestingly, the survey found that blacks were broadly well-disposed toward Hispanics, though how long that will be true remains to be seen.
The rising tensions between African-Americans and Hispanics render the old hopes of a black-brown coalition chimerical. “In studies,” says Frank Morris, former dean of graduate studies at Morgan State University, “immigrants actually tend to say they think of themselves more like whites in America than like blacks, which is one reason why a black-brown political coalition has never existed anywhere except in the minds of black political leaders.” Morris, the former head of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, says that elected black leaders have sought to join forces with Hispanics not out of true common concerns but out of fear that demographic changes will leave them vulnerable to challenges from Latino pols. A research paper published by Morris and University of Maryland professor James Gimpel estimates that Hispanic candidates could win as many as six seats that blacks currently hold in the U.S. House of Representatives. Latino politicians understand that their own gains will come largely at the expense of black candidates. When black California congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald died suddenly last year, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus targeted her seat, realizing that her district was 57 percent Latino. The effort, which angered members of the Congressional Black Caucus, failed. But Hispanic congressman Joe Baca justified it: “It’s time we have one of our own that speaks on our behalf,” he said.
Nicolás Vaca, the writer, dismisses the notion that African-Americans and Latinos are natural allies. “A divide exists between Blacks and Latinos that no amount of camouflage can hide,” he writes in his book The Presumed Alliance. Vaca says that the split has been evident for years, though largely ignored by the media and political leaders. He contends, for instance, that the 1992 Los Angeles riots, sparked by the LAPD’s beating of Rodney King, became on the ground a black-brown confrontation in which the majority of businesses destroyed were Latino. At the same time, Vaca argues, Latinos believe that, since they had nothing to do with black oppression in America, they owe blacks nothing and “come to the table with a clear conscience.”
Unfortunately, for many blacks living in major metropolitan areas like LA, some Latinos harbor more than simply "negative" opinions. In Los Angeles, where the Latino population has exploded due to illegal immigration, Latino gangs are now engaged in a gleeful ethnic cleansing of black neighborhoods.
The Latino influx into formerly black-majority urban neighborhoods has sparked deadlier kinds of conflict. While most violent crime in these areas is still black-on-black or Latino-on-Latino, interethnic violence is mounting, and in some locales, much of it—perhaps surprisingly, given high overall black crime rates—is Hispanic-on-black. In the heavily mixed-race community of Harbor Gateway in Los Angeles, for example, Latinos now commit five times more violent crimes against blacks than vice versa. Countywide numbers are just as startling. Though blacks make up just 9 percent of L.A. County’s population, they were the victims of 59 percent of all racially motivated attacks in 2006, while Latinos committed 52 percent of all racially motivated attacks.
Gangbanging is responsible for much of the carnage. Greater Los Angeles is now home to some 500 Mexican gangs—compared with some 200 black ones—and they’ve aggressively tried to push blacks out of mixed-race neighborhoods. More than just turf wars, the Latinos’ violence has included attacks against law-abiding African-Americans with no gang involvement; a horrifying example was the December 2006 murder of 14-year-old Cheryl Green by Mexican gang members in Harbor Gateway, a brutal crime designed to terrorize local blacks. Three years earlier, the same gang had killed a black man because he dared to patronize a local store that they considered “For Hispanics Only.” Meantime, federal authorities have indicted members of another Los Angeles–based Latino gang, Florencia 13, for random shootings of blacks in South L.A. The indictment chillingly accuses a gang leader of giving members instructions on how to find blacks to shoot.
Don't expect too much coverage of this in the major newspapers, however. They still hold fast to the conventional leftist wisdom that all non-whites are brothers in oppression by the white man and are bound inextricably together in a struggle for justice against white societies, patriarchy and capitalism. The intellectuals who fostered these ideas, of course, rarely leave the lilly-white gated communities and cloistered college campuses where they live - safe from the carnage their ideas have wrought.
Malanga notes that the black political establishment, though very slow to recognize what was actually happening in the black community (as compared to what their own rhetoric would have led observers to think), is now trying to move away from the old "party line."
Black politicians, noticing the growing anger within their communities, have started to shun the immigration debate. Major civil rights organizations didn’t participate in the Latino marches and protests in favor of amnesty last spring. At the Congressional Black Caucus’s annual legislative conference last September, no sessions tackled immigration, despite the issue’s national prominence. And when Sheila Jackson-Lee proposed her liberal immigration-reform bill in 2006, only nine of the CBC’s 43 members cosponsored it.
Black politicians would influence the direction of future immigration debates merely by sitting them out. Back in 1994, when initial polls showed that 65 percent of California blacks backed Proposition 187, African-American politicians and civil rights leaders began an intense campaign to change their minds, ultimately cutting black support for the proposition by 15 to 20 percentage points. But in the current environment, with discontent growing among many black voters, it’s unlikely that many African-American politicians would be as willing to undertake a similar campaign. As Earl Ofari Hutchinson recently acknowledged, “Black leaders are looking over their shoulders.”
Blacks could play a far more decisive role, though, if their political leaders felt threatened enough to pursue tougher immigration policies actively. Such a move wouldn’t be unprecedented. In the late 1980s, blacks reacted bitterly when Congress proposed an amnesty for illegals. The pressure that they put on black representatives prompted the Congressional Black Caucus to ensure that the immigration bill that eventually passed included tough sanctions against employers who knowingly hired undocumented workers, though court challenges eventually watered them down. Today, black America appears to be in the throes of a more profound shift in attitudes—one that could make the African-American voter a crucial part of the immigration debate.
Unfortunately, in many areas (like L.A. and most of the southwest) it is far too late for black politicians to have much of an impact. The number of Latinos (legal and not) in those areas so dwarf the dwindling black populations that black political clout is increasingly a fading memory. Black politicians might still carry enough weight to influence the immigration debate nationally - especially in Washington D.C. - but even there, with Latino numbers on the rise, their influence in waning.
Has there ever been a liberal/left idea that hasn't crashed down on the heads of American blacks like a cartoon anvil? Will their "leaders" ever learn?