Black-Latino Relations in Transistion

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Commentator Todd Boyd reflects on two recent events that could mark the beginning of a major transition in the relationship between African Americans and Latinos. Boyd is a media commentator, author and professor of critical studies in the USC School of Cinema-Television.

ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS & NOTES.

As you just heard on our roundtable, Mexico's president, Vicente Fox, responded publicly for the first time to allegations of racism based on comments he made about Mexicans and African-Americans. Fox made his comments just days before voters in Los Angeles elected the city's first Latino mayor in over 100 years. Commentator Todd Boyd believes these two events could mark the beginning of a major transition in the relationship between African-Americans and Latinos.


What was striking about Villaraigosa's victory was his ability to pick up the votes of many African-Americans who had voted overwhelmingly for his opponent, departing Mayor Jim Hahn, in the 2001 election. I'm still trying to figure out what it was about Vicente Fox's comments that offended people.

As a native of one of this nation's blackest cities, Detroit, and now a longtime resident of the City of Angels, where Latinos make up the majority, I've seen firsthand the evidence of Fox's truth. It makes perfect sense to me that after all the years of struggle African-Americans have experienced in this country someone decided that they're tired of doing all the dirty work. It also makes sense that Latino immigrants would rush to fill this void.

America has a long tradition of trading up. As people assimilate into the mainstream, they're less likely to desire work that still defines them as being at the bottom. Immigrants gladly fill in the blanks as this allows them a chance to eventually move into the mainstream themselves. Fox kept it real. Maybe his words bespeak a truth that some people don't want to acknowledge, but it is no less truthful.

In Los Angeles, many older African-Americans expressed both publicly and privately that they were concerned about voting for Villaraigosa because they felt that he would only engender policies favorable to Latinos. When are we going to wake up? It seems that some African-Americans have become quite comfortable in their status as America's ultimate victims. It's as though no one can ever be at the bottom because this is our spot. Thoughts like this are depressing to say the least. And this competition for the bottom is one that I want no part of. There is no pride in being able to say that I am worse off than you. Instead of fighting for the lowest rung of the ladder, maybe people should use these recent events as an opportunity for identity adjustment and coalition building across race.

One of the dangers of unconscious assimilation is to employ some of the same thoughts that were once used against you towards others. This is simply the same old soup reheated and I, for one, don't like the taste of leftovers.

GORDON: Todd Boyd is also known as the Notorious PhD. He's a media commentator, author and professor of critical studies in the USC School of Cinema and Television.

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