Black Folks' Collective Silence on José Crow Discrimination

The massive kerfuffle that is Arizona’s recent immigration law is making me think a lot about stand-up comedian Rene Hicks’ joke that Mexicans are just black people with straight hair. They share much of our culture and take much of the pressure off black people when it comes to white power hatred. While there may have been many who are decrying the loss of black leadership outside of the president lately and our massive upheaval in this new social order, there are many who are breathing a sigh of relief that legislation so absolutely discriminatory isn’t blowing our direction.

I’m just not noticing the utter outrage that one should expect from the discrimination of an entire people that’s sure to spread throughout other border states. At least not outside of Charles Barkley before this last Spurs/Suns game, and since when was Barkley a voice of reason for anyone? Why isn’t there some sense of solidarity between blacks and Latinos in America right now? Why have we not heard from our Negro talking heads an echo of Martin Luther King’s famous words that an injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere?

Last week, Seth Meyers compared Arizona’s new immigration law to Nazi Germany on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update. Jon Stewart compared the law to the same practices freed slaves had to endure in America in the 1800s the following Monday on The Daily Show. Surely there have been many in the black community who noted these same injustices almost immediately, yet most of us remain oddly silent on the matter.

It would seem that many blacks are pleased as Delaware Punch to not have such negative attention pointed at us for once. In an era of tea partiers heaping vitriol at ACORN, purporting the new healthcare law as reparations, and making the outlandish claim that the president is a socialist, communist, Nazi who trounces on the Constitution, it seems blacks are just happy that the latest racial flare up isn’t pointed in our direction.

There seems to be a longstanding rift between blacks and Latinos, something I’ve yet to truly comprehend when we should look to one another as brethren. When there are factions in this country shouting at the top of their lungs that they want their country back, they do not merely see blacks as the sole usurpers of their liberty. Those tea partiers and lovers of the Heartland are lost because they see their inherent national privilege is whisked away to a categorical racial other. Surely those of white privilege are making little distinction between blacks and Latino when it comes to their desperate grasping for control, so why do we continue to draw a line between these communities?

In the face of injustice, we should not stay silent as Jim Crow takes a new form into José Crow. In the face of injustice, we should not merely let inequality stand because one who looks like us currently inhabits the White House. In the face of injustice, we should not stand on the sidelines as others fight for their own rights. Just as the black civil rights movement didn’t port over to the feminist civil rights movement, we should not let an opportunity like this pass us by to right our past wrongs.

Many of the problems of the Latino community in America overlap with the problems in the black community. If we as a people, or even if some in our black leadership, press, and everyday citizens, were to stand up against such atrocious legislation, perhaps this could be the starting point for both our communities to move forward together.

This may very well be the time not for us to “take our country back” but for us to unite into a stronger America in which everyone is free to the same rights. What we now encounter is a moment when this country is trying itself by fire. Our rights (especially in this case, our Fourth Amendment rights) and the fabric of America are being put to the test. Let’s try to step up to the challenge of fulfilling this nation’s potential together.


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