Latino and black Americans are allies in the fight for racial justice

Latino and black Americans are allies in the fight for racial justice

We see the image on our screens and our hearts ache. A murder fueled by racism and brutality captured on video. A family and a community are plunged into grief by this sudden death. Then the slow and tepid response by local authorities and a doubling down of injustice led to chaos in our nation’s streets. As an organization, we have long believed in nonviolent protesting and today we stand in solidarity with those who are expressing their outrage and righteously calling for justice for black Americans.  

I joined thousands of peaceful people who marched in Washington this past Saturday demanding accountability and change. And I have joined in previous demonstrations over the last several weeks because George Floyd’s murder serves as yet another painful reminder of the deeply entrenched racism in our nation’s institutions, from the highest levels of government to local law enforcement.

The Latino community in this country — more than 59 million strong — has also felt the blows of this prejudice and inequality. This is especially true for those identifying as Afro-Latino, who make up nearly one in four Latinos, who suffer injustices both due to the color of their skin and to anti-immigrant bigotry that serves as a proxy to deny the opportunity to all Latinos.  

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In 2017, we changed our name to UnidosUS as a reflection of the racial diversity of our community. This was a continuation of the work of our founders, who — guided in 1968 by the example of the black civil rights movement — formed the National Council of La Raza. African-Americans and Latinos have long been allies and partners in the fight for equality for all Americans, as we advocate for policies that address long-standing inequities and create opportunities in education, health, and economic empowerment.  

To our African American brothers and sisters, we have a saying: Tu lucha es mi lucha — your fight is my fight. We are in this fight together. We are allies in the struggle for fundamental social and economic justice in this country. 

Our solidarity with black Americans is rooted in the shared structural inequities that impact both of our communities. 

A 2017 study found that 78 percent of Latinos believe they face discrimination in this country. Another survey found that 68 percent of Latinos fear police will use excessive force against them. According to the Washington Post, Hispanics are more likely to be fatally shot while unarmed by police, second only to black Americans. And the same unchecked police power suffered by black Americans is used to separate our families, put children in cages, and racially profile us. This broken system has led too many Latinos to fear law enforcement, which has had deadly consequences.  

This has made the need for drastic and systemic law enforcement reform and accountability all the more urgent. The time to act is now, and as part of our commitment to racial and social justice we are supporting the Justice in Policing Act to provide measures of accountability and reform in our nation’s police force; asking that federal, state, and local governments issue states of emergency declaring racism a public health crisis; and endorsing greater restructured funding for community support policies and services that address mental health, addiction, and domestic violence issues that impact public health and safety.

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But policies are just one aspect of what is needed. While this is a longer journey, we must use our voice and vote to create change. The hard and necessary work to undo centuries of discrimination, deep racism, and the culture of white supremacy requires reconciliation, unity, leadership, and action by all Americans, and we must begin by addressing the original sin of slavery. Only then can we make our vision of equal opportunity for all a reality. Building a more inclusive, safe and just nation starts with racial justice for black Americans.

We cannot be silent, and we cannot stand aside. Latinos don’t just empathize with the black community; we identify with them. While our histories are different, we share many of the same injustices and the same dreams for the future. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote to Cesar Chavez in 1966, “Our separate struggles are really one — a struggle for freedom, for dignity, and for humanity.” And today, we stand with black communities and leaders, just as we always have.

Janet Murguía is president and CEO of UnidosUS, formerly the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization.