News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Black-Hispanic conflict? Depends on who you ask.

The much ballyhooed “race war” between Blacks and Latinos is turning out to be yet another case of media hype.

Many in the national media raised the alarm of a brewing “race war” between Blacks and Hispanics following a series of gang-related killings earlier this year in the Los Angeles area. Fueling the idea of discord between the nation’s two largest minority groups was the two-to-one preference among Hispanic voters for Hillary Clinton over Barrack Obama at the time. Even as the pundits issued their grave warnings (which no doubt helped sell newspapers and raise ratings), they seemed oblivious to truths many Latinos and Blacks understood.

First of all, you can’t have a “race war” when the opposing sides can be members of the same race. Fact is, throughout Latin America there are roughly 100 million Afro-Latinos. That compares to about 40 million African-Americans in the United States, by the way. In other words, the overwhelming majority of Black people in this hemisphere speak Spanish or Portuguese rather than English. And let’s not forget that Latinos can also be Caucasian, further complicating the media’s overly simplistic “black-brown” stereotypes. These facts, however, did not stop many news editors from fostering the illusion of a “racial conflict.”

Perhaps most telling, the depth of this alleged conflict was believed to be most severe by the people farthest removed from it: Non-Hispanic Whites. That’s right. A recent Gallup poll showed that roughly 50% of Anglos across the U.S. believed relations between Blacks and Hispanics are “bad.” Meanwhile, 60% of Blacks reported their relations with Hispanics as being “good.” Among Hispanics, 67% felt relations with Blacks were “good.” Clearly, the media’s doom and gloom scenarios have created a falsely negative perception among Non-Hispanic Whites, most of who unquestioningly accept the “black-brown” media stereotypes foisted upon them.

Further evidence dispelling the hyped-up Black-Hispanic conflict comes from a recent political poll. With Hillary Clinton out of the race for the Democratic nomination, Hispanic voters have switched their allegiance from Clinton to Obama. Hispanics now favor Obama over McCain by the same two-to-one margin they once gave Clinton. Faced with a choice between a Democrat and a Republican, the alleged Hispanic bias against Blacks simply evaporated.

Even as we watch the false perception of a Black-Hispanic conflict crumble, it’s important to remember the many other myths the media still perpetuates about Latinos. A prime example is the absurd and dangerous assumption that all Hispanics across the nation vote as a single bloc. But that’s a discussion for another day. The question to ask ourselves today is this: Who really stands to gain from a Black-Hispanic conflict?

Raul Ramos y Sanchez


Carlos A. Quiroz said...

I like your article but I have to protest the use of the word Hispanic.

Hispanic is not a race, but an imposed Euro-centric term, which doesn't reflect on the multiracial groups that make up the Latino communities.

Many Latinos are also Black for instance, like you mentioned. Some say there are about 160 million Blacks from Mexico to Chile

Black and Brown people, we have coexisted for centuries in this continent, we have a common history and cultures. We have common struggles as well, poverty is one of them.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez said...

Carlos, I agree Hispanic is not a race but a confusing and contradictory label used only within the borders of the United States.