Monday, January 21, 2008

Latinos and Blacks…This is the Time to Talk

I despise myself deeply when I catch myself rejoicing in the worst possible circumstances that end up favoring my candidate. I'm a black Cuban. I know firsthand the racism that plagues the Latino community at large and the Cuban community in particular – of course, among the Cuban Americans' fairy tales is the one that says: racism is a Castro's invention – so I was anything but surprised by the Latinos running in droves towards Hillary Clinton in Nevada. But I was happy…because I'm a Clinton supporter. However, as I said to my 11 y.o. daughter who is a strong Obama fan, if Obama is the nominee you'll hear me say there has been no one better since the French Revolution.

But I don't want Hillary or anyone to win for the wrong reasons. In particular, for racist reasons which are, at the end of the day, the main cause of the mess and the inequality that permeates not only the American society, but also the Latin American societies. I'm a racial activist, and I guess I'm as conflicting as many in the Democratic Party wondering why on earth did we get this much choice this time. Of course, it pains me to go against a very viable Black candidate; it will also break my heart to crush a very first viable woman who has been against the male dominated world for a very long stretch.

I swear I feel like a kid. I would like to hear Obama say he feels bad to take votes from a woman like Clinton; and I would love to hear Hillary say her heart is broken for being in the way of something she has fought for all her life: the possibility of a Black president. Of course, we know just a Black or a woman president won't cut it. We have seen Blacks and women in very high offices and their work has done more to the detriment of Blacks, women and human rights than to favor them. Then, I settle for a shared ticket, which becomes increasingly more difficult with the bitterness that's increasing.

I wanted Hillary to win in Nevada – and in every primary – but I literally cried, and not of joy, when I realized everyone has realized what I knew going in: it's the stupid division and the hidden and not so hidden racism of my community that gave her a win. The irony of this is that the only choice Hispanics and Blacks have to actually exert any power in this country is to unite. There is nothing better than to keep us apart and divided.

While Latinos will be wise to remember that those rights we now enjoy are the fruit of the many strange fruits that hung in the fields of the South; Blacks will be wise to realize that there is no reason they should be fighting for the lowing paying jobs Latinos – and immigrants in general – do. In any country, foreigners perform the lower paying jobs because they don't know the language, they lack the connections or the legal paperwork, and/or they need to move up the ladder. But Black Americans are in their country. Actually, in the country they built but did not inherit. English is Black Americans' language. Black Americans shouldn't be elbowing immigrants for minimum wage jobs.

It's quite a sight to see the staunch Republicans, and even the racist, all of the sudden concerned with the plight of Black America: "immigrants take their jobs," "immigrants take resources from their schools," "immigrants take their place in society." Oh, yeah. I guess they just discovered the ghettos and the inner cities and the rural communities in which, just to mention one statistics, the infant mortality rate for Blacks is up to four times that of whites. But all of the sudden, immigrants are the problem.

This political campaign in which we Democrats initially thought we had an embarrassment of riches has become extremely sad for all of us. We are all fearful of tearing down the bridges between the white and Black communities that cost so much blood to build. But as the poet Octavio Paz said, bridges, precisely for being such, don't eliminate the distance between places…or communities.

I will not rejoice again – even in the shower – when my candidate edge ahead for any of the wrong reasons…Or will keep despising myself for it. But I'd like to call on all of us to renounce any use of race even in strategic ways…There is no way back from this. If the Clinton's campaign uses race in a detrimental way, we – the country – will be doomed even if she wins in November. Let alone if she doesn't.

Latinos and Blacks will be wise to reconcile their differences and talk frankly. There is a long road ahead. Dear Martin, we could use some good dreams right about now.

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