The issue of race in the United States simmers below the surface of almost everything. With many racial injustices taking place in the country on a daily basis, every now and then, something can trigger the pent up frustration, hurt, anger and mistrust, making it all boil over.
The latest tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, when white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager —with at least six shots, two in the head— ignited country-wide anger to continued police use of excessive force and has the country re-examining its racial undercurrents.
However, the issues at stake in Ferguson, do not only affect black communities. Latinos in the United States, comprising at least 17.1 percent of the documented population are also affected by majority-white police forces, racial profiling, unfair arrests and other daily discriminations.
However, there are some indications that the U.S. Latino community is not recognizing the links between the outrage in Missouri and their own situation. One PEW survey found that just 18 percent of Hispanics are following the events in Missouri “very closely,” well below the 25 percent of white people.
But perhaps in the case of Ferguson, actions speak louder than polls. Three of the country's most influential Latino organizations, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Hispanic Federation and umbrella group National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), all announced their concern over police action in Ferguson.
Marisa Franco of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLO) told Buzzfeed that “it’s high time [Latinos] join forces with communities that have been fighting police brutality and mass incarceration for far longer,” indicating that solidarity between Black and Latino communities is necessary to share experiences of injustices.
Revolutionary black and latino activists in United States have historically shown they understand in a more concrete way the bond between the minority communities, and this tradition continues to this day. Chilean-American hip hop group Rebel Diaz have been down to Ferguson and now organizing a “freedom ride” of 6 buses from New York to Ferguson. The ride hopes to raise awareness of ongoing racism and discrimination, taking its name from the famous “Freedom Rides” during the civil rights movement in the 1960s in which Black and White activists sat together on segregated buses.
Get on The Bus! Support the NYC to Ferguson Freedom Ride Fundraiser! Next Weds Weds. Aug 27th at BB Kings. 9pm show.. pic.twitter.com/Lh2UotQByQ— Rebel Diaz (@RebelDiaz) August 21, 2014
One of the members of Rebel Diaz, G1, explained to teleSUR that Latinos in his community are "highly concerned about the situation in Ferguson.” He said there are many discriminatory policies that affect both Black and Latino communities, citing the examples of “immigrant detention centers, stop and frisk, and broken windows policing.”
Stop and Frisk is a New York policing policy that has come under fire in recent years for its undeniably racist application; of all those stopped and searched, just 9 percent are White, with Black and Latinos making up the majority of the suspects.
Other policies discriminate against the two largest racial groups in the States, too. An American Civil Liberties Union press release reveals “paramilitary SWAT raids are disproportionately used against black and Latino citizens rather than white citizens when serving warrants in search of drugs, even though Blacks, Latinos, and Whites use drugs at roughly the same rates.”
LULAC see the police brutality in Ferguson as an opportunity for change. In a press release, the organization urged “Congress to review its 1033 program, which enables local law enforcement to acquire military-grade weapons and equipment from the U.S. Department of Defense and to prioritize the preservation and conservation of American civil liberties. The request for congressional review comes in light of inflammatory details surrounding Michael Brown’s death which have reignited protests in Ferguson, Missouri.”
It is these types of local or federal policies that prompt a distrust of authorities and the simmering tensions that lead to mass social unrest. “Latinos in my hood are acutely aware we are under attack by the U.S. police state and a racialized system of mass incarceration,” G1 observes, “the same repressive apparatuses rearing their ugly head in Ferguson."
According to Author Aura Bogado, one issue that may be impacting Latino perspectives on this struggle is latino racism towards black people. “Latinos have a long way to go in confronting anti-black biasas [sic],” wcalling on people to acknowledge this problem.
In one manifesto on how to overcome this problem and provide support for the Black community, Marisa Franco of the NDLO calls for “a genuine compañerismo,” and that Latinos must recognize the “criminalization of the black community,” which “shackles millions from pursuing a life with dignity.”
Among the concrete ways that she outlines that solidarity can be shown, the foundation of actions need to be based on a simple principle:
Usually, a lid is put on stories about race, taking the heat out of the anger and public unrest is contained. In Ferguson, Missouri, the lid will not stay put. If Latinos join the fight, public discourse can turn away from the simple narrative of Black and White, and people can start dealing with the underlying issues of racism, and perhaps even white supremacy, in the United States.
“Recognize that black lives matter.”