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Chicago Sun-Times

Latino-Black Alliance Is Greatly Exaggerated

Jackson Stood Up For Vieques, But He Has Ignored Other Important Issues

by Juan Andrade

July 15, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Chicago Sun-Times, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In recent weeks I have been interviewed several times about thepossibility of an emerging political coalition between Latinos andAfrican Americans. Why the fixation on that possibility?

The irony in all this is that six months ago reporters were askingme about the possibility of tension escalating when the CensusBureau released a report that said Latinos may have surpassedAfrican Americans as the nation's largest minority. For somestrange reason, people thought conflict between us was inevitable.

Why? We both are treated like second-class citizens, targets ofracial profiling and doing poorly in school while the costs forundereducating us continue to rise. We are both underrepresentedpolitically and victims of discrimination. We both lack access tocapital and to health care. Why should there be conflict betweenus?

American consciousness has always been black and white. Did anyoneseriously expect one Census report to transform the public'sconsciousness? Race has divided the American people more thandifferences over what constitutes sin, and sin has been around alot longer! There was even speculation that we were going to fightover jobs. This was really asinine. Nobody fights over the jobs weget hired to do!

So now, the speculation has shifted from clashing to coalescing.Are Latinos and blacks forming a political coalition, reportersask? In the time-honored Latino tradition, I naturally answer theirquestion with a question. Why would you think that? Their answer isVieques, and they point to the participation of Jesse Jackson,Jackie Jackson and Al Sharpton as evidence. Jackie went to Viequesone time and got arrested, but hasn't been sentenced. I don't knowif Sharpton got arrested on his first trip, but he did get arrestedand was sentenced to 90 days. I don't know if it was his first tripeither, but Robert F. Kennedy Jr. got arrested and is now serving a40-day sentence. (Why isn't anybody asking about a Latino- whitecoalition?) Jackson has been to Vieques many times. Why hasn't hebeen arrested?

How is Vieques supposed to translate into an emerging politicalcoalition when it's a human rights issue? The United States shouldnot be bombing an island inhabited by Puerto Ricans . Period. If theNavy insists on bombing, let them bomb Martha's Vineyard! TexasGov. Rick Perry and a bunch of other Texans have written the WhiteHouse telling Dubya to forget about using the Padre Island NationalSeashore for target practice if Puerto Ricans win the struggle overVieques. Not surprisingly, white folks don't want the Navy bombingtheir land. Well, neither do Puerto Ricans !

No, Vieques will not spawn a political coalition, no matter howmany times Jackson marches there. Yes, it is the first time blackshave rallied around opposition against a wrong-headed policyadversely affecting Latinos primarily, but the gallantry ofthousands of Puerto Ricans who have defiantly stood up against theU.S. Navy does not translate into a political coalition. Vieques isa Puerto Rican struggle for justice that will be won by PuertoRicans.

If Jackson wanted to forge a Latino and black political coalitionby marching, he should have been marching in Los Angeles alongsideAntonio Villaraigosa in his historic attempt to be the first Latinoelected mayor of that city. Villaraigosa lost because he wasill- advised to not run as a Latino candidate, supposedly becausewhites and blacks would not vote for him if he did. So he didn't,and 70 percent of whites and 80 percent of blacks didn't vote forhim anyway. Villaraigosa lost by about 40,000 votes. Ironically,when Harold Washington was first elected mayor of Chicago, he wonby roughly 50,000 votes. In November 1983, Washington addressed agathering of Hispanic leaders, and I heard him say it was theLatino vote that put him over the top. Wouldn't it have been niceif Villaraigosa could have said that about the black vote in L.A.?But Jackson wouldn't go near L.A., not with Magic Johnson and U.S.Rep. Maxine Waters rallying blacks to support the white candidate.Would having a Latino mayor in the second-largest city in Americahave given rise to the possibility of a Latino-black coalition ledby a Latino?

Closer to home, where was Jackson during the hunger strike to builda high school in Little Village? That was the most successful actof civil disobedience among Latinos in Chicago since the marches tobuild Juarez High School. No, it is fair to say there is noemerging black-Latino political coalition, and there won't be untilblacks do for a Latino candidate what Latinos did for Washington.

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