Protests are happening all over the US and across the world. Mostly peaceful, some are not. The clash between some of the protesters and law enforcement has turned violent at times, resulting in injured protesters of all ages that have been captured and shared on social media. The decisions we make today will ripple into the future, changing our lives and country as we know it. It is up to every single one of us to unite and to steer everything towards a better path. Unfortunately, there are many people in the Latino community who still do not support or understand the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Black Lives Matter movement started as a hashtag in 2013 after Treyvon Martin’s murderer was acquitted after killing the unarmed teen in cold blood for no reason other than he was a Black kid walking in a white neighborhood. The movement grew stronger after the horrible death of George Floyd, a black man accused of passing a counterfeit bill who was asphyxiated by a police officer who held a knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck until he died.. While Mr. Floyd begged for his life saying he could not breathe, other police officers on the scene stood there watching and made no effort to stop the murder. Witnesses recorded what they saw and the video spread on social media for everyone to see.
Now people are hungrier than ever for real change. People of all colors, religions, and ages are supporting Black Lives Matter and peacefully protesting alongside them. Latinos are no exception. On the first weekend of June, the Latino community in the Chicago area united with Black Lives Matter to show their support and to display unity during these uncertain and difficult times. Despite this show of unity, social media has also been filled with anti-black sentiments from members of the Latino community.
In the Quad City area, the Latino community is represented by all shades of skin colors, including Afro Latinos who are speaking out and joining the Black Lives Matter movement. They express fear and frustration saying that being Afro Latino in the US is dangerous.
“I have had many mixed emotions about what is happening currently in America. Anger, confusion, sadness, I have felt it all. It’s scary to see people who look like me, have the same skin tone as me and in some cases even the same curly hair as me, being killed in broad daylight and justice never being served. I hate the constant feeling of being a target in society, it makes me feel unwanted and unwelcome for the way I was born. It makes me scared to drive my car, wear my hair a certain way, and even to wear certain clothes,” Caillou Delapaz expressed.
Mr. Delapaz is a student at Black Hawk College, and a long time member of the Quad Cities Ballet Folklorico. His mother is Mexican and his father is of African descent. He was born and raised in the Quad Cities and is currently majoring in biology with plans to study medicine and becoming a plastic surgeon.
His feelings are common among Afro Latinos and cut deep and brought up personal wounds in many other Afro Latinos.
“Being biracial (half black and half Mexican) as well as having supporters of the president & law enforcement members in my family has been an emotional struggle during these times. It has created somewhat of a divide. I try to stay positive, stay true to who I am and keep moving forward,” said Tiffany Rivera Gomez.
Ms. Rivera Gomez is a lifelong resident of the Quad Cities. She is currently working as a stylist at Shear Element Salon in the district of Rock Island.
When it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement, Mr. Delapaz shared that he supports the movement and protests because he believes this is the first time in his lifetime that the voices of the people are starting to be heard.
“I believe for the first time in a long time, our voices and our cries for help are finally starting to be heard. I believe that this is the time that we should all come together to show the world the pain that the black community has felt for years on end,” he said.
Tiffany Rivera Gomez agreed with Mr. Delapaz and his support for Black Lives Matter.
“Seeing all of this chaos is disheartening. It brings pain to my spirit. I support the protests and I wish I could be more active but with the setback from COVID, I have to work as it has been difficult for business owners,” Ms. Rivera Gomez said.
While Ms. Rivera Gomez cannot participate in the protests because of her work schedule, Mr. Delapaz participated in local protests in Davenport. He believes it is time for everyone to stand together and support real change.
“The black community was there when Donald Trump threatened to build a wall, and was there to protest against ICE. It is now our time again, as the Latinx community, to step up to the plate do what is right. Go to a peaceful protest, sign petitions, make signs, share videos, do whatever it takes to end this sad time in America. The stronger the numbers, the stronger the movement will become. Discrimination has affected both the Latinx and black communities. We need to stand together as brothers and sisters and fight for equality,” said Mr. Delapaz, calling for unity among Latinos and the Black community.
“I would love to see more Latinos and Black people supporting each other. We are brothers and sisters and are fighting a battle that should be conquered from both sides,” agreed Ms. Rivera Gomez.
The peaceful protests are happening almost daily. People are pushing for real changes like changing policing and funding programs that address societal issues that have been impacted by systemic racism, like affordable housing and access to health care. Protesters are not satisfied with band-aid solutions. The time has come to do something about it so the ripple effect of today can turn into positive and sweeping change for tomorrow.
Today’s protests can either become a catalyst for real change or they can just go down into history books as another series of protests that happens after another black life was taken senselessly but led to no changes. The success of these protests and what kind of effect today will have on tomorrow depends on our strong support of the Black Lives Matter Movement and how united we are in a push for change.
Mr. Delapaz shared why the protests of today are so important for the future. “Being a part of the black and Latinx communities has had its ups and downs in my life, but nothing has made me stronger than the color of my skin. I have learned to love my beautiful brown skin and curly hair and embrace my rich cultures and where I come from. This movement means a lot to me. It decides my future and how I will be treated for the rest of my life. It will decide my children and grandchildren’s future… Lose the racism, lose discrimination, and lose the violence. The world is hurting, and it is time for a change.”
Photos by Mike Fetterer