More Justice. More Peace March in West Des Moines, June 9, 2020. Photo by Tar Macias
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By Christina Fernandez-Morrow and Kenia Calderón Cerón

 

Time and time again we are bombarded with videos and images of innocent Black people being killed or threatened by police or angry white people. These incidents happen back to back with no recourse for the murderers and no justice for their victims. As the nation responds with protests and calls for justice, Iowa’s Spanish-speaking Latinx community needs to understand the implications on their lives because Black Lives Matter is us, too.

Every one of us has African or indigenous roots and those make us just as vulnerable as our Black brothers and sisters. As the protests spread from city to city and across continents, where is the outrage and solidarity from the local Spanish-dominant Latinx community? A quick scroll through Instagram and Facebook posts looking for answers uncovered two very disturbing trends among Iowa’s Spanish-speaking Latinx people: silence or anger at broken windows and loss of merchandise, but very little about broken systems and loss of life.

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What is happening to Black people across the country is increasingly alarming and we need to wake up and realize that Latinx people are being vilified and targeted, too. “Besides being portrayed as inherently criminal, Latinos as a group are also painted as parasitic, much as Black people have been painted since the Reagan era. They are wrongly accused of draining national and state treasuries by being on welfare and otherwise eating up our tax dollars,” wrote journalist and author Erin Aubry Kaplan in her opinion piece in the New York Times. “Supporters of Mr. Trump openly and proudly endorse erecting a wall to keep out the unwanted, in much the same way that people openly endorsed erecting the wall of Jim Crow to keep unwanted black people away from legitimate society.” Whatever gains come from these protests, Latinx people stand to benefit, just as they did from the abolishment of slavery, overturning Jim Crow laws, the right to vote, and the Civil Rights Movement. 

Yet, the resounding outrage among many Spanish-dominant Iowa Latinx people has been about businesses being looted, much of which has been done by organized looters who used the protests to fill an agenda of destruction, not justice. The language used consists of, “esa gente,” and “ellos,” implying Black people and furthering the us vs. them narrative. This is a tired division prevalent among our people that dates back to when our countries were invaded under the violence of colonialism, and our ancestors were enslaved side by side with the Africans the Europeans brought with them. The only way to keep us all under their thumb was to ensure we did not unite and they did that by creating race and placing value on lighter skin that mirrored their own. We have nurtured that harmful mentality by adopting beliefs that praises whiteness over blackness with dichos like, “pelo malo” to insult anything that strays from stick straight Euro-centric hair, “fino” to describe Euro-centric features, and pushing family and friends to “mejorar la raza,” implying that marrying lighter complected people improves the race as a whole. 

The media we consume and support perpetuates this in ways that are just as perverse. Take a look at how Telemundo and Univision have covered the protests. English media has been showing not only the protests, but interviews with Movement leaders, politicians and civilians calling for peace and unity and the many shows of peaceful protests and moments of understanding. Unfortunately, the two Spanish-language media sources most Spanish-speaking Latinx adults in Iowa turn to have spent more time showing looters and interviewing business-owners and virtually no time covering the root cause of the protests or the many scenes of peace and solidarity. Their biased reporting only serves to further the divide between Latinx communities and the Black community and continues their legacy of villainizing Black people and judging from the social media comments on their websites, our local Latinx Iowans seem to be eating it up.

One of the excuses for people’s lack of solidarity is that Black people have not showed up for immigrants in previous fights. This sentiment erases Black immigrants from the narrative and their struggles within our immigration system as well. A 2016 report by the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic, found that 20 percent of immigrants facing deportation on criminal grounds are black. Due to the ongoing erasure of Black immigrants, their unjust deportations and human rights violations go unheard. A quick Google search brings up thousands of images of Black people at marches, sit-ins and protests against ICE and the atrocities at the border. They donate to causes and Go Fund Me campaigns that fight against deportations and help Latinx families impacted by immigration. When raids happen in our community, they are alongside others with aid like food and shelter. Black people have stood in solidarity with immigrants because immigration is a Black issue, too. This type of erasure from the Latinx community is violent and helps the oppression Black people continue to progress. It’s worth remembering Patricia Okoumou, a Black woman who claimed the Statue of Liberty on July 4, 2018. She was protesting the family separation taking place at the southern border and threatened to not come down until the children were released.   

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More Justice. More Peace March in West Des Moines, June 9, 2020. Photo by Tar Macias

Wake up mi gente! This is about so much more than the looters trying to take the spotlight away from the real issues! The revolution taking place on our streets is about us, too! Someone’s  lack of legal status can make protesting dangerous at this moment, but there are other ways to support the movement that impacts us all.  Our young men and women are just as vulnerable as our Black brothers and sisters. In fact, we should be out there fighting alongside them because the growing anti-immigrant sentiment adds to our vulnerability. Not only do Latinx people face the same treatment at the hands of law enforcement and angry racists, but we have the added danger of ICE abusing their power. If police officers continue to get away with killing Black people, it serves as a message to their immigration counterparts and ICE will continue to ravage our community.

Instead of being outraged at the businesses dealing with what will amount to a few insurance claims and some repairs, support the peaceful protesters and demand to be heard and treated as humans. Change your language so that you do not place higher value on lightness and vilify an entire race of people. Call out such language when you hear it. Get involved with local politics and lend your talents and time to candidates committed to ending systemic racism. Volunteer for organizations working to end police brutality. Invite your friends and family to do the same. Talk to your children about the harm of colorism and the need to eradicate it from our cultures. Donate water, milk and baking soda to protesters and those supporting them. There are so many ways you can be part of the solution and stop contributing to the divide in this country and still protect your family. Su lucha es nuestra lucha. Stop condemning the movement and join it! 

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Want to do more? Here are some ways to educate yourself and contribute to la lucha.

https://medium.com/@joshuavbarr/a-better-way-50-plus-action-items-to-fight-against-racism-white-supremacy-in-your-community-edc5a8b63b13

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https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-52922526

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuiKdlibX5M

http://www.scielo.org.mx/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S2007-81102007000200006

https://www.eldiario.es/cultura/libros/Libros-racismo-Estados-Unidos_0_1034146986.html

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/en-espanol/noticias/story/2020-06-03/jimmy-carter-privilegiados-deben-luchar-contra-el-racismo

http://cepaim.org/el-racismo-aqui-en-estados-unidos-y-la-u-e-urge-erradicarlo-comunicado-de-organizaciones-de-la-sociedad-civil-comprometidas-en-la-lucha-contra-la-discriminacion-racial-o-etnica-en-espana/

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