Your Take: Avoiding the Black-Brown Conflict on Immigration
Blacks and Hispanics can find common ground by fighting worker exploitation.
The zero-sum argument that pits black Americans against undocumented workers is a false premise.
At the heart of this specious challenge to fairness for all U.S. workers is the idea that blacks resent undocumented Latino immigrants for taking away jobs that would rightfully belong to them. Restrictionist opponents to immigration reform seize on this line of attack and exploit it to drive a wedge between the two racial and ethnic communities.
It's not working.
Don't take our word for it. Ask Jose Luis Marantes, an immigrant-rights activist in Washington, D.C., who has found some of his most ardent supporters from within the ranks of some of the nation's most frightened future workers: students on black college campuses.
Marantes, a youth organizer for the Center for Community Change, said that a recent encounter on the Howard University campus convincingly demonstrated to him the divide-and-conquer strategy's failure. He was attending an Africana studies class to discuss impending legislation to change the nation's immigration policies. "One student stood up in the class and challenged me [on immigration reform]," he said. "This student said he was from Los Angeles and that where he came from Mexicans were the enemy because they took work from black people. 'So why should I listen to anything you have to say?' "
Marantes recalled the air in the room getting thick with tension. But that moment passed as quickly as it came when a second student spoke up to denounce his classmate's comments as uninformed.
For a remarkable hour, Marantes sat back as the predominantly black classroom debated immigration policies and U.S. history. The students talked about how blacks were denied worker rights, how some of their ancestors were shut out of jobs and opportunities and how today's laws cripple a fresh generation of workers.