The Presumed Alliance by P-HarpercollinsPubl


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									The Presumed Alliance
Author: Nicolas C. Vaca

As Latino and African Americans increasingly live side by side in large urban centers, as well as in
suburban clusters, the idealized concept of a "Rainbow Coalition" would suggest that these two
disenfranchised groups are natural political allies. Indeed, as the number of Latinos has increased
dramatically over the last ten years, competition over power and resources between these two groups has
led to surprisingly antagonistic and uncooperative interactions. Many African Americans now view
Latinos, because of their growth in numbers, as a threat to their social, economic, and political
gains.Vaca debunks the myth of "The Great Union" and offers the hope he believes each community
could learn from, in order to achieve a mutually agreed upon agenda. More than simply unveiling the
problem, The Presumed Alliance offers optimistic solutions to the future relations between Latino and
Black America.

Shortly after the 2000 Census released its numbers pronouncing that the Latino population at 35.3 million
was closing in on the African American population at 36.4 million, the Charlotte Post, an African
American newspaper published in Charlotte, North Carolina, asked one of its writers, Artellia Burch, to go
out and get the reaction of Charlotte's Black population to this startling fact. The census had revealed that
Charlotte's Hispanic population grew from 9817 in 1990 to 77,092 in 2000, a 685 percent increase over
the last 10 years. Little wonder that the Charlotte Post wanted to know what its readership thought about
this.Burch dutifully interviewed various Black residents of Charlotte and published her interviews in a piece
entitled "When Worlds Collide: Blacks Have Reservations About Influx of Hispanic Immigrants." The story
contained quotes from Black residents which reflected some of the worst stereotypes of Latinos. For
example, an African American computer technician unabashedly admitted that he was prejudiced against
Latinos. He said, "I definitely think they are people to fear. . . . They travel in packs. They like to play
stupid acting as if they don't understand English when you know they do. A group of them will sit around
and talk to each other in their language. They could be plotting to kill you and you would never know."The
computer technician's mean-spirited observations of Latinos were not restricted to their potentially
menacing ways. No, he was also concerned with the loss of jobs to the newly arrived immigrants. "They
are taking over," he said. "They're taking all of our jobs. Slowly but surely. I just don't care to be around
them. They make my skin crawl. I keep my ideas to myself. This might sound bad, but I don't go around
making remarks about them to other people. So, only God can judge me."Another respondent, an African
American computer engineer, said that he was not surprised that Latino numbers were now nearly even
with Blacks. Why not? Because "Hispanics come over here, start businesses, and multiply like rabbits. .
. . It's no surprise they outnumber us because they have a baby every year." These and other equally
disparaging observations from Black residents of Charlotte landed Burch in a firestorm of controversy.
She was interviewed by Fox News, and the Wall Street Journal's website had a link to her story. The
controversy was so great that, which carried Burch's story on its website, felt
compelled to remove it.Burch's sin, if her story can be called that, was that she exposed what everyone
believed was a well-kept secret. The secret was this: Because Latinos and Blacks have been exploited
and suffered poverty and discrimination, and because they are both people of "color," it is commonly
assumed that Blacks would not only not disparage the new Latino arrivals but would sympathize and
understand the marginal nature of their lives. It was this presumed ideological alliance between Blacks
and Latinos that Burch's story exposed in a very direct and graphic manner. It was the political
incorrectness of the views expressed by her interviewees that caused the controversy.When I committed
to writing this book I did so with the knowledge that I too would likely become the focus of high-tension
emotions. I got a taste of what I could expect one evening when I met with a couple of Latino attorney
friends for drinks and what I thought would be an enlightened discussion about the subject matter of this
book. One of the attorneys was of Peruvian heritage and the other was a veteran, like myself, of 1970s
Chicano activism.When we got together, I presented a broad-stroke...
Author Bio
Nicolas C. Vaca
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Nicolas C. Vaca holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of
California at Berkeley. He is a practicing attorney in the Bay Area and has been a visiting scholar at
University of California at Berkeley for the past two years. An award-winning journalist, Vaca is also a
contributing writer to the prestigious journal California Lawyer. He lives in California.

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