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Chicago's Hispanic and African American communities Struggle to Maintain Strong Socio-Political Alliances

Chicago's Hispanic and African American communities Struggle to Maintain Strong Socio-Political Alliances

Chicago’s Hispanic and African American Communities Struggle to Maintain Strong Socio-Political Alliances

BY JOHANNA MEDRANO The African-American and Latino communities make up a large part of the overall minority population in Chicago. In fact, in the city, they comprise 60% of the population according to the latest figures from the United States Census Bureau. Interestingly enough, Chicago continues to be plagued by tensions between the two largest minority groups. In 1983, however, it was the Hispanic and African-American communities that helped elect Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor. Washington won over 75% of the Latino vote, with the help of activist and community organizer Rudy Lozano, whom Washington worked closely with throughout his campaign. Shortly after Washington’s death in 1987, the alliance between Hispanics and African Americans, which ultimately worked together to elect Mayor Washington, quickly weakened and “fell apart due to disagreements over distribution of power,” states Claudia Sandoval, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago. But will these two communities be able to come together again to affect political, economic and social change in the future, where both communities are in desperate need of change? Elected officials, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have been “courting the city’s Latino residents, officials have promised bounties of protection and resources through sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, aid to dreamers and refuge to Puerto Rican families displaced by Hurricane Maria,” Laura Washington wrote in the Chicago Sun-times. Historically, black voters have played a pivotal role in Chicago politics. In April 2015, Natalie Moore wrote on on WBEZ.org that, “Without the black vote, Emanuel would not have been re-elected,” adding in 2010, “he won most of the votes in black wards.” “In the end, Emanuel won the April Runoff in majority African American precincts 57 percent to 43 percent,” defeating Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, according to the 2015 Chicago Mayoral Runoff Election Analysis, a report provided by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) and Scott Kennedy of Illinois Election Data. García, who finished second in the Runoff according to ICPR with 33.55%, had hoped to become the city’s first Latino mayor. While the political divisions and coalitions between the black and Hispanic voters are noteworthy, Syracuse University Professor Robin Riley points out that black and brown populations benefit from forming alliances. Robin Riley said historically, a “colorist sentiment was strategically used to preserve separation between minority groups in order to avoid coalitions that would ultimately take out white heteropatriarchy. Indigenous people were the first ones to be indoctrinated into thinking they were hierarchically above the slaves, in hopes of deterring them from ever joining inevitable slave revolts.” Moreover, Sarah Molano, AfroLatinx writer further explains colorism is discrimination based on skin color. “This doesn’t just include racism between groups; it includes discrimination within races and ethnicities,” she said. “It’s no secret that through Eurocentric beauty standards, lighter skin has been culturally instilled as the preferred skin tone,” she added. “This happens within both the black and Hispanic communities.” As a result of this dangerous phenomenon, it would prevent Latinos from identifying collectively with the black community to create social and political alliances,” Molano said. She continues, “Despite this dichotomy among the racial groups, we need to reconsider the nuances of black-brown relations, and how they do not benefit from this polarization. In fact, they support the political and economic hierarchy that keeps whites at the top and leaves black and brown people scrapping for 2nd place.” Silvya Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum states that the Latino and Black communities, “do not need to divide and conquer, and when [they] do divide and conquer it’s among [themselves].” Puente believes that both communities should work together to demand government transparency and solutions to negative trends of street violence and failing schools that exist in both communities. She continues, “we’re a far cry from what equity looks like for each of our communities, right?”