“All lives matter.”
That was my initial gut reaction to the media traction gained by the Black Lives Matter movement. I was empathetic to the high-profile killings of black Americans, but upset that Pedro Villanueva, Melissa Ventura, Anthony Nuñez, Raul Saavedra-Vargas, Vinson Ramos and Alex Nieto—all brown victims of police brutality—were not given the same national empathy.
I was worried that the movement only further highlighted the black and white racial binary in this country. But the truth is that we as a community are often quick to point out our own injustices, but are much more reluctant to acknowledge the very real, very anti-black sentiments in our community.
Last month, a video surfaced of an off-duty LAPD officer named Kevin Ferguson grabbing and dragging a 13-year-old Latino, and firing his gun during the confrontation when the boy’s teenage friends tried to intervene. It was hard not to notice that the first person to step up and attempt to break up the confrontation was the only black teenager.
The video quickly went viral with little attention, let alone praise, from the Latinx community for the young black man’s initiative.
I was disappointed, frustrated but understanding of where their sentiments come from and why. When discussing and protesting police violence, it’s hard not to evoke the dialogue surrounding Black Lives Matter, but due to culturally embedded anti-black sentiments, it can be hard for many Latinx, who like me, at one point or another, could not understand why in the face of authority, we couldn’t just say, all lives matter.
It took me making a conscious and active effort to listen to an incredibly patient sociology professor, and the willingness to learn that I was able to confront my cultural prejudices to see the world beyond my brown lens—a lens that was narrow and lacked intersectionality beyond the identities I grew up with.
It wasn’t until I confronted the harsh realities of my ingrained cultural prejudices, that I was able to understand that the expunging of my community’s contributions to America’s social fabric is not the fault of black Americans. It was never their fault, but it was a convenient narrative fed to one community of color, so that it would condemn and further marginalize another.
The brown community, can not and should not condemn a whole other community because historically America’s social structure has undermined the political standing of all ethnic groups. To condemn one community, is to condemn all communities. All communities of color are victims of state violence. Historically, we have all lacked equal access. We have all lacked properly funded schools, safe neighborhoods and equitable healthcare. Condemning one another won’t fix the problem, it will cement it.
The Latinx community faces problems and injustices unique to its demographic, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have privileges. For starters, we weren’t forced to come to the Americas, we’re from the Americas. Our anti-blackness stems from our colonization. A culture where being referred to as morena/o can be used derogatorily, where colorism is so deeply embedded, our telenovelas and media outlets exclusively highlight and celebrate Eurocentric features and mannerisms.
America’s accumulation of wealth was literally built on the backs of blacks, and racism is inherently a part of America’s identity. Racial and ethnic stratification in America has made it so that certain races are socially positioned to either garner or be denied privileges. For many Latinx’s, assimilating to “be American” can sometimes mean embracing anti-black sentiment in order to be granted more social privilege.
I can attest that the Latinx community’s collective identity is ambiguous, but I cannot deny it’s profound anti-blackness any more than its intersectionality.
I will never comprehend what it means to be black in America, but I do know that for those of us who believe in justice and those of us who believe in the power of the people, it is imperative we stand in solidarity with unwavering support for the community that unapologetically proclaims, “Black Lives Matter.” It is only by doing so that communities of color, will overcome the prejudice embedded in America’s social fabric.