ROOTS OF LATINO/BLACK ANGER
Longtime prejudices, not economic rivalry, fuel tensions.
By Tanya K. Hernandez, Los Angeles Times
Tanya K. Hernandez is a professor of law at Rutgers University Law School
THE ACRIMONIOUS relationship between Latinos and African Americans in Los Angeles is growing hard to ignore. Although last weekend’s black-versus-Latino race riot at Chino state prison is unfortunately not an aberration, the Dec. 15 murder in the Harbor Gateway neighborhood of Cheryl Green, a 14-year-old African American, allegedly by members of a Latino gang, was shocking.
Yet there was nothing really new about it. Rather, the murder was a manifestation of an increasingly common trend: Latino ethnic cleansing of African Americans from multiracial neighborhoods. Just last August, federal prosecutors convicted four Latino gang members of engaging in a six-year conspiracy to assault and murder African Americans in Highland Park. During the trial, prosecutors demonstrated that African American residents (with no gang ties at all) were being terrorized in an effort to force them out of a neighborhood now perceived as Latino.
For example, one African American resident was murdered by Latino gang members as he looked for a parking space near his Highland Park home. In another case, a woman was knocked off her bicycle and her husband was threatened with a box cutter by one of the defendants, who said, "You niggers have been here long enough."
At first blush, it may be mystifying why such animosity exists between two ethnic groups that share so many of the same socioeconomic deprivations. Over the years, the hostility has been explained as a natural reaction to competition for blue-collar jobs in a tight labor market, or as the result of turf battles and cultural disputes in changing neighborhoods. Others have suggested that perhaps Latinos have simply been adept at learning the U.S. lesson of anti-black racism, or that perhaps black Americans are resentful at having the benefits of the civil rights movement extended to Latinos.
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