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The politics of differentiating one’s enemies


When one is writhing in agony on the ground, bleeding out from a mortal blow, the tendency is not to concentrate much on whose fault it is — the major interest is in surviving the situation and seeing more days of life.

Conversely, when one is being discriminated out of the employment that keeps one’s family from homelessness, taking time to intellectualize whether the decisions that created the problem were the handiwork of a hard-hearted racist or a confused ethnic traveler is not going to be uppermost in the mind of the one being disemboweled and discharged. Figuring out how to quickly find another way to feed hungry mouths will more than likely blot out all other concerns.

But in the second blush of considering one’s negative situation, the tendency to figure out who’s to blame for one’s predicament will inevitably come up.

Lately, more and more, African-Americans, particularly in California and the West, have been dealing with determining who is to blame when they don’t receive expected job promotions, or pay raises, or even being hired in the first instance.

Yes, racism more often takes the lead as the primary cause for Black non-advancement and mistreatment. But more and more recently, Black advancement and forward progress, especially in California and Texas, have been stunted by Latinos and sometimes Asians. One result has been a rising tide of anger and resentment in the Black community at Latinos and Asians in authority, and a quickened belief that they are as racist viz-a-viz Black folk as are Whites.

Such has been the case, for example, in two recent EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) cases in California.  Two lawsuits recently settled in favor of Black workers who had been discriminated against alleged that supervisors at the giant medical supplier, Cardinal Health, and at Ryder Integrated Logistics, a subsidiary of the Ryder trucking company, systematically ignored repeated complaints by Black employees of harassment and job discrimination by Latino and Asian managers at their Inland Empire warehouses.

The complaint said that Latino and Asian supervisors regularly assigned Black employees the hardest, most dangerous manual jobs, kept their pay artificially low, denied them training and promotions within the companies and that these managers failed to take action to halt discrimination in the workplace despite dozens of complaints.

According to the evidence presented, Black employees were subjected daily to such slurs as the N-word, “Aunt Jemima,” “negra fea” (ugly Black woman), “cochina,” (pig) and ”cucaracha,” (cockroach), and Mayate (Black insect). according to the lawsuit. There were also documented cases of many examples of restroom graffiti in the workplace, including wall pictures of Black people being hung by nooses.

These legal cases mirror everyday situations getting on buses, attending parent-teacher school board meetings, etc. There seems to be a rising tide of such disrespect and abuse.

The main point of this article, however, is not just to report this social-political circumstance. Rather the point is to raise the concern that more often than not, Black citizens have begun to call Latinos and Asians racist and as bad as White people. That needs to stop, since it is entirely incorrect.

There is but one race of man — the human race, and all people descended from Africans, the first people.

What Latinos, Asians and others often display is ethnocentrism. That is a belief and practice that one’s cultural group (language, customs, etc.) are to be preferred over another’s and that there is and will be competition between cultural groups for the rewards of society. Again, this is competition for social status and rewards, not a diminution of another group’s humanity.

Certainly, both processes brutalize Black people and others, but they are not and should not be addressed as the same entity. Calling Latinos racist is lazy thinking.  We must remember that different “enemies” require different strategies and tactics.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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