The experiences of the Black and Latino communities are in many cases vastly different. Yet, our shared experiences often overlap becoming undeniable. From dehumanization leading to oppression and death to attempts to remove us from the political and social mainstream by erasing our cultures and heritages, many Black and Latino Civil Rights leaders have highlighted those experiences throughout the last 65 years or more.
And it’s as prevalent now as it was in 1966 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stressed those similarities alongside the impact the Civil Rights Movement had on the Latino community. In a telegram to the Chicano Labor Leader and founder of the United Farm Workers, Cesar Chavez, Dr. King spoke of our shared humanity and how we are denied equality in various ways.
“As brothers in the fight for equality, I extend the hand of fellowship and good will and wish continuing success to you and your members,” wrote Dr. King. “The fight for equality must be fought on many fronts – in the urban slums, in the sweat shops of the factories and fields. Our separate struggles are really one – a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity.” Dr. King continued, “You and your fellow workers have demonstrated your commitment to righting grievous wrongs forced upon exploited people. We are together with you in spirit and in determination that our dreams for a better tomorrow will be realized.”
The coalition building of Dr. King across racial and ethnic lines was astounding. So much so that the federal government tried to silence him for more than a decade and eventually succeeded, according to a lawsuit by Dr. King’s family against the US government. Many other civil rights leaders were also silenced through murder while others were minimized and pushed aside by old, white, mostly Southern racists with financial and political power.
Today, the movements look widely different. Smaller, leaderless, and much broader. Many of the groups and movements of the era still live on today alongside thousands of others. Activists can be found in every small town and big city and whether they know it or not, they carry the same message as those leaders who came before us.
While extremists have gotten elected and are taking us backward, the movement for true liberty, freedom, and self-determination continues to grow across the country. Generation after generation has more openly adopted human-rights-centered views disavowing the ignorance that it takes to be cruel and hateful. As the Western colonialist machine grows in power, an increasing number of the public is seeing it for what it is: an oppressive regime by committee.
What Dr. King taught all of us is that without unity, we get nowhere. It behooves us as the generations that succeeded him to come together in abolishing poverty, inequality, and the systems of oppression that keep the underclasses down. In many ways, the shared experiences of impoverished Latino, Black, and yes, even White communities should be bringing us together to end the multitude of crises that affect us all.
There’s no question that Dr. King and many other Black Civil Rights Leaders like Malcolm X inspired Latinos into direct action to address inequality. We owe it to all of them to finish what they started whether white society participates or not. Current attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion and “wokism” are manifestations of the same arguments against the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The fight never ended and in many ways, we have gone backward.
Therefore, La lucha sigue (the struggle continues).
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