Stories about the interactions between Black and immigrant communities usually report strained and tense relations, but a new study suggests that the Black-immigrant demographic mix is on the rise and with it comes a great opportunity for social change.
The study, All Together Now?, takes a look at data surrounding the Black and immigrant communities of California in an attempt to help bolster inter-ethnic activism. Broadly, the report finds that living together is common but complex as many traditionally African-American neighborhoods are seeing a sharp increase in immigrants and simultaneous declines in the Black population — causing resentment and tension in some cases. The report also acknowledges that the influx of immigrants fuels economic competition, but also suggests that in most cases immigrants improve the economic picture for existing residents of all skill levels.
"The results can help to inform our education, advocacy and organizing strategies as we struggle to overcome the obstacles to building a multiracial social justice movement for all," said Gerald Lenoir of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
Common struggles such as high need, significant disadvantage and lower opportunities, authors say, provide central issues that both Black and immigrant communities can rally behind. They suggest that despite differences and misunderstandings, “there is ground for a broader and more mutual strategy, one based on the notion of 'everyday social justice' and reliant on the community-building and grassroots organizing that it will take to make that notion a reality.”
The report shares the story of Vivian Bowers, an African-American owner of a dry cleaning business who credits two Mexican immigrant neighbors with saving her business during the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King beating by police officers. She said that her Latino neighbors also voted her head of the local business association and, in turn, they credit her with helping to advocate on behalf of both African-American and immigrant business owners to ensure they have access to city funds.
“Blacks did not establish their civil rights successes all by themselves. It always takes a coalition of people in this country to make something work. I think that Browns have to realize that getting up there by yourself is not a very good place to be at — that as a nation, as a people, as humans, we owe something to each one, no matter what our color is,” said Rev. Norman Copeland of Los Angeles’s Fifth District, African Methodist Episcopalian Church.
(Photo: Spencer Platt/GettyImages)