Lead Story West Edition

Discussion on race and politics focuses on blacks, Latinos

LOS ANGELES — A discussion about race and politics June 4 at City Hall focused on the contemporary political and racial climate between the black and brown communities in South Los Angeles.

City Councilman Curren Price joined the Stanford Black Alumni Association of Southern California and multimedia journalist Walter Thompson-Hernandez in the discussion, entitled “Black and Brown Relational and Political Intersectionality in Los Angeles and Beyond.”

“Over the years, South Central has shifted from a predominantly African American population to a predominantly Latino population, and that’s an exciting, sobering development,” Price said in the opening speech.

During his presentation “Blaxicans of L.A.,” Thompson-Hernandez, a doctoral student at UCLA, talked in more detail about the changing demographics of South L.A. and that of the United States.

“2043 is a year that data scientists and social scientists predict that there will be more people of color in this country than white Americans,” Thompson-Hernandez said, calling it a “watershed” year. “And for some, that comes with great trepidation and anxiety and fear … but for others it brings hope, promise and even potential.”

The changing, racial demographics are what inspired Thompson-Hernandez’s “Blaxicans of L.A.” In this project, he explores the identities of people who are both African American and Mexican in Los Angeles, and how multi-racial and multi-ethnic individuals and families navigate through modern America.

Walter Thompson-Hernandez, a multimedia journalist and head of the Stanford Black Alumni Association of Southern California; speaks during a discussion June 4 at Los Angeles City Hall on the relationships between blacks and Latinos in South Los Angeles.
(Photo by Dorany Pineda)

Within the discussion, the issue of race tensions between blacks and Latinos was a recurring subject.

But following the presentation, audience member Larry Aubry, a longtime journalist from South Los Angeles, disagreed with the use of the word racism to describe the strained relations between the two groups.

“There is no such thing [as racism between African Americans and Latinos]; racism is not just bigotry, it’s much more,” Aubry said. “It’s the ability to control another group on the basis of color or ethnicity. We can’t be racist, yet.”

Aubry also said that one cannot overlook the fact that the challenges Latinos and black communities face are “because we live in a racist country.”

Simone Charles, principal of Mervyn M. Dymally High School in South L.A., asked Thompson-Hernandez what can be done within schools to help ease racial tensions, and how to understand and support students who are biracial.

Learning about leaders who share similar ideologies like Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr., Thompson-Hernandez said, is one way.

“It’s also about how to be an ally to issues like Black Lives Matter, but also an ally to immigration reform. … It also starts with honest conversations about the roles of white supremacy in this country and hyper-policing and all these different things that occur in our communities.”

Both Price and Thompson-Hernandez emphasized the need to unify African Americans and Latinos, and to work through the prejudices they often have for each other.

“Demography plays a huge role in thinking about the future,” Thompson-Hernandez said. “Latino immigration continues to impact communities throughout the U.S., historically black communities. So it’s really thinking about how we can create a more open society where we think about what we have more in common and not what separates us.”

The event was part of a citywide effort called embRACE L.A. that aims to engage the city’s residents in conversations about race, diversity and ethnicity in their communities, Price said. The conversations, he added, allow us to “understand the complexities, understand the diversity and understand the opportunities to look forward and to be successful.”