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For some Latinos and Asian-Americans, black lives do matter

The movement for African-American rights garnered support from prominent Hispanic and Asian-American voices this week
8 Jul 2016 – 04:10 PM EDT
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A Chicago protest after the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling Crédito: Progress Illinois Twitter

As the nation reels from this week's police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the shooting at a peaceful march in Dallas, the Black Lives Matter movement has seen growing support from Latinos and Asian-Americans, who say they’re victims of the same systemic problems. These communities have had a mixed record when it comes to supporting social justice for African-Americans.

“Within the Latino community, Black Lives Matter has to become an issue,” says Latino rights activist Daniel Leon-Davis, social media director for hip-hop producer Russell Simmons, who said this week marked a shift in the way he thinks about the ties between people fighting for Latino and immigrant rights and those marching for Black Lives. “If you are Latino and think that the best thing for you is to be silent when black lives are murdered, that’s a big mistake,” he told Univision News.

From education to violence to gentrification, activists cite similarities between the issues facing black and Latino communities in an increasingly polarized political climate. These commonalities have inspired more Hispanics to join the movement.

“We’re both seen as second-class citizens in this country,” activist Máximo Anguiano wrote in an NPR Latino USA opinion piece yesterday. “Our issues are more alike than dissimilar and we need to stand in solidarity with each other.”

Blacks and Hispanics largely decry race relations in the United States, a New Pew Research Center report shows. More than 60 percent of blacks and 58 percent of Latinos agree that race relations in the United States are “generally bad.” That’s versus 45 percent of whites. Also, Hispanics tend to be more pessimistic: 41 percent of Latinos say race relations are getting worse, compared to 39 percent of whites and 37 percent of blacks.

For Afro-Panamanian Jamila Aisha Brown, a digital strategist in New York, Black Lives Matter is a Latino issue “because of the Afro-Latino population who lives at the margins of being Black and Latino in the United States.”

Of the 57 million Hispanics living in the United States, about a quarter identify as Afro-Latino.

Afro-Latinos are an “overlooked bridge,” Brown says, who can build “coalitions between Latinos and African-Americans who share many of the same challenges.”

Aura Bogado, a justice reporter for Grist, urged non-black Latinos on Twitter to do more to combat racism within the Hispanic community.

She added: "We're complete hypocrites if we, as non-black latinxs, ever expect white people to show up for us if we don't show up for black people!"

Pew found that Latinos are less likely than whites to support Black Lives Matter: 33 percent say they strongly or somewhat support the movement, versus 40 percent of whites. Also, fewer Hispanics know the movement even exists: 50 percent knew "nothing at all" about it, compared to 23 percent of whites and 19 percent of blacks.

“Growing up in a black and brown community, it’s very obvious to me that we face black and brown issues,” Leon-Davis said. “I don’t understand why there isn’t more connection.”

Anguiano told Univision News people have commented on his op-ed saying that Latinos are already standing up for black victims of police violence. "But I know we have work to do," he says. "When all Latinos are saying 'Black Lives Matter,' when all Latinos from every region of the country are hitting the streets to protest, and when all Latinos are concerned about the welfare of African-American people... is when we'll have progress."

Beyond Latinos, Asian Americans also spoke out online about why their community should care about Black Lives Matter. Anil Dash, an entrepreneur and well-known tech blogger, called on the Asian-American community to fight racism.

A crowdsourced letter urging Asian-American support has been circulating on social media. It reads: "Black people have been beaten, jailed, even killed fighting for many of the rights that Asian Americans enjoy today. We owe them so much in return. We are all fighting against the same unfair system that prefers we compete against each other." Around a hundred people worked together on the letter, which was translated into nearly a dozen languages including Bengali, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.

Joy Ding, a San Francisco-based Chinese-American, said the letter was born of frustration about how to talk to older Asian-Americans about Black Lives Matter. "The goal was to have some of the tools of how to communicate about the movement with our parents and within our communities," she told Univision News.

The group now plans to create videos and launch a Medium publication, which will include black voices translated into multiple languages. "It's kind of wonderful to see how many people care," she added.

Prominent activist Jose Antonio Vargas, a Filipino and the founder and CEO of Emerging US, told Univision News he’s been asking himself what Asian and Pacific Islanders - the fastest growing racial and immigrant group in the country - can do to support Black Lives Matter.

"So much of this country’s racial conversation has been very Black and White,” he said. “The country is now more Asian, more Latino, more mixed-race, and we all have roles to play."

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