An African American-Hispanic racial controversy has risen its ugly head this Leap Day deep in the heart of Texas.
“Obama simply has a problem that he happens to be black,” said Adelfa Callejo, a lawyer and civil rights activist who supports Hillary Clinton.
In an interview Wednesday night with The Dallas Morning News, Mrs. Callejo said many Hispanics have told her that they have reservations about voting for a black politician because of fights over funding in the Dallas school district. "What I hear is that they do not trust that Obama will do something for Hispanics," Mrs. Callejo said.
In response to the statement, Camp Clinton spit out an echo from Tuesday's Democratic debate in Ohio, announcing that the former First Lady “denounces and rejects” Mrs. Callejo’s assertions about Obama.
As it turns out, Mrs. Callejo is 84 years old. Her anti-black expression may be more generational than typical. Younger Hispanics have been supporting Obama while older ones have been with Clinton. Other Hispanics may want to go with a winner.
There is another division between African Americans and Mexican Americans which Mrs. Callejo didn’t address: Second and third generation Hispanics are much more accepting of blacks than the newly-arrived and the undocumented.
Here’s my op-ed page column I wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times nearly a year and a half ago.
Mexican immigrants bring negative image of blacks
July 21, 2006
BY MONROE ANDERSON
In Mexico, the n-word is negritos. The word, which refers to dark-skinned Mexicans and non-Mexicans alike, does not carry the virulent, vicious hatred it historically has stateside. Some argue that the word, which loosely translates into little black people, is more like a term of endearment. That’s the same argument the hip-hop set employs to defend the use of the United States’ very own n-word. Last year, President Vicente Fox didn’t use either Mexico’s word or ours when he defended his government’s sale of the minstrel-modeled cartoon character Memin Pinguin on a commemorative stamp. Nor was he reported to have used either word when he said last year that “there is no doubt that Mexicans, filled with dignity, willingness and ability to work, are doing the jobs the not even blacks want to do there in the United States.”
They say it’s the thought that counts, and as it turns out, El Presidente may have been expressing what his fellow countrymen think. At least, that’s what I concluded after reading the results of a new study released in the August issue of the Journal of Politics.
The 2003 survey, conducted in Durham, N.C., found that Mexican immigrants come to the United States with negative stereotypes of black Americans. According to the Duke University study, “Racial Distancing in a Southern City: Latino Immigrants’ Views of Black Americans,” a majority of Latino immigrants, almost all from Mexico, believed that black Americans were lazy liars. A third of the immigrants believed African Americans to be troublesome.
Among those immigrants surveyed, 58.9 percent felt that “few or almost no blacks are hardworking”; 32.5 percent felt that “few or almost no blacks are easy to get along with,” and 56.9 percent felt that “few or almost no blacks could be trusted.”
The study’s findings remind me of that old black folk saying: “If you’re white, you’re right. If you’re brown, stick around. But if you’re black, get back.”
The survey reveals that while more than half of the immigrants feel “they have the least in common with blacks,” more than three-fourths of those same respondents feel “they have the most in common with whites.”
But this is the era of the new South, and the feelings aren’t mutual. The study reports “that while 45.9 percent of white respondents see themselves as having the most in common with blacks, just 22.2 percent of whites see themselves as having the most in common with Latinos.”
To further distort this new paradigm of race relations, half of the blacks surveyed felt close to Latinos and half the blacks felt they had “the most in common with whites.”
Ironically, the white Southerners, whose ancestors authored the old black stereotypes, no longer subscribe to them. Only 9.3 percent of the whites “indicate that few or almost no blacks are hardworking; only 8.4 percent believe that few or almost no blacks are easy to get along with…”
“We were depressed about a lot of our study,” Duke University Professor Paula McClain, who headed the study, told me in a telephone interview, because the Latino immigrants are “not coming into this country with a blank slate on this issue.”
Mexico has a colonial past and all the racial baggage that historically comes with it. That many recent Mexican immigrants bring racist attitudes should come as no surprise. But as our nation moves forward, this backward thinking must be addressed in Durham, Chicago and nationwide. We have too many homegrown racists. We don’t need to import any more.
When the next wave of pro-illegal immigrant demonstrations sweeps our nation, I hope African-American leaders will have talked to Latino leaders about the need to talk to the new arrivals and explain to them that we’re all in this together. Such a bicultural, bilingual dialogue could forge a black-Mexican bond too powerful for words.