The Story of Latino-Black Conflict

Op-Ed: L.A.’s history of Latino-Black political conflict? It’s a curiously short tale.

When former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was asked whether he thought his own father’s race played a role in the city’s politics, his response was a blunt, if understated, “Yes.”

When the same Mayor Villaraigosa was asked whether he thought his own father’s death changed the character of our city, he replied, “I don’t know,” but what he meant was “I don’t know.”

But I thought his own views on race would come across clearer in his writing, and it was not to be.

In a lengthy interview, Mayor Villaraigosa described our city as “a melting pot” in which “some people don’t have anything—they don’t have any family or they have no history, they have no place to go to—they don’t have anything.”

He added: “We’re fighting the same fight that was going on hundreds of years ago in our backyard in Spanish Harlem, trying to get people to appreciate their heritage and to really be part of the community that we came from.”

It is my contention that the narrative of Latino-Black conflict is a comparatively recent tale. It is not based on the truth.

And when it does originate in fact, as in the case of our own first Black Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the history of his relationship with his father, it usually goes like this:

“See, we’re from different worlds. My father came from the same place, but he came here with no education, no family, no nothing. And I come from the same place, but I came here alone, with nothing, no education, no family, no nothing.

“I was raised by my grandmother and my mom. I didn’t have no education, nothing. So I didn’t fit in at school, because I had nothing. I was raised by my grandmother and my mom, and I was the first Black kid in my class. So I didn’t feel welcome, and I didn’t feel special, and I didn’t feel like I fit in.”

So began the story of Latino-Black conflict. And it was not simply a story of a few families struggling to assert their ethnic, racial or cultural differences within a particular community.

The story of Latino-Black conflict goes all the way back

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