Black-Brown Unity

By Carolyn Delossantos 5-14-2008

When I first decided to spend this semester of my college career in Washington, D.C., I did not expect to work for the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR) campaign here at Sojourners. Sadly, I must admit that though I am Latina and the daughter of immigrants, immigration did not make my long list of worthy causes to fight for. Like many, I was ignorant about the plight of immigrants, and mistakenly saw deportation or enforcement-only policies as ideal solutions. Through her dedication, patience, and passion, Patty Kupfer, the CCIR campaign coordinator, taught me to embrace the struggle of the millions of undocumented immigrants and understand the complexities of a broken immigration system.

In these past months, I have seen appalling cases of how immigrants are blamed for the societal ills that afflict us. The scare tactics of anti-immigrant groups have been successful at instilling anti-Latino sentiment among the American populace. The media has painted a gruesome picture of Latinos, and made us all culpable.

Perhaps the worst example I've seen is the idea that undocumented immigrants are wholly responsible for lowering the wages of low-skilled and poor African Americans. In one particular briefing I attended, the low wages and high unemployment rates of poor African Americans were correlated with Latino immigration.

These scholars based their findings on research and data sets, but it left me questioning their motives and analysis. This "research" paves the way for the scapegoating of the other. Are Latinos and African Americans not working toward the same goal - that is, overcoming structural forces that prohibit social advancement? Thus, why are we not working together? My mind cannot conceive how powerful it would be - both spiritually and socially - if Latinos and African-American communities united around immigration. Instead of concentrating our powers against one another, we must unite. We will remain powerless or disempowered until we are able to fight alongside one another.

Currently, immigration is the hot issue and is therefore being used to widen the gap between these two groups of people who share a common history, struggle, and legacy. Why do we fight each other for the crumbs? The entire time I sat during this briefing, I wanted to scream, "Those brown people you condemn are my people, and we are not the root cause of poverty." As seekers of truth and justice, we must acknowledge that massive deportation will not solve some poverty or its root causes.

Let us stop finding scapegoats for complex issues and instead seek unity. Power is in the hands of those who want to make us believe lies about ourselves and others. We must begin to unite around issues like immigration. Imagine how powerful it would be if Latinos and African Americans, two of the largest minority groups in the U.S., would challenge the broken systems that afflict us both. Let us find common ground and redirect our energies toward the real struggles that will truly empower our communities.

Carolyn Delossantos is a junior at Gordon College. She just completed a semester internship at Sojourners.

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