A History of Black-Brown, Unity, Tensions & Struggle

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Former SNCC member and Professor Mario Salas

Former SNCC member and Professor Mario Salas

We sat down with Professor Mario Salas of San Antonio’s NW Vista College and talked with him about the history of Black-Brown unity here in the United States and in Mexico.

Salas who is mixed Black and Mexican and a former member of SNCC  gave us a serious lesson that touched upon slavery, colonialism and the back drop behind some of the famous wars along the border of Mexico and Texas.

Salas started out by talking about the history between the Black Panthers and Brown Berets who are still active in San Antonio. He talked about how recently the Berets came to the aid of the African American community and helped them get a community radio station. he explained that the two groups were always able to work together because the Panthers didn’t employ cultural nationalist politics. Both groups had a revolutionary philosophy which allowed for coalitions to form.

Salas talked about the original Rainbow Coalition which was conceived by Chairman Fred Hampton who headed up the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers. This was years before Jesse Jackson came along. The basic premise was for groups to unite around principles. One could and should have cultural pride but not at the expense of dissing or excluding other groups.

In our conversation we talked at length about immigration and how that issue has been framed and narrow-casted to only have a Brown face. Today when we say immigration we think of Mexicans trying to come to the United States and forget that there are dozens of African ethnic groups facing similar challenges in other parts of the country. Most notable are Haitians.

Salas gives us an insightful history into immigration history along the border which includes shedding light on Poncho Villa who he explained was half Black and commanded a Black army. Salas talked about how Buffalo soldiers deserted their position in the US Army and went to fight for Poncho Villa. He also talked about an army of made up of African women who came from Mexico. Salas also talked about the Afro-Mexican population in Vera Cruz.  He also talked about the African influence on ‘mexican’ culture including the song La Bamba which was made famous by singer Richie Valens. He explained the song and word are African in origin.

During our interview we talked about language and how both Africans and Mexicans who were originally indigenous. Professor Salas talked about how the Spaniards literally beat the native languages out of Indigenous peoples and forced them to speak Spanish. he talked about how people were beaten in the streets of Mexico City until they spoke Spanish. This was similar to what happened with African slaves brought over to the US were beaten until they stopped using their native tongue and spoke English. With regards to Mexicans people crossing the border were beaten until they stopped speaking Spanish and started speaking English. I’m not sure people realize the level of brutality that was imposed upon slaves and native peoples by those who colonized these lands. Salas went on to add in great detail about the origins of Mexican identity  and how this led to the  erasing the history of indigenous people’s tribes and cultural heritage.

We spoke about the Battle of Alamo where Professor Salas explained that it was essentially a ‘slave owner rebellion’  that centered around  Mexico’s President at the time whowas Afro-Mexican banning slavery.  He gives the full history of  this and talks about General Santa Ana who is immortalized in the break beat song ‘The Mexican’ by Babe Ruth

We talked at length about the caste system in Mexico which was imposed by the Spaniards who brought over 300 thousand African slaves and forced to breed and marry to lighten up the race.  Salas explained that certain last names were given to people to indicate that they were African vs Native. Names like Moreno and Grito are two of the many.

blackandbrownunity-225We concluded into our conversation by talking about the challenge both Blacks and Browns have in the US. They include buying into White Supremacy, Sharing Power and avoiding Divide and Conquer tactics.  Salas said it was important that we support those who share the same goals and principles and not just a Brown or Black face. he talked about the miscalculation it was for some Black organizations to support Clarence Thomas and for some Mexican organizations to support Alberto Gonzalez. Salas noted that we should all strive to have a global perspective, be fully engaged and aware of policies we have toward Latin America and to connect the dots where ever possible.

We also talked about the opportunity and role that President Obamahas in enhancing Black-Brown unity. We talked about regional differences and how Black Brown unity has different faces and challenges in various parts of the country. Texas has a unique history which is different then what takes place in California which is different than what takes place in New York or Miami. He noted in Texas the history may even be different in various parts of the state. For example, in east texas, the culture is more Southern. In other parts Texas is much more Southwestern.

Professor Salas suggested we read books like ‘Black and Brown’ by Gerald Horne which is filled with historical facts and highlights points of unity. He said we should also read Texis Devils by Michael Collardwhich focuses on the history of ther Texas Rangers who were essentially a Ku Klux Klan force that terroized the Mexican population in Texas.

Below is a video which gives a short exceprt of our conversation.. T o hear the entire entire peep our Breakdown FM podcast

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Breakdown FM Podcast: Black and Brown Unity-The History

http://odeo.com/episodes/25043444-Black-and-Brown-Unity-pt1-The-History

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlSM4p5fkQQ

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Black and Brown Unity pt2-the Immigration Debate

We spoke with popular Washington DC based blogger Carlos Quiroz  from

Carlos In DC

Carlos In DC

Washinton DC about Black-Brown Unity and Immigration reform.. During the Immigration Panel at Netroots Convention the topic of Black-Brown unity came up and generated a lot of discussion both within and outside of the panel…

The main concerns that were raised was the types of prejudices and disdain being expressed on the left as opposed to the right side of the political spectrum. The question was raised as to whether or not in cities where there are Black/Brown tensions like Los Angeles, if there would be a manipulation of rage in the same vein that fear was manipulated during the Healthcare debates. Expressed was the concern that ‘spokespersons’ for our respective communities would be handpicked by corporate media outlets so they could go on various shows and espouse inflammatory remarks. Thats definitely been happening in LA.  

In this discussion we cover a lot of ground. We dwell into those questions and more. Carlos who is Peruvian drops keen insight into how colonialism has impacted the way people view race in many parts of Latin America. He talks about the opportunity to build coalitions and how that is happening in some places.

Also featured is our comrad Faviana Rodriguez, a popular artis/paintert out of Oakland. We build with her on this topic as well. We talk to her about the role art and cultural expression play in politicizing people and moving folks to action..

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Breakdown FM Podcast: Black and Brown Unity pt2-The Immigration Debate

http://odeo.com/episodes/25043313-Black-and-Brown-Unity-pt2-the-Immigration-debate

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Adding to this discussion is the interview I did I  for Carlos’ blog here are the links to that…

http://carlosqc.blogspot.com/2009/08/african-american-and-mexican-racial.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5ScoavEyRU&feature=related

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Comments

  1. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    I lived in Texas for nine years and I can not tell you about the Black – Mexican Hate, but I can tell you what I have observed about Mexican people many years ago. Times have somewhat changed. but I remember the Hispanics being the “hidden minority” that were used to build up the U.S. census population for white people in Texas. I remember when Hispanics were quick to say that we are “not” a race , we are an ethnic group. I remember a time when white people loved using Mexicans to build up the census, because they would pass as white and would side with white America. Times have changed, but i do not ever recall any Mexican man ever havingthe guts to stand up against white people “in my life ” time. They are wuicjk to point out to white people what the Blacks have but they never stood up to white people. Things have changed, but when Hispanic people enter this country lkeaglly like everyone esle, and prove that they are not just building up the census for whiteAmerica and doing white America’s dirty work with their gangs, and show that they aren’t afraid of white folk and stop going behind Black folks back to complain to the white man, I’m all for them, but Mexicans haven’t shown me nothing. I do not hate anyone, I just tell the truth. There’s a lot of ignorance in California with the gangs. I just don’t believe you can be the most dominant people in a country and be there illegally. That’s white folks fault, though, trying to build up the census against Blacks with the “hidden minority”. They ain’t hiding no more. Don’t hate ya, just never proved to me that you were down for any “cause” other than your own, Latina America. Fight the enemy directly and stop going behind Black people’s back is all that I ask. I’ve seen some cowardous people. You ain’t “tough” cause you can kill your own race and Black people and go to jail… You just another brother with nothing to lose that America got to. Don’t hate you, just watch who’s toes you stepping on because “you” too afraid to stand up to the man. Peace!

    • Robert i think u make major gross generalizations.. I’m sorry those have been your experiences… there’s lots of folks who ride for master.. Some Mexican, some Black some whatever.. hence the term Uncle Tom.. If thats your conclusion then history has somehow sidestepped you.. I see nothing but Brown folks fighting for social justice.. in the Tx and beyond..

  2. How do you keep a people down? You ‘never’ let them ‘know’ their history.

    The 7th Cavalry got their butts in a sling ‘again’ after Little Big Horn, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it weren’t for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would have been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. Read, “Rescue at Pine Ridge”, buy on Amazon, or major bookstores, i.e., Barnes & Noble, or visit web site, rescueatpineridge.com to purchase and read some more good Buffalo Soldier history.

  3. Ricky Hicks says:

    I had one Mexican friend who died of natural causes that didn’t like the immigration of the 70’s because he said it was giving the American-Mexican a bad name…the ones who came here legally…simulating into the society, learning and speaking the language, supporting a culture of America…not coming here as a “Trojan Horse”!!!

  4. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Like I said, Davey D, times have changed. Maybe you know some stuff I don’t know because I haven’t lived in Texas since 1994. Davey D, please give me the names of these “brown” folks that you see fighting for social justice. I don’t claim they don’t exist, I don’t live in California, I just never seen Mexican men stand up to white people in “my” life time, definitely not for Black people. Lets make sure we talking about the same “his-story’, because I remember Dr. King, Medgar Evan, and Malcom X, who are you talking about? And if you give me that SNCC guy above and Ceasar Chavez…. I think sometimes perhaps you just have too big of a fan base too cover.

    • I’m sorry Robert.. that your experience has been so limited frankly I’m suprised.. As a writer and someone who speaks on history how do you not know the names of those who fought alongside us? I mean I expect them to not be in our history books, but you write history, so how I would expect you to do just cursory search for those people in other communities.. There been documentaries done on them..They are celebrated in their communities and most definitely stood up ‘to the man’..
      I expect you to show a bit more intelligence on that and not make the sweeping generalizations that you did.. Do a bit of research fam its a click away..

      For the benefit of those who don’t know.. As was mentioned in the interview the Black panthers and brown Berets supported each other and shared a similar philosphy based around revolution.. This meant they linked up on issues and not soley on personality and cultural expressions. Fred Hampton brought the berets into the orginal Rainbow coalitions..

      While the civil rights and Black power movements were cracking you had simultaneously the the Chicano and La Raza movements with people like Corky Gonzales, Carlos Montes wis one of the co-founders of the brown berets.. You had folks like writer Louis rodgriguez, Ruben Salazar… Hector Garcia is a cat who sat on one of the early civil rights commissions. You lived in Texas and never heard of Raul salinas?? For real? He played such a major part in the lives of both Blacks and whites..he did tons of work in prisons and nurtered quite a few writers and spoken word artists.. Folks in seattle also know him.. His book store in Austin is still a major gathering spot

      You living in texas Robert should know that it was situations involving soldiers returning home that sparked off parts of the Chicano movements there.. You had returning white soldiers who sparked off movments in Cali when they attacked mexicans in what we now call the Zoot suit riots..Mexicans had their own movements and dealt with many of the same problems..as we did .. They suffered Jim Crow in Cali and in throughout the southwest.. They had their revolutionary groups as well as their cultural nationalist groups..

      You’re into rap and never heard of Fidel Rodgriuez.. You never heard his revolutionary radio show that garnered number one ratings on KKBT.. perhaps you need to ask around abit.. nane Aljendro of Barrios Unidos? You never heard of them.. these folks been around before 1994 and still around today.. You never heard of victory outreach? and all the work they do? Come On Rob.. I will assume you just trying to spark dialogue

  5. Honestly, Davey D, you schooled me with some “names”, and I’ll research these names, but as I said, “In my life-time” I do not know any Mexican that ever stood up…” I think we might be lumping all people of Hispanic origin in one bunch. I’ve seen some Puerto Ricans down with Rap and the “cause’, but I’ll do some research. My experience is limited, because I don’t see it happening. I see Dave Chappell and then Carlos Mencia has to do the same type of show. I don’t see what you see, I’ll read about it. But i think you are lumping everybody up to make your point.

    • I didn’t lump anyone.. do the research its not that hard.. If your experience is carlos mencia then I suggest you start reading some books fam and get out more.. really.. thats said with respect.. We live in abig world.. Know your neighbors beyond CNN and Comedy Channel.. If you know mexicans only through carlos mencia, then don’t trip when mexicans only know Black folks through dave chappel and a few rap videos.. live by the sword, die by the sword..

  6. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Not trying to spark dialogue for sparking, but hoping that Mexican Americans realize that some of us know that they were just the “hidden minority”, now all of a sudden out of no where they are the second largest minority. I can’t hate on them, but I ain’t going to give them no “Jim Crow” points either based on what I know about how they became the second largest minority. Let the Black Hatians, Africans, or Cubans try to cross the border… Can’t hate, just see what many other people don’t chose to seee and don’t care to see. I’ll research the names, but it ain’t the Puerto Ricans and Cubans that’s here illegally building up all these numbers. Like I said, I can’t hate, I’ll do my research, and, Davey D, I’m searching for “Mexicans” standing up to the man. Peace!

    • First of all who cares if they the hidden minority? Whereever there ios alarge population of White folks who want numbers boosted will do what they do.. here in the west coast Asians are placed in the white category. Since you work in radio Robert u already know that because of arbitron ratings.. Asians are classified as white.. We also know that before we had this ‘hidden minority’ we had the model minority amongst asians..

      Second, many latinos.. are actually afro-latinos and no telling what category they are placed in.. Colonialist mindset is till pervasive in many countries.. But you and I both know that ain’t everyone and not even a majority..
      If you somehow think the thousands of Mexicans crossing the desert to come to a new life is any less arduous then haitians crossing a boat, ur bugging.. Go to arizone and see how many dead bodies are found in those deserts.. Talk to the Neo-Nazis who took it upon themselves to patrol the borders looking for Mexicans to hunt.. Doesn’t look like open arm welcome to me.. Go to LA and listen to the radio shows where they routinely make fun of Mexicans.. and encourage folks to let their undocumented workers go..

      Lastly we’re forgetting one other thing.. these folks didn’t cross the border, the border crossed them.. We live on stolen land.. so if a billion people wanna cross over into Texas and Cali.. so be it.. It wasn’t ours in the first place..
      As for white folks and their roles, last I checked the power players were highlighting people like Ted hayes, larry elders and a host of other Black folks to tell the world why Mexicans were so dangerous.. lerts stop the ignorance..

      No one owes us anything.. If they ain’t standing up to the man, so be it.. make sure you have everyone in your own neighborhood standing up. Last I checked we have lots of work to do then worry about what folks need to be doing next door..

  7. When they letting you come to this country without hassle to do” their” work, why would you ever fight the man? History is not just names…

  8. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Still doing the research. You can have the last word on this subject. I’m not into politics. I don’t speak to please nobody, I just call it like I see it. If you offended, it only because when we lift the covers the truth hurts. You got to go “parable” because if you say what God allows you to really know, people won’t hear it. Trust me, I’ve been saying this hip-hop stuff for 15 years. The Carlos Mencia point was only an example of how when Black folk do something they got to complain and copy. You can have the last point, I ain’t running for office no where. Mexicans aren’t dangerous, most of them are here illegally. Let the Black man do something illegal… Politicians don’t argue… I do!!!

  9. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Brother, you fight hard for these people, I don’t want to hear “nobody owes ‘us’ nothing” when we start this legislation on “Reparations” for Black people agian. :)

  10. @ Robert Jr. – since you lived in Texas, I recommend you research Reyes Tijerina. There is too much he achieved in terms of struggle- but that term is very subjective. In the words of Junior Reid, its all One blood/Una Sangre, until we can realize this, no hood is safe. Lastly, I also recommend Bobby Vaughn’s Black Mexico Page for some good info at: http://www.afromexico.com/

  11. Robert Jr. James McClendon says:

    Shem1, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima comes to mind and the support that he got from Mexicans and South America… That’s the type of stuff I saw and be be seeing. You all win on this subject, but I know who will fight and will “pass’. But you all win!

  12. flavorblade says:

    I’m black and East L.A is my favorite West Coast spot. I got a lot of love out there last spring. I was the only thing around there darker than a brown paper bag. Except a school crossing guard. My cousin can pass for one of them. Light complexion and chinky eyes. Maybe were I was at, Boyle Heights. Thats like the Mexican Harlem or something, so the people had a high level of street sophistication. After my first hour my business was in the street. Then I’m rocking gangster hats and dickies in a fly rental. Cats with dark shades and white tee-shirts thowing their sets up at me. I just nod. It’s all good. Now I’ve been invited back to meet a few people and work with this music group. Shit I can’t see staying nowhere else out there. It’s the wannabee spots where you have to be careful. Real recognize real.

    There was one small incident. At a taco stand some school age girls coming up the street. One of them said something like darkie. The others laughed. The guy in front of me at the stand shot them a hard look and they shut up. I think he was somebody. Man they got burritos the size of pork loins out there.

    I knew my little story didn’t solve any political issues, but that’s what it is on my level.

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