The event was titled “Blacks and Hispanics: Allies or Rivals?”
The answer? Rivals—according to the angry audience at a town hall meeting organized by the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, which aims to rebuild the black family by aiding troubled young African American men with housing, mentoring and employment.
The Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, head of the organization, had arranged the meeting to take the temperature of the public—particularly blacks and Latinos—on relations between the two groups.
Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who sat on the meeting’s panel, voiced the view of many in the city’s political elite: “We should not pit groups against each other. Why do we have to look at it as blacks lose, Hispanics win? No one wins in this city without a coalition.”
But the audience of about 80, almost evenly divided among the three groups, had already formed a coalition—of anger. People would heckle Parks for the rest of the evening.
Terry Anderson, a radio host who has long opposed illegal immigration, was one of several panel members who blamed illegal immigrants for, in their opinion, stealing jobs from blacks and crowding schools and neighborhoods to unbearable limits.
“We have been invaded; there’s no other word for it,” Anderson said.
The audience clapped and cheered.
Blacks are no longer able to compete for entry-level jobs and construction work, Anderson said, because they are undercut by illegal immigrants willing to work for under-the-table wages.
Members of the audience repeatedly asked one panel member, Richard Alonzo, a district superintendent in the Los Angeles Unified School District, to reveal the number of students in L.A. schools who are illegal immigrants or to find out. He said the district doesn’t collect that information.
One questioner asked him for budget numbers, insisting they would prove that educating Latinos was more expensive than teaching other students. It’s a premise that Alonzo said was wrong.
The numbers matter, Peterson said, because black students attend schools overcrowded by those who have no right to be there. Peterson, who moderated the discussion, is well known in the conservative media, appearing on Fox television talk shows as well as his own syndicated radio program.
“A lot of black boys and girls are dropping out, and it’s because their classes are overwhelmed with illegal Hispanics,” Peterson said.
“Black children are mad about that; black parents are mad about that.”