NAACP Seeks To Join Forces With Hispanics

Sean Mussenden, Media General News Service, July 15, 2006

[Booker T. Washington’s 1895 Address to the Atlanta Exposition urged that jobs should go to American blacks rather than to “those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits . . .”]

Washington—As the NAACP gathers for its annual convention this weekend, the nation’s oldest civil-rights group is increasingly joining forces with the newest minority power in American politics—Hispanics.

Supporters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People say working with Hispanics is crucial in maintaining relevance in an era when Hispanics, the fastest-growing minority, outnumber blacks.

But critics of the NAACP say the relationship has hurt the group’s core constituency in the ongoing battle over immigration.

Frank Morris, chairman of Choose Black America, a group that favors strict immigration controls, said the NAACP has lost touch with the needs of low-income blacks.

“The leadership has really divorced itself from the African-American grass roots, who are really concerned about the high rates of illegal immigration,” he said.

The NAACP has joined with pro-immigration Hispanic groups to lobby for a more orderly, open-door immigration policy.

Economists debate the effect low-skilled, poorly educated illegal immigrants have on the ability of citizens to find jobs. But some studies suggest that blacks—who as a group tend to be poorer and have less formal education than whites—are hurt by the influx of immigrant workers.

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After the 2000 census showed that Hispanics had moved ahead of blacks as the nation’s largest minority group, “the media tried very hard to frame the growth as a competition between Latinos and blacks,” said Cecilia Muoz, vice president for policy for National Council of La Raza, the country’s largest Hispanic civil-rights group.

Instead of competition, she said, the two sides have increasingly found common ground on such issues as strong voting-rights protections, anti-discrimination laws, health-care access and equal education funding.

Bruce Gordon, who became NAACP president a year ago, spoke last month to the annual convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens, another Hispanic civil-rights group.

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