Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Monday said Latinos and African Americans must “face up to” existing racial strains over jobs, language differences and violent crime by addressing the underlying causes of those tensions, primarily poverty and the lack of opportunity.
At the same time Villaraigosa dismissed those who believe that such tensions define the relationship between blacks and Latinos “as if it’s endemic to our DNA to have conflict.”
Villaraigosa waded into the volatile issue of race at the National Black Latino Summit, a conference of community leaders and organizers who came to Los Angeles to tighten bonds between the nation’s two largest minority groups and counter the “hyperventilating” over perceptions of a racial divide.
Though he acknowledged that recent gang violence and schoolyard brawls between blacks and Latinos in Los Angeles have drawn national attention and must be addressed, Villaraigosa emphasized the long history of blacks and Latinos working and living together. Blacks and Latinos joined together in the fight for civil rights, he said, and today Los Angeles is filled with thriving multiethnic neighborhoods.
“The tension really comes from the struggle for survival, not race,” Lee [The Rev. Eric P. Lee, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles] said. “We all want the same thing. We all want a quality of life that speaks to dignity, respect and economic opportunity.”