Politrix: Black Versus Brown? The Manufactured War

Next Sunday, June 1st, will bring the Puerto Rican Democratic primary , and many pundits will tout it as a milestone battle in the manufactured war. No, not that manufactured war . The skirmish I’m referring to deals with the supposed conflict between African Americans and Latinos, Black and Brown. Oh, haven’t you heard? The two groups have conflicting interests and don’t identify with or support each other-that’s why Hispanics have tended to support Senator Clinton over Senator Obama. But just who has decided that we’re at war?

Divide and conquer is a military strategy that encourages combatants to break a powerful opponent into smaller groups to make it less powerful and easier to destroy. That’s exactly what’s at play here. Minorities, especially young ones, have voted in record numbers this primary cycle, and Latinos have fast become the largest group of non-whites in the U.S. Imagine the power we could have if only we banded together over the issues of poverty, health care and education? It’s a thought that already has the Republican party running scared—and smart.

The major claim here is that Latinos don’t support Black candidates and that they will never back Senator Obama in the general election. But the Republican party and press didn’t cook this up on their own; this idea actually originates with one of Clinton’s pollsters, a Latino named Sergio Bendixen, who told The New Yorker that “the Hispanic voter-and I want to say this very carefully-has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support Black candidates.” Why would a Hispanic man say this? Because if taken seriously, it could undermine Obama’s argument that he is a “Great Uniter.” And, if taken seriously, it could become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

el diario

But it is time that we call bullshit on folks pitting us against each other. There’s a few ways to do this, including looking at the truth: If we analyze past elections of Black officials, as University of Washington political scientist Matt Barreto did earlier this year, we see that Hispanics have no history of withholding support from Black candidates. David Dinkins was voted in as mayor of NYC with 73% of the Latino vote, Harold Washington won 70% of the Latino vote to become mayor of Chi in ’83 and former LA mayor Tom Bradley also ran home with the victory five times due in part to huge support from Hispanics. There are also eight Black reps in the House of Representatives who preside over districts that are more than a quarter Latino. Barreto points out that even Obama himself has enjoyed overwhelming support from Latinos in past elections; when he ran for senate in ’04, he won the Democratic nomination with more Latino votes than Latino candidate Gerry Chico. Wow.

We should also decry the insulting simplification of the Hispanic vote: Since when did voting for one candidate become synonymous with hating the other? Many Hispanics may just identify with Clinton’s platform, while others have admitted to voting on the basis of name recognition—not out of a fundamental hate or mistrust or lack of confidence in a Black candidate. (Nevermind that these groups are essentially the same anyway-but that’s a discussion for another column.)

But the most important way we can dispel this myth is to show and prove that we cannot be picked apart by lies and fear-mongering: Turn the channel when cats start talking about how Puerto Ricans don’t like Blacks on Sunday. (Yeah, no one will know because you probably don’t have a Nielsen box in your house, as they rarely go to non-white households, but you get the point.) Tell folks the truth about this so-called Black-Brown Divide. Then rally around the party nominee, whether it’s Obama or Clinton (humph). Voting together, advocating together-that’s how we make sure our interests are abided by, during this election season and for the next four years.


If you like Kenrya’s opinion, check out the rest of her posts here.

Last 5 posts by Parlour

  • julie

    Well, call me naive but I really feel that my generation of 20-30 somethings is much more open minded and tolerant and generally, the skin color matters much less then common interest in picking who to be friends with. Of course I can’t generalize my statement, but I’m basing my opinion on facts. The circle of my friends, and friends of their friends, consists of ALL races. We are Hispanics, Blacks, Jews, Whites and we are bunch of smart, educated, rational folk that favor Obama over Hillary. Not because he’s black and we like black so much, but because we all individually decided for ourselves (whichever color group we belong to) that Obama is a better candidate. As a matter of fact, a couple of our friends, who happen to be a Hispanic+Black couple (can you believe the nerve, they are supposed to be at war!), are so passionate about Obama’s candidacy that they went out of their way to New Jersey to join a rally for Obama (and came back proudly spotting Obama’s campaign buttons). So, war? What war?

    May be if we are talking about a gang-related, territorial type of war, yeah, but this is not what this is all about. This is about, as Kenrya pointed out, divide and conquer factor. This is a brilliant strategy on the part of Clinton’s campaign, but it is definitely not true in real life. People should be given more credit in their decision making process. People are not as ignorant as they are trying to be portrayed, they make their decisions based on many other factors then just a skin color of the candidate. This topic resonates with Black Woman Voter’s debate we had earlier this month (just because I am a woman it is not going to make me vote for Hillary!)

  • Diane

    I’m glad you started this Julie…

    I always felt living in the tri-state area we were not the majority. Being where I am – I’m more sure than ever that NY and the surrounds are not ‘typical.’ Good ‘ole boys seem to be a majority in the midwest, south (yes even though I’m sort of in a tranplanted Northerner region, the rest of this state… sheesh, my home sits on a recently sold tibacky field…) – and good ‘ole boys have a hard time right now – black or woman… YIKES! They’ll go McCain. Remember, what we see now if only HALF of what will be come late summer. The Republicans have been quiet… once the Dems formalize their pick – this whole black/woman thing will take on a whole new meaning.

    And what platforms? They’re so busy trying to get a vote I have yet to really understand their platform – not that that will happen once they’re in power … so here’s my question: is ANYONE really happy after a presidential election? I mean, you can say you want to do many, many things – but Congress will not pass them all (not even if they’re all the same party). The quagmires that are SSecurity and healthcare – heck, Bubba couldn’t do that in 8 years. Congress said, no money … but we sure found money for tax rebates, a war, $6000 toilets (thank you Pentagon) – Alaskan bridges that help 50 people…

    So, does it matter who is the President? I’m not so sure. I think it’s important who they surround themselves with – and we don’t usually know that til late in a campaign (I’m talking cabinet and all).

    And I wonder how Puerto Rico got 55 or so delegates; they’re a territory, they don’t pay income tax, and yet they have more delegates than some US states… that’s odd (is Guam the same situation?).

    Divide and conquer – but of only one subset of the whole – the Democrats. Will you vote for an Obama/Hillary ticket? What if you’re a passionate Hillary supporter? Can you stomach 2nd place? Can you rally around the person you passionately diliked a few weeks ago?

    Back on point – Julie, I agree with you. I do not see the black, woman thing. But I think we’re a minority in the country. Such a shame. Hillary is done, cooked, finito. The Democratic leadership pulled support weeks ago – and more flee every day. Why they didn’t just stop her, is beyond me – not because I want/don’t want her – but clearly they have CHOSEN Obama – so why continue the charade? Does anyone else see this?

    I’ve digressed enough, but I warned ya K…

  • morena

    One point why I think Hispanics tend to lean towards Hillary is more so (and I agree with Kenya, the black/brown division is bs) because she is a woman. Our country is a mess and the thought among Hispanics is that maybe a woman can bring peace and compassion to a fucked up country. We’ll see if that will be true in Puerto Rico. If you look at Hispanic women in politics and how they are viewed in history, the are like the Mother Theresa. Now will Hillary be the Mother Theresa for America? Well at least she has the best of both worlds. She has the balls and the vagina!

  • Felix Cruz


    Simply put – I am Puerto Rican from NYC, 50 years old. I voted for Bill clinton, and I admire Hillary for pushing for universal health care, still a very worthy goal. I just don’t think she’ll be a good President. I voted for Obama in the primary, and will do so again in the Presidential. Nuff said.

  • Right..see the Black/Brown, conquer/divide thing really pisses me off. Why make trouble where there is none? To drum up votes….so you get the votes and walk away from what’s been started…an imaginary war. I agree with Kenrya, we need to call bullshit and stand together. Simply put it’s not about Black/Brown, it’s about who is the best candidate for the job. Period.

  • Tahad

    “Black Power” Hispanic people are majority blacks.
    Puerto Rico means Rich Port. I wonder what was so rich about the port the “slaves” that were brought there and given there latin language, or the precious material of the land. Hmmm. Let’s see about Dominican Republic. in 1215 st. Domonic had a religious order of friars, so the land was named after him, also a carribean island of negriod people who came to this Island as slaves. Mexicans are a new breed in between some mix race that mixed with another mix race, because ancient Amexm people looked different than modern day mexicans look at old pictures dating back to the 15th and 16th century in Mexico they looked more of a black descent also in the 1200’s pictures of mexicans had more of Nubian features. We already know Spaniards and Portueguese are really Jews in disguise. except those who are clearly black or brown in skin complexion.