The National Urban League (NUL), the oldest civil rights group in the nation, released its annual State of Black America report last week—just in case you didn’t already realize shit is pretty fucked up. This year, however, NUL added a new twist—Hispanics. Due to popular demand, according to current NUL president Marc Morial, the report now includes indexes of disparities between Hispanics and whites along with its usual indexes showing how far African Americans still lag behind our former oppressors. Is it me, or was this a long time in coming? Hispanics are now, after all, the largest minority group in the country, as well as the fastest growing. And we have faced—still face—many of the same challenges.
I, for one, never quite understood the need to separate our plights. Sure, the differences are abundant, but they’re mostly cultural. For the most part, Hispanics avoided the U.S. during the slavery years, but began a steady migration here when it became apparent that the opportunities were better than in our respective home countries. In case you don’t follow history, there is a long tradition of tyrannical, despotic governments in Latin America. Of course, just because we got here didn’t mean we got treated any better.
In the case of my ancestral home, Puerto Rico, America came to us. Things didn’t necessarily improve once the Americans took over after the Spanish American War. You might say things got worse, actually. Americans took over 120,000 acres of land, and Puerto Ricans traded one oppressor for another. Americans also tried to enforce an English-only policy for decades. Those of us who couldn’t Spicka no Inglish were labeled Spics, a slur that stuck and eventually spread to represent all Hispanics. For the longest time, we were treated as second-class citizens in our own homeland.
Anyway, enough with the history lesson. What is the state of blacks (& Hispanics) in America? Apparently, we’re still lagging. Hispanics edge out African Americans in NUL’s Equality Index at 75.5 percent and 71.8 percent, respectively. Unemployment is in double digits, 14.8 percent for blacks and 12.1 percent for Hispanics compared to 8.5 percent for whites. Median incomes fell compared to our white counterparts, and white folk were more than one and a half times as likely as blacks and two and a half times as likely as Hispanics to hold a bachelor’s degree. Basically, the recession has wiped out most of the gains made by blacks and Hispanics over the past several years.
Like I said earlier, shit is pretty fucked up. I could go into it further, but all I can access online is a summary of The State of Black America. If you want the full report it’ll cost you twenty bucks. I’m a poor, unemployed Puerto Rican. I can’t afford that. But that’s okay. I got what I wanted out of it: acknowledgment that our urban ills are not merely black or brown, just plain urban. Although both African Americans and Hispanics have made great strides in recent years, we all still have a long way to go to bridge the gaps. Imagine how much faster we could bridge them together.