October is designated as National Hispanic Heritage Month. But what do we know about our Hispanic neighbors and fellow Americans?
We acknowledge that October is a better time for celebrations than February with its frigid temperatures when Blacks celebrate our history. After that, most Blacks are in the dark when it comes to understanding the nuanced traditions, proud legacies and difficult journeys traveled by Hispanics in making America their home and capturing their piece of the proverbial pie. Sadly, the reverse is probably true too with Hispanics knowing very little about Blacks. We are two races of color, more often relegated to the margins of society, who tend to live isolated or insulated from one another, youth attending urban public schools being one of only a few exceptions.
That said, perhaps those of us who are older and more entrenched in our views and prejudices can learn something from today’s youth. If these children, Black and brown, can learn together, play together, grow together — even love one another despite outward differences — then why can’t we do the same?
What if Blacks and Hispanics made intentional, meaningful efforts to learn more about each other? What if we ignored the rhetoric that our nation has long perpetuated about our two distinct cultures and set upon a path to become friends, colleagues and co-workers in the fight for true equality in America? Hispanics make up 18.3 percent of the U.S. population and are therefore America’s largest minority group. But stereotypes about them continue to dominate the perceptions held by Americans.
For example, while the U.S. has never adopted an official language, we lament when we hear our fellow Americans speaking Spanish, even though America’s count of 58 million Hispanics is greater than the population of Spain and only second to that of Mexico. If we knew the languages of our ancestors from the African continent, wouldn’t we proudly speak those words whenever we gathered together?
Blacks did not create the denigrating myths about Hispanics or Hispanic cultures. That was the hard work of the world’s Anglophones. Why have Blacks been so eager to get on board? With the Census coming our way and with the next election for president also on the horizon, we would be wise to consider forming alliances, crossing bridges that we have allowed to separate us for centuries so we might join forces.
We are, truth be told, more alike than unalike.