An Honest Conversation About Race (Through Hip-Hop) Part Three: the Black & Brown Coalition

I Left My Wallet In El Segundo – A Tribe Called Quest

Like Cliven Bundy wondering about the black families he recalled languishing on their porches in North Vegas, we wonder whether things would have gone so smoothly for Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad had they visited El Segundo today. Supposing El Segundo is located in California, it would be a place where the demographics and relations between black and Hispanic people have drastically shifted and soured, like the cream customarily used to top tacos and burritos. 

When members of A Tribe Called Quest “arrived” there in 1989, they came across a diminutive man in a sombrero by the side of the road—a day labouring pioneer, no doubt. They communicated cordially in English and even received directions from him. Were they to take the trip today, there would literally be two little Mexican men by the side of the road, and it would be more likely that they would not be fluent in English. 

Reviewing data from IPSUM USA’s California censuses, we found that the state’s Hispanic population nearly doubled from 7.6 million to 14 million between 1990 and 2010. With Pew reporting that another 1.5 million were added between then and 2019. The immense disparity in these numbers may be due to the 1986 Immigration Control and Reform Act, adding a glut of wetbacks into the system all at once. These newcomers were rather fruitful (in 1990 Hispanic women had a fertility rate of 107.7 per 1,000 women, compared to the 89 and 62.8 per 1,000 blacks and whites, respectively.) Beyond this, they were able to sponsor their relatives back home. Hispanics also accounted for 50% of US population growth during this period, which brought them to a national total of over 60 million in a country of 330-odd million

Data aggregated by the Centre for Immigration Studies in 2017 shows that in five of America’s largest cities, nearly half the residents spoke a language besides English at home. With 44 percent in the entire state of California doing so, and 60 percent in the city of Los Angeles alone. 

Though it was touched upon very snidely elsewhere in this series, that these numbers likely do not include people staying in the US illegally is worth repeating. Estimates for their numbers range from 11 million up to 50 millionwith tens of thousands entering every month since the beginning of 2021. Thus, nobody is certain about the exact size of the group. Which is fair. They are undocumented, so it is difficult to count them. That being the case you must agree that it is perfectly appropriate to exercise some prejudice here: to assume that most are from Mexico, and Central and Latin America. Their native countries are within walking distance, after all. It is like living above a restaurant that does not bother to dispose of its waste properly. There will be rats and roaches up in your place in no time. 

Like the vermin that will inevitably invade your premises, illegals are looking for a means of survival. They are destitute and are willing to exploit the circumstances that would allow them to feed on your scraps. Sadly, the analogy breaks down beyond this point. 

The crumbs attracting aliens are jobs that guys just like 19-year old Q-Tip and Shaheed Muhammad could do to lawfully earn a living, as well as the social services many of their neighbours back in inner city New York may rely on. Additionally, in places with an abundance of Spanish speakers, not being fluent can become a handicap for those seeking even entry-level positions. 

In 2010—under President Barack Obama—a group of experts briefed the US Commission on Civil Rights about the “Impact of Illegal Immigration on the Wages and Employment Opportunities of Black Workers”.

Some of the briefing’s key points:

“Illegal immigration to the United States in recent decades has tended to increase the supply of low-skilled, low-wage labor available in the U.S. labor market.” 

“About six in 10 adult black males have a high school diploma or less, and are disproportionately employed in the low-skilled labor market, where they are more likely to be in labor competition with immigrants.”

“Illegal immigration[…] has tended to depress both wages and employment rates for low-skill American citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are black men.”

“Expert economic opinions concerning the negative effects range from moderate to significant.”

In the name of sloth, charading as brevity, we are going to limit discussion of the negative impact illegals have on social services to education. This is the system and institution lauded as so integral—as the great economic equalizer of the classes and races and sexes. So this alone ought to suffice in painting the picture. 

America’s public schools do not turn away students based on immigration status. And immigrants, admitted lawfully or otherwise, do not just bring a diversity of culture and dress and food to the classroom from whensoever they came. They also bring such an array of other issues that policy research like “Beyond Teaching English: Support High School Completion by Immigrant & Refugee Students” is being conducted to find ways to spend money to help them cope. 

Reporters from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, using an estimate of 12.5 million extraterrestrials, calculated that the bill to the American taxpayer for immigrant education totaled $60 billion in 2017. Recall that the actual number of illegals may go beyond 50 million.

These migrants are typically poor, so they do not attend school with members of the American elite. Rather they become a drain on the resources that are commonly considered essential for the improvement in the conditions of poor, particularly black Americans. We appreciate that the stupefying underachievement of black students cannot be blamed entirely on the burdens newcomers put on their schools, nonetheless, this undoubtedly exacerbates the problem of the worsening literacy and numeracy skills of native black students.

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) is an assessment conducted with American 4th-, 8th-, and 12th-graders to determine their competency in a variety of academic subjects and tasks. The NAEP’s 2019 assessment of reading skills shows that less than half of black 4th-graders are capable of basic proficiency. Less than a fifth are capable of intermediate levels of proficiency. For comparison, more than three in four whites and Asians in the fourth grade have basic proficiency. About half of the students in both groups have intermediate proficiency. These scores inevitably get worse as the black students are allowed to move on to the next grade, having not developed the skills necessary to perform at those levels.

Imagine for a second that black voters miraculously got hip to this perspective, that they collectively recognized that legal and illegal immigration were not such good things for the future of them and their offspring. Deciding to take their concerns to the polls and politicians, they threatened to withhold the votes that the sweeping majority of them instinctively gave to Democrats. Could they still leverage their integral support for the Democratic Party to initiate a reversal of the destructive policies we have outlined above?

Prior to 2020, perhaps they could have. Following a study from Pew, way back in 2016 black voters made up 12.5 percent of the voting population and Hispanic voters 11.9 percent. Four years later, blacks have held steady while the number of Latin voters rose to 13.3 percent—and will continue to rise, especially if the Biden administration has their way. Because the latter is also a source of reliable votes for the Democrats, they will be exceedingly less attentive to the darkies on their plantations in favour of the peones acasillados working on their haciendas. Black Americans’ previously necessary votes will diminish in value, leaving those communities without the political clout they would need to to pressure their leaders into making better decisions.  

When the erudite and sympathetic sounding people on television make appeals to a black and brown coalition, mark that the two groups have little in common save for their being a convenient means for the talking heads to accrue power and remake society. Because most blacks and browns automatically give their votes to the preferred political party of anchors and reporters and activists, it is expedient—and offensive, if you really think about it—to lump them together. 
Blacks and browns are not very fond of each other. African Americans have been forced to evacuate whole neighbourhoods in LA under the threat of their so-called brown brothers. Whereas the fear that white pride will result in racist and xenophobic violence is largely unfounded, brown pride does have some culpability in the incitement of such transgressions. Since the time that Tribe took to El Segundo, Hispanic gangs have embarked on a campaign of “ethnic cleansing”. They have assassinated, firebombed, and harassed black residents in predominantly Latinx areas. Even the Southern Poverty Law Center copped to this in 2007.

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