Because of redistricting and population trends, some African-American politicians may lose their seats to Latino challengers this year. This could lead to increased friction between the groups, so positive leadership will be necessary to limit this risk.

Some historically black urban areas are now predominantly Latino. The congressional district that includes Harlem is 55 percent Latino and 27 percent black. Harlem, the symbolic cradle of African-American culture, has long sent a black representative to Congress. But that may soon change, if a Latino challenger unseats the 81-year-old incumbent, Rep. Charles Rangel.

This race for the House may become a litmus test for the relationship between blacks and Latinos, who have a nuanced relationship and whose political agendas often collide despite many commonalities as citizens in this country.

Immigration is probably the most divisive issue, as many Latinos advocate for strong immigration reform while many blacks do not see this as their issue. This contest will also test black voters’ ability to trust a Latino to represent them and their needs. And it will force Latino voters to decide whether cultural and ethnic alliances and loyalties outweigh political clout.

New York City is not the only place where this jockeying is happening. According to the 2010 census, nationally, Latinos make up 16.3 percent of the population. Blacks amount to 12.6 percent.

Nationally, Latinos became a majority in 191 of the country’s 366 metropolitan areas, which account for 83.7 percent of the U.S. population. Atlantic City, N.J., Chicago, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland are among those experiencing this demographic change.

Chicago, another historical cradle for blacks, saw its black population drop by more than 11 percent between 2000 and 2010. The African-American population now stands at 32.9 percent, while the city’s Latinos are right behind at 31.7 percent. Latinos now have 13 wards where they are a clear majority, up from 10, which will increase their power.

In Denver, African-Americans make up 9.7 percent of the population but their numbers have been dropping so the city council is currently facing a transformational change due to redistricting. Of the 11 districts in the new map, only one has a black population greater than 25 percent.

Most tellingly, the South, a traditional black stronghold, has nine of the 12 states with the steepest increase in Latinos: South Carolina, followed by Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, North Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia. While Latinos may not be able to take traditional black seats, their concerns must be addressed.

Blacks and Latinos, long discriminated against and disadvantaged economically, need to ensure they support politicians who promote their interests. Leaders in both communities need to stress this point and must resist the temptation to pit one group against the other. No one wins that way.

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams writes about current issues for the Progressive Media Project. She can be reached at

You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


It's finally setting in: Trump is Trump and he’s not going to change because of winning the nomination.

The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project