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The Legacy of Dr. King is Being Lost Among too Many Young People of Color

LatinaLista — Today, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior would have been 78 years old.

Had he lived, what would he have thought about what’s going on today?

Though he would have been somewhat pleased about the strides people of color have made within mainstream society, he most probably would have been disgusted that instead of blacks and Latinos uniting with one another to further advance educational, employment and political opportunities, access to fair loans for housing and business start-ups, and breaking through the glass ceilings at Fortune 500 companies, young blacks and Latinos are killing and beating each other with greater regularity and hate.

The latest senseless and brutal attack took place before Christmas in the Harbor Gateway community of Los Angeles where a 14-year-old black girl named Cheryl Green was gunned down, for no reason other than the color of her skin, by two Latino gang members.

Mourners remember Cheryl Green
(Source: LA Times)

Since Cheryl’s death, the neighborhood has rallied for an end to the violence and children who attend 186th Street Elementary School in Harbor Gateway remembered Cheryl during their second annual Peace March last Friday — a march where they’re supposed to remember to tolerate one another and play nicely with each other.

Yet something happens to both young Latinos and blacks that triggers a “line in the sand” mentality and makes them see one another less as comrades with the same struggles and more like sworn enemies.

Does it happen in grade school? Middle school? High school? On the streets? Or just among the few locked up in juvi or jail who bring their grudges out with them when they’re released and spread their grudges of hate like a virus among their respective homeboys?

The death of Cheryl Green was certainly a hate crime. Yet, the most updated Hate Crime statistics (2005) from the FBI show that it is still whites who commit the most hate crimes.

But, upon closer examination of the data, we can see there’s not a breakout for Hispanic/Latino in any of the data tables which leads to the conclusion that Hispanics are categorized as being “white.”

If that is the case, then there is no real statistical foundation to draw from, aside from anecdotal observances, that there is an increase in Latino on black crime.

To get a really true picture of just how bad the relationship between Latinos and blacks has evolved, the FBI needs to break out these racial categories to feature Hispanics as a stand-alone entity.

Otherwise, unless it can be statistically seen that something ominous is brewing, none of us will ever know exactly how deep is the Latino on black and black on Latino crimes. Without that data, it will be that much harder to find the solutions that are so desperately needed.

In the meantime, we have to make due with the following FBI info:

An analysis of available race data for the 6,804 known hate crime offenders revealed that:

* 60.5 percent were white.
* 19.9 percent were black.
* 12.3 percent were unknown.
* 5.2 percent were groups made up of individuals of various races (multiple races, group).
* 1.1 percent of known offenders were American Indian/Alaskan Native.
* 0.9 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander.

Since many crimes involving Latinos and blacks are not categorized as hate crimes, in my opinion, it helps to look at “Persons Arrested” provided by the same FBI statistics.

The FBI 2005 statistics for persons arrested include the following:

# In 2005, 76.2 percent of all persons arrested were male, 82.1 percent of persons arrested for violent crime were male, and 68.0 percent of persons arrested for property crime were male.
# Among the four categories of race reflected in UCR arrest data, 69.8 percent of all persons arrested were white, 59.0 percent of persons arrested for violent crime were white, and 68.8 percent of persons arrested for property crime were white.

Curiously, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2005 report, though “white” persons have the highest arrest rates, they don’t hold that distinction behind bars:

# An estimated 12% of black males, 3.7% of Hispanic males, and 1.7% of white males in their late twenties were in prison or jail.

The disparity in those numbers don’t fully explain the growing senseless violence between young blacks and young Latinos, or why Cheryl Green was murdered.

However, one thing is clear, too many young people of color are being dehumanized and feel dehumanized, and dehumanizing one another as a result.

It may be 2007, but I have a feeling Dr. Martin Luther King Junior would feel like it’s 1960 all over again.

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