Since the brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer the issue of racism and equality in America has been front and center in the streets of our cities with peaceful marches and across our news platforms.
The Black community has suffered tremendously over the past four hundred years in our struggles to exist and obtain basic rights. Now, standing on the edge of real and powerful change, we have found greater allies in the fight for civil rights and equality. The movement ignited by Mr. Floyd’s death has been joined by other communities of color including and especially Latinos.
Here in Los Angeles Latino students, professionals and families have taken to the streets to protest and voice their truths about racism and police brutality. They have echoed the same experiences with law enforcement and institutional racism as the Black community.
And just like the Black community, generations of Latinos have been subjugated to field work on farms under harsh conditions with little to no pay. Our communities have each given in blood, sweat and tears to build this country up and expand its wealth only to be suppressed via racially tinged policies and programs that have excluded communities of color from homeownership and wealth building.
This economic form of segregation exists today with redlining districts reducing the ability of Latinos and Blacks from obtaining loans for business start-ups or the purchasing of homes, while our educational system continues to provide greater funding to affluent neighborhoods than poor communities.
Latinos also have a history of intolerance and beatings by authorities from the Zootsuit Riots in 1943 to the killing of civil rights activist and LA Times reporter Ruben Salazar in 1970, to a recent incident involving an LAPD officer beating an unarmed and compliant Latino in Boyle Heights a month ago. Videos routinely show racist individuals taunting and degrading Latinos merely because of their language or color.
Our perils are mirrored. Our futures are connected.
Despite blatant discrimination, Blacks and Latinos have built up a strength and resilience to targeted racial attacks. Together the African American community and Latinos are tested and ready to stand beside their brothers and sisters of color to fight for their rights
A month ago, I wrote to Governor Newsom demanding the state create a fund to help undocumented residents financially during COVID-19. The coronavirus hit this community hard leaving two million residents of our state without any ability to earn money or apply for relief from federal and state programs including unemployment. Although this is the right thing to do, many viewed this through the lens of immigration and not as a moral obligation to help those in need.
As we march to obtain the promise of life, liberty and the real ability to pursue happiness without caveats, we should also begin to think about other communities of color and reciprocate the support they have given to our cause and efforts.
We all have skin in the game when dealing with racism - literally. As our community continues to fight for our civil rights, we cannot forget our brothers and sisters in the Latino community who are targets of bigotry because of color, language and where their families originated from. Our LGTBQ family whose lives are judged and condemned because of who and how they care to love. Our Asian American kin who have been the recent targets of hate because of the flame fanning raised by COVID-19’s origins. And the Native American community who have had just as much sorrow and heartache as any other community of color in the nation.
We all must stand together.
Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer - District 59 Representative
Chair, Public Safety Committee
Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer and his family have a legacy of civil rights involvement beginning with his uncle Jefferson Thomas (1942–2010) of the famed Little Rock Nine. Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer in a fierce advocate of social justice and civil rights issues working on prison reform, supporting second chance life enhancement programs for the formerly incarcerated and serving as a member on the Assembly’s Select Committee Community and Law Enforcement Relations and Responsibilities. Jones-Sawyer is a former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor charged with overseeing the city's Emergency Operation Center during the 1992 Civil Unrest.