It’s amazing to think that people who are a part of the Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) community would say disparaging comments about others in the same community. Based on leaked recordings, we know that negative comments made by some Latino/a’s about an African American child, African Americans in general, Cubans, and Mexican Americans were a topic of conversation by members of the Los Angeles City Council as they were discussing Redistricting and the impact on communities. As groups/communities that have experienced oppression, one would think that we would be able to stick together to fight for equity.
Positionality is defined as “the social and political context that creates your identity in terms of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability status.” It is also about exulting your group over another based on various variables such as power, influence, and bias. Being elected to the City Council puts one in a position of power. In America, we have a long history of seeing positionality play out as different groups have been absorbed into a Eurocentric identity, the Irish did this by running for political offices in majority Irish communities and then joining the ranks of the police. Many of the Irish, who were not initially perceived as “White,” began embracing “White” identities as they moved up in positions of power.
The main person recorded using disparaging language during a meeting is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. We would think that others in the BIPOC would understand the toll that racism takes us on as we go about our everyday lives. We share similar experiences but different stories. We know that Africans were brought to the U.S.A. to be enslaved. Our indigenous brothers and sisters experience genocide by the “Settlers.” Historically other groups had immigrant policies that limited the number of immigrants we were willing to take from countries of color, including South America, Cuba, etc. “Operation Wetback” was a campaign in the 1950s to deport Mexican Americans. Almost 90% of people pushed out of the country during the 20th century were Mexican, and it was referred to as a “voluntary departure.”
Experiencing historical and even contemporary issues of oppression would lead one to expect better from others in the BIPOC but what often happens is people forget their history and their negative experiences once they reach a certain economical, social, or political level. It is apparent that is what happen with Ms. Martinez and the others who spoke so ill of others. By dividing groups and having some believe that they have reached the “promised Land” of equality with European Americans, we will continue to see the divide and disconnect—this is the plan.
We must come together as a nation to create a fair and just society. One based on the content of our character versus the color of our skin. A country that values all, not just those who have risen to positions of power. A nation that doesn’t create and maintain a hierarchy based on variables such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, ability, etc. We must recognize we are in a global society, and as a matter of survival, we must join together to create the ideal America, one of peace, unity, and harmony. The BIPOC, our allies, and accomplices should strive for a country that is about working cooperatively together for the betterment of all, not just a few.
By Dr. Tammy Hodo