Community organizing requires people believing they belong to a cohesive community. It seems obvious, but consider the particular challenges facing African Americans and Latino immigrants, who struggle with ingrained antagonisms, reports the Kirwan Institute Update (pdf), a publication of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. They compete “for the same low-paying jobs in many areas, especially in the South,” according to the report, and employers economically exploiting undocumented immigrant workers corrode the unionizing attempts of African Americans. Yet uniting African Americans and Latino immigrants “might be the key to counteract the rising nativistic ideologies and to fight against the pervasive structural racism both communities face.”
To ease the tension between African Americans and Latinos, the Kirwan Institute has several suggestions. Besides the obvious tactics of emphasizing common concerns and working in common spaces like schools and multiracial churches, it suggests involving community “bridge-builders.” These individuals might be African immigrants, Black Latinos, or immigrant children—people who can remind the community of the blurry boundaries between the two groups.