By Glenn L. Ross, Tre Murphy and Franca Muller Paz
Black people have been the majority in Baltimore City since the 1970s, and Black, Afro-Latinx, and Latinx (and Asian and Indigenous) people will be the new majority in the U.S. by 2045. Building power together now is essential for the future of our peoples during this transition from the old minorities to the new majority. Nothing less than our lives, our families and our democracy hang in the balance.
Our communities continue to fight against oppression and White supremacy. Ever since the rise of European imperialism, Black and Latinx people have been subjugated to being treated as less than human. While Europeans were selling people of the diaspora as property, they were also decimating the natives of the Americas. In Peru, the flourishing Incan society was ended when the Spaniards destroyed this civilization in the name of imperialism, turning it into a colony that would be the last Spanish territory in South America. Similarly, Europeans began to raid the West African nations, which had developed highly sophisticated civilizations, destroying their communities and trading these people into slavery and taking away their humanity. The history of our people overlaps more than we realize, with the goal of White dominance a prevailing theme.
Modern society has a deeply rooted history in imperialism dating back centuries. Its goal has always been the same: exploiting Black and Brown people for the benefit of Whites. That is why the systems in place today are designed to reinforce these ideas, even pitting people against those of their own race. Divisive tactics are still apparent within both the Black and Latinx communities in the form of colorism and class hierarchy. When we do have representation in leadership positions, colorism, classism and the status quo are factors in “who” has a seat at the table. We are doing work with our own communities to ensure we aren’t our own saboteurs or divided by skin color, or country of origin. All of us are in the fight to tell our own stories, that no group is a monolith. The best way to combat white supremacy is to embrace our diversity. Becoming united and unapologetically inclusive as Black and Brown people will ensure that we can put forth our best leaders who will advocate for policies that will be beneficial to all people of color regardless of status.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how modern racism is directly affecting Black and Brown communities. As divisive rhetoric has been used to break apart the coalition of Black and Latinx people, systemic racism in healthcare, access to the internet, housing, and more has become more apparent than ever. In Maryland, Hispanics make up 21% of coronavirus cases, while only making up 10% of the population. African Americans make up 41% of coronavirus deaths, despite being only 30% of the population. Throughout the pandemic, the groups least likely to be able to work from home are Black and Latinx people who have jobs deemed “essential” at grocery stores, restaurants, cleaning companies, to name a few. So why is it that we aren’t deemed essential enough to have adequate PPE, access to testing and hazard pay?
It is time to address this, by creating a multiracial, multigenerational coalition that is united in dismantling racist systems that have persisted in our city. Nowhere is the growing
solidarity between Black and Brown neighbors in Baltimore more evident than in East Baltimore. Community leaders like Glenn Ross, Robbyn Lewis, and Jesús Perez, and community organizations like CASA, Organizing Black, the NAACP- Baltimore Chapter, the Campaign for Justice, Safety, and Jobs, SOMOS, Baltimore Algebra Project, the Intersection, and the 6th Branch have been instrumental in realizing this work on the ground, one neighbor at a time. The opportunity for collective empowerment in the fight against white supremacy is there for the taking, not just in Baltimore City, but also in Maryland where the majority of eligible voters will be minorities by 2031. Will we seize that opportunity?
As we move into a new decade of Black-Brown solidarity in Baltimore, we are guided by the centrality of anti-blackness in U.S. racism— which harms both African Americans and Afro-Latinos—as well as the dangers of xenophobia and linguistic racism which harm Black and Latinx folks alike. Solidarity means an injury to one of us is an injury to all of us. It means that we will stand with and for each other, even when it is hard. The rewards of facing these collective challenges together will be greater than any benefit derived from breaking ranks. United we stand, divided we fall. ¡Sí se puede! Yes we can.
Glenn L. Ross
Environmental Justice & Community Advocate
Co-founder, Director of Programs & Strategy – Organizing Black
Franca Muller Paz
Teacher at Baltimore City College
Baltimore Teachers Union Representative