Advertisements ad

August 2, 2009

Blacks, Latinos share struggles

By Patrick Butler


Blacks and Hispanics have a lot more in common than they may have thought, participants in a July 19 Pax Christi workshop agreed while preparing for a protest march from St. Eulalia Church in Maywood to the nearby Broadview Detention Center, where 1,000 illegal immigrants are held at any given time.

“I may not have the issues of crossing borders in my own history but I do have in my history other horrible injustices inflicted on my ancestors,” said Andrew Lyke, marriage ministry coordinator for the Archdiocese of Chicago said during a breakout session just before the workshop’s more than 100 participants signed a statement organizers hope will lay the groundwork for future African American-Hispanic dialogue and cooperation.

Like many Hispanics, Lyke, as an African-American, “was an unwanted person by people who knew nothing about me,” said Lyke, recalling his experiences moving from the Ida B. Wells projects to Auburn Park and later a south suburb where even a white coworker put his home up for sale when he heard Lyke made a bid on a house next door.

While “a part of me said that’s their loss, another part was hurt by that,” Lyke said. “Regardless of who I am, I’m assigned a certain identity I did not ask for. There’s a perception of what it’s like to be a black male, or a Latino,” Lyke said.

In fact, you don’t have to be a male to feel the sting, said Donna Grimes, another African American from Washington, D.C., whose family “had always been Catholic, always with the weekly envelopes,” yet was told by the pastor of her church to send their children somewhere else.

One parochial school that finally agreed to accept her changed its mind on learning Grimes had two younger brothers who would be enrolling a year or two down the road, Grimes said. “They were willing to accept one little black girl, but not the two boys coming up behind her,” she said. “And my mother even taught at a Catholic school.”

It didn’t get much better in college, she said, adding that classmates at her predominately white school kept asking her SAT scores, thinking she must somehow have gotten some kind of preferential treatment.

But nobody said anything about legacy programs where relatives of alumni or other donors get an advantage not open to others, Grimes said after Olga Anglada and Fernando Garcia recounted challenge after challenge as they tried to integrate into mainstream American society even though Anglada, as a Puerto Rican, was already an American citizen, and Garcia was a legal immigrant.

Both admit they’re still a long way from achieving the American dream of a better life.

And contrary to the stereotypes, neither Anglada and Garcia were uneducated or unskilled. Anglada, who graduated from college back in Puerto Rico and Garcia, who went to school before coming here, both struggled to learn fluent English.

And while both have achieved a substantially better life, they often still feel like outsiders.

“It’s like I’m alone in a crowd. That’s how I feel. That’s really hard,” Garcia said.

The discussions were co-sponsored by several archdiocesan offices, including the Office for Racial Justice and the Office for Peace and Justice, as part of Pax Christi’s four-day national conference.