Being Latinx in the American South

Did you know that the United States is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world?

People don’t often realize how the Latinx populations have historically influenced numerous aspects of American culture and how they continue to do so today.  This is particularly true throughout the American South and in North Carolina.  We can see this cultural impact in food, music and even some town names throughout the state.

North Carolina is unique in the sense that it has the fastest-growing Latinx population in the country.  We now have almost 1 million Latinx living in the state out of a total population of 10 million, and this number is expected to continue to grow exponentially.  After the 2016 election, Governor Roy Cooper reinstated the State Office of Hispanic/Latino Affairs after it had been previously abandoned by Governor Pat McCrory. The intent of this position is to have a liaison for Hispanic and Latinx residents of North Carolina at the state level.  

Yet, we don’t often get the chance to celebrate this culture.  Due to a number of socioeconomic and educational barriers, Latinx individuals are among a number of minority groups that continue to be underrepresented at places of higher education, such as UNC.  While the percentage of Latinx students who attend a two or four-year college is increasing, they may feel isolated or subjected to discrimination when they arrive at college.

Latinx workers in the South also deal with workplace inequality.  While Latinx people in North Carolina are statistically more likely to be employed than other demographic groups in the state, they tend to be concentrated in jobs such as construction and agriculture – in fact, North Carolina is the fifth-most populous farmworker state in the US. These statistics also call into question the working conditions of farmworkers throughout the country.  Latinxs in North Carolina are also more likely to live in poverty, at a rate of about 27.4%.

Latinx residents also participate in the local economy through entrepreneurship.  In 2012, Hispanic/Latinx-owned business made up 4.3% of North Carolinian business firms.  This number is also increasing at a faster rate than the overall number of new businesses in the state.

Yet, it is also important to note the Latinx community is more than its economic contributions.  It is a dynamic community of people from different countries and backgrounds throughout Latin America.

 

(The motivation for writing this article came from Dr. DeGuzmán’s talk, “Being Latinx in the South”, that took place on campus last week. During the discussion, she encouraged the audience to draw connections between old and new history.  Latinx people have impacted this region even in pre-colonial times, yet we often don’t realize this due to how we tend to whitewash history.)

Author: Veronica Correa

An Honest Discussion with a Black Cop

When I went home for Thanksgiving, I was ready for the relaxation, food, and fun with my family. I didn’t think that I would end up having deep conversations and debates with my family members, specifically my uncle. My intentions were never to have any type of conversation; it was Thanksgiving after all and we were supposed to be enjoying each other’s company. However, my uncle and I began talking.

To preface this, my uncle is a cop. He came in with a blue lives matter wristband. At first, I was a little defensive. Of course, cops need to be protected as well, but at the end of the day, the blue comes off and the skin they are in remains. The black skin my uncle is in remains. I’m as nervous for him to be out doing his job as anybody else. He’s a good cop and great at his job, but there’s still forces outside of his control.

I asked my uncle what he thought about all of the cop shootings that we had. His opinions were ones that stuck me. Not in a negative way, but in a way that had and continually has me thinking of how everyone can do better. My uncle is a corporal, which means he sometimes train the new recruits.  He recalled a story of when he was with a recruit that did a horrible offense.

My uncle decided this particular recruit was not feasible to be pushed through to the next level of work, so he wrote it in his report. The next week, the same recruit had been pushed through anyway, even though my uncle had specifically said in the report he would not be good on his own. For the next couple of months, that recruit had been demoted and pushed through time and time again for breaking the rules or doing something that put others in danger.

My uncle explained that the police force is looking for quantity over quality. They need people, regardless of how good or bad they might be. Sometimes it’s not as simple of having good cops and bad cops. It’s not that the good cops aren’t doing anything. It might just be that there are higher ranking police officers pushing people through who aren’t trained well enough to have a gun and a badge. While my uncle is saddened by the shootings, he hates the narrative that the good cops aren’t helping because they are. Citizens, especially protestors and activists, just can’t see that part.

On the other side, we talked about the black community and what they are doing wrong in this situation. Don’t get me wrong, he was not defending these senseless shootings, but we did talk about how the black community is locked up on a much higher basis than the white community. Black people, especially black men, are being locked up for the same crimes that everyone else does. But why is this so? My uncle discussed the dynamic that happens when black people get caught repeatedly. Something most people know is that most of the black men in jail are there for non-violent drug offenses. If a person gets caught one time, the judge considers this your first offense and the sentence, if there is one, will be light. As a person continually gets arrested for the same offense, the punishment gets harsher. The importance of knowing and recognizing this by everyone is extreme.

We have to have a discussion about both of these situations that are happening on a daily. We have to create a dialogue between police and the communities, especially the black ones, they are supposed to protect. Everyone needs to work together to make their communities better. We have to stop calling for good cops to speak out because they genuinely might not be able to. Police precincts are still filled with politics just like everything else. Everyone can benefit from information from the other, so let’s sit down with our officers at the local precincts and have an honest, open discussion.