Here are some thoughts on racism and how it plays out for Blacks and Latinos in the U.S. after hearing about, but not yet reading Coates much celebrated book on being Black in this country. I think the experience of racism is a little different for Latinos.
This book is personal, written as a letter to his teenage son Samori. In it, we see glimpses of the hard West Baltimore streets where Coates grew up, his curiosity at work on the campus of Howard University and his early struggles as a journalist.
Coates also reflects on what it meant, and what it means, to inhabit a black body in America. He gets at the physical consequences of slavery and racial discrimination, and he brings to bear his big fear that his life and the lives of his loved ones might end unnaturally.
This is exactly what it felt like growing up in Harlem and East New York…you walk around the streets with a fear that goes to your bones, a fear of others around you who were also traumatized. They and I walked around posturing tough, with a little jive, to hide our fear, walking among zombies, ready for battle, ready for death…and knowing deep inside that the world outside not only did not care, but wanted you dead…and yet we found comfort in the grace, beauty, and support of the people you lived with and who, at bottom, loved you…
The experience of racism is different for Blacks and for Latinos. For Blacks, it is about their bodies… those desired and despised bodies. For Latinos, it is about their space, their land…and the desire and demand that they move off that land. Blacks get adored in sports and destroyed by police in the streets. Latinos get in the way of American profit making machines in Latin America and in U.S. cities. People build physical and imaginary walls built to keep them out of the U.S. or displace them from desired neighborhoods.