Black Lives Matter, Latinx and POC Lives Matter

If there is Injustice Anywhere in the world, then justice is at risk everywhere in the world.
“If There Is Injustice Anywhere” by edenpictures is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

By: Clara E. Irazábal-Zurita, M.Sc., M.Arch., Ph.D., Director of the Latinx and Latin American Studies Program and Professor of Urban Planning | Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design (AUPD)

I’m a strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and encourage everybody to become so too. AND I’d like for the name of the movement and for its actions not to be —consciously or unconsciously— used to invisibililize the plight of Latinxs and other People of Color facing police violence and other manifestations of systemic racism in the US. There is a long history of Hispanics killed at the hands of police forces in the US from the early days of this country with no or negligible consequences to perpetrators because the state has not valued the lives of People of Color. In addition, Latinx history in the US is largely unknown. Particularly in the South and Southwest of the country, both Rangers and vigilantes cleared the way for westward expansion reigning terror, burning villages, and killing Mexicans and Native peoples. The Texas Ranger killed 5,000 innocent Mexicans in 5 years, from 1915 to 1920.

Unfortunately, both in those days and today, police brutality against Latinxs rarely makes national headlines. Currently, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) faces allegations of protecting “deputy gangs” of white-supremacist officers operating in Black and Latinx neighborhoods. According to Los Angeles Times (as of June 9), the police has killed 465 Latinxs since 2000 in LA County; and nationally, 910 Latinxs since 2015. Adding to the problem of lack of recognition to this reality, these numbers are likely undercounts, since many states report race but not ethnicity; Hispanic is considered an ethnicity, not a race; and many Latinxs are exclusively counted as either White or Black.

Three months before Gorge Floyd’s murder in May, Antonio Valenzuela’s murder in New Mexico also resulted from a chocking maneuver by a police officer. The news, however, hardly made it outside of his city of Las Cruces. A murder charge was filed in the case only after activists tied Valenzuela’s murder to Floyd’s and the BLM movement. Latinx cases of police brutality hardly garner national attention, and officers seldom face consequences. Between 2015 and April 2020, both Blacks and Latinxs have been killed at disproportionate rates considering their percentages of the population (31 and 23 per million residents, respectively, with the latter rate likely an undercount, as explained above), according to the Washington Post.

By calling attention to Valenzuela’s and other Latinx deaths, I do not want to pull the focus away from Black lives. Rather, I want to expand the BLM movement’s scope, consciousness, and impact, strongly conveying the need to also call attention to the suffering from policing, systemic racism, and invisibilization of the largest minority in the country—Hispanics—and other People of Color.

Say their names: Only from 2020, Andrés Guardado (killed June 8); Sean Monterrosa (killed June 2); Erik Salgado (killed) and his pregnant girlfriend Brianna Colombo (survived but lost her baby) (June 6); Vanessa Guillén (killed April 22); Mejhor Morta, Enrique Román, and Francisco Hernández (killed within 3 months of Guillén in the same military base, Fort Hood); and many others. It is true that, as many in the Black Lives Matter movement claim, “when Black lives matter, all lives will matter.” As we struggle together to get there, it is critical that we explicitly state: Black Lives Matter, Latinx and POC Lives Matter!