MIAMI – Blacks and Latinos should unite to fight voter discrimination, deportations and other challenges aimed at minority communities, the Rev. Jesse Jackson told a gathering of Hispanic digital influencers and journalists here Wednesday.
During the hour-long interview, the longtime civil rights organizer decried many of the recent policies enacted by President Trump and urged those gathered to join forces with other minorities to impact future elections.
“We are each other’s future,” Jackson, 75, said. “Learning to live together is our challenge and our future.”
Jackson was speaking at Hispanicize, an annual gathering of top Latino bloggers, media execs, journalists and tech entrepreneurs. He addressed a litany of topics, ranging from the recent surge in immigration enforcement to alleged voter discrimination in last year’s presidential elections.
Latino and African American communities often face some of the same prejudices — voter discrimination, barriers to education and health care, police brutality — but rarely unite on widespread political movements, according to Latino leaders at the gathering.
Latino voters nationally were criticized for under-performing in last year’s presidential election, making up about 11% of all voters, up slightly from 10% in 2012 but still below expectations, according to the Pew Research Center. Although Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won 66% of Latino voters, it was still less than the 71% of Latino voters that helped re-elect Barack Obama in 2012, the report said.
Many Latino leaders are now decrying Trump’s ramped up immigration enforcement and other polices impacting their neighborhoods.
Last year’s presidential election was also the first since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 requiring federal approval on any state election law. Fourteen states passed new voting restrictions, from strict photo ID laws to cuts in early voting, that have historically targeted minorities.
Russian hacking and FBI statements on Clinton’s email servers played roles in the election, but the new voter laws had the deepest impact, Jackson said. Russian President Vladimir “Putin confused the election with the leaks,” he said, “but the election was lost because black and brown votes were suppressed.”
Jackson criticized the Trump administration’s efforts to step up deportations of undocumented immigrants, calling the practice “Germanesque.” “It threatens all of us,” he said. Barriers to education, health care and technology should also unite the two minority groups. African Americans make up just over 13% of the U.S. population, while Latinos account for 17%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
He also railed against Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico and denounced the more than 30 Hispanic-owned firms who put in a bid to construct the barrier. “If they were going to build slave ships to take blacks back to Africa, I hope blacks would not try to get the contracts to build the slave ships,” he said.
Jackson addressed the Hispanic gathering the day after the 49th anniversary of the shooting death of Dr. Martin Luther King, and he invoked images of the slain civil rights leader. One of the last letters King wrote before his death, Jackson said, was to Latino American civil rights activist César Chavez, urging him to join forces with him.
“I really wish Dr. King and Chavez, from their perch, could see us sitting here,” Jackson said. “This is the new world order.”