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Dear Editor:
Justin's letter claims that he has not met one African-American who has ever had fears that Hispanics were taking jobs away from them. He also seems to think that this is part of a white conspiracy to "divide and conquer". I presume he means, keep African-American interests apart from Hispanic interests. First, let me state that Hispanics or Latinos do not constitute a "race". Perhaps Justin would like competing for a banking job with a Latina friend of mine, a petite blue-eyed blonde MBA whose parents immigrated to Uruguay from Germany after WWII? Or the ("white") Lebanese friend of my brother's, who was born and raised in Guatemala, and is therefore "Hispanic"? Does Justin really believe they've been hindered in anything they want to do by their "Hispanicness"? Rather the contrary. Hispanics or Latinos are not even a monolithic ethnic group, so "dividing and conquering" doesn't need to be done, the group already has as many divergent colors and interests as Arabs, or Americans, and certainly many interests that diverge from or conflict with those of African-Americans. Then, too, the interests of those Hispanics born here, those immigrating legally, and illegal aliens may well conflict. For example, native-born young Hispanic men in LA were losing out on entry level jobs to recent immigrants and illegal aliens. The Washington Post recently did an article about "Hispanic" vs. "Latino" identity, apparently the "group" itself can't agree on who is part of what, and what to call themselves. That's not even bringing the term "Chicano" into the debate. The simple fact that there's all this discussion and debate shows what artificial constructs these are. Furthermore, whatever they're called, Hispanics or Latinos can change their ethnicity (assimilate) and cease to be identified by others as anything other than Americans; African-Americans can't really do that as a race (Michael Jackson being the exception) that proves the rule. Even if African-Americans don't perceive that Hispanics take jobs and opportunities from them, it doesn't change the fact that they do. Of course, until the last few years, there haven't been all that many Hispanics, or those around have largely assimilated and are not readily identifiable as such (Would you identify Bill Richards, the governor of NM, as Hispanic?), so perhaps that perception will change. A good friend of mine is African-American, has an MBA, and has taught high school for the past 30 years. In the last couple of years, she's learned that Hispanics or Latinos do, in fact, take jobs from African-Americans. A couple of years ago a young Hispanic male, fresh out of college, joined the faculty at the school where she teaches. There was a vacancy for an assistant principal, which came about because an Hispanic asst principal left. The young Hispanic male, who did not have the credentials or the teaching experience technically required for the position, was still given the position. My friend, who does have both the credentials and experience, was discouraged from even applying, to placate the Hispanic community, an Hispanic asst principal was needed. Being Hispanic (and possibly male) was the main "credential" for the job. She accepted this as part of the affirmative action game, but she sure wasn't happy at being overlooked. Justin should remember, too, that "affirmative action" not only sets floors, but it sets ceilings, if not for "affirmative action", Asians would have far more slots in California colleges and universities than they already do based purely on ability. Ironic, many African-Americans support affirmative action, but it brings about that very competition that Justin attributes to a white plot. And what will African-Americans and Hispanics do when Arab- and Muslim-Americans play the identity game, and claim a share of the pie, as they're starting to do now? Or perhaps Justin supports Ward Connerly's efforts to have "race" and "ethnicity" removed from the collection of most public data, thereby rendering affirmative action largely toothless? Of course, it's also quite possible that Justin's a middle- or upper-class African-American, and likely that his friends and acquaintances are like him. Societies of A-A engineers and A-A IT professionals are more concerned with competing for jobs with H-1Bs from India and China, than with Hispanics. At my grad school graduation in NYC, there were only 3 Africans (not A-A, Africans) out of 600 people receiving master's and PhDs, lots of immigrants and foreign students, but only these 3 were black. When colleges and universities can look overseas for qualified minorities to play the numbers game, home grown ones lose out. But it's really the "strivers", African-Americans who haven't finished high school, or maybe just finished high school, who are most hurt, by the immigration of unskilled and uneducated workers who are able to claim "racial" preferences the instant they set foot here, and who can't be thoroughly questioned as to their immigration status because it might be seen as "discrimination". Guys like my friend's brother, who's a cook. His job opportunities are limited, whether he knows it or not, because illegal immigrants (largely Hispanic) now dominate entry level positions in the industry (according to a recent Wall Street Journal article), which lead to cooks' positions. The damage done to less educated African-Americans as a group, and to native-born Hispanics, by downward pressure on wages from immigration has shown up in economic studies.

Ali Alexander