On April 24, 2015 I woke up to a phone call rather than the timber of my alarm clock. Sobbing so hard it made it difficult for me to discern, a friend articulated, “He was killed. He was shot by a fucking cop for tagging. His mom wasn’t even let onto the ambulance! HE DIED WITHOUT FAM ON HIS SIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” My friend, Hector Morejon, had been murdered by a police officer in Long Beach, CA. He was 19-years-old, innocent, and gone from my material reality.
In the wake of state sanctioned murders against black people, I have been reflecting on Hector’s death and what it means for myself and our community. I have been thinking of how the disposability of Hector’s life parallels and yet rubs against the disposability of Black lives. I have been thinking about how the Latinx community oftentimes calls for an acknowledgement of our disposability without standing next to our Black family. Many people, myself included, have been complicit in advocating for the lives of our Latinx family without connecting those struggles to those of Black folks living in a deadly American climate. How do I validate violence the Latinx community undergoes daily without minimizing anti-Black racism? How do I march with #BlackLivesMatter and yet keep Hector and his family close to my heart?
In the United States, there is a particular history of anti-Black racism. Beginning with slavery, where stolen people were forcibly brought to stolen land, and continuing with the prison industrial complex, where Black folks are turned into commodities, Blackness in the United States has almost always been defined through the lens of slaveability in an effort to uphold white supremacy and capitalism. This has led to a particular devaluation of Black lives. And therefore has justified the murder of innocent black people by the criminal legal system. This parallels with the incarceration and deportation of thousands of Latinx that are profiled and discriminated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
And although our experiences parallel, intersect, and overlap with another, we do not have the same struggle. I am not suggesting that Black and Brown communities do not have a connecting struggle. Rather, I am suggesting that Latinx communities carry a different history than Black folks in the United States carry. Again, this history connects; this history intersects; and yet, this history is different. As a Chicanx person, I cannot claim ancestry that is tied to institutional slavery; as a Chicanx person with a mother who uses racial slurs, I must examine how racism works to distort my reality; as a Chicanx person, I must examine why I feel uncomfortable to acknowledge how my history departs from that of the history of Black folks living in the United States empire. My perspective is limited to my own experiences, but it still gives a glimpse to the current political climate that is intent on pinning different POC communities against one another.
In Sister Outsider Audre Lorde notes, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” Our communities differ; our stories vary; the oppression we experience are particular to our social location. Denying this, pushing difference under the rug, and pretending that we are the same denies us the ability to advocate for our justice. In the same vein, dividing ourselves and failing to recognize the connections between our struggles is a technique used to fracture our solidarity rather than bridge it.
As a Latinx and Chicanx community member I need to support #BlackLivesMatter because the liberation of our Black brothers, sisters, and siblings means my liberation and the liberation of my hermanx siblings. Me fighting for Black lives means fighting for Hector. Me fighting for Black lives means accepting the differences within our histories and yet holding onto the reality that the systems that killed Hector continue to kill our Black siblings. We are different. Playing oppression olympics and allowing ourselves to be pitted against our family is not revolutionary. However, accepting those differences, elevating our voices, and understanding that we are connected through our shared oppression is revolutionary in a society that bolsters individuality and denies collective efforts. I stand with #BlackLivesMatter as a way to liberate my Latinx family and Hector.