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Columnist Hector Tobar: For Latinos and blacks, a call for unity, not hate

June 16, 2009 | 10:08 am

Hector toba headWithout blacks' sacrifice, Latinos would be 30 years behind in the fight for civil rights, writes Hector Tobar

Earlier this year, I attended one of those sedate conferences writers get invited to every so often. I talked for an hour or so very politely about books, until the audience rose up in rebellion and told me to stop.

I'd been invited by USC to be on a panel discussing the topic of blacks and Latinos in Los Angeles literature. But the mostly student audience didn't want a writerly chat. They wanted to talk about the reality of a divided, angry city.

"There's certain parts of Watts and Compton where blacks can't go," a young black man told us, rising up from his seat to describe Latino gang members' slurs and threats.

A high school teacher rose to his feet too, to talk about his Latino students' ignorance of African American history and the intolerance he often hears from the Spanish-speaking immigrants around him.

It hurts me deeply to hear of these things. I suppose, like a lot of people, I've been in a sort of denial about what's happening in my hometown.

You can read Tobar's full column here.