Through the past couple of years, the “Black Lives Matter” movement has received outstanding attention, but it is time to take account of an extensively overlooked race and ethnicity: Latinx and Hispanic communities.

Latinx and Hispanic individuals experience excessive policy killings within and across U.S. borders, yet such cases barely make the headlines, if ever.  

The intensive focus on Black and white racial dynamics means there is a major lack of American media attention surrounding how Latinx and Hispanic people are the second-highest group of people killed by the police. The overall percentile is probably even higher, as Hispanic people are not classified as a race through the census, obscuring violence statistics against Hispanic and Latinx individuals. 

On  Nov.  13, 1996, Paulina Valerio desperately called the police in Phoenix, Arizona, informing them that she was concerned for her 16-year-old son, Julio Valerio. Her son had arrived home drunk and, after an argument with his father, left their home with a kitchen knife. She knew that by calling the police her son would be in considerable trouble, but assumed he would eventually be brought back home safely.

A group of police had gone searching for Julio and six police officers ended up finding him. During a confrontation police fired 25 shots, killing him.

This is an example of the use of unnecessary lethal force by police officers against Latinx and Hispanic people, as in the case of Julio where police were aware that his mental state, age, and weapon made him an insignificant threat. The unfortunate reality is that if Julio had been white there would have been a higher chance of his survival; different protocols would likely have been made to de-escalate the situation. 

The ignored outrage of  police brutality on Hispanic and Latinx people has existed since the 1800s, when police forces were compelled to control Mexican immigrants. Similar to the slave patrols in the Southeast, there was also Southwest policing — especially in Texas — that targeted Hispanic communities. For example, during the Porvenir massacre in 1918 Texas Rangers executed innocent Hispanic men and boys because of a raid suspicion.

The Texas Rangers were subsequently considered to be American heroes even though they used violent force against Hispanic and Native people to move them out of their own lands for westward expansion. Just like Black individuals in the South, there are many reports of Mexicans who were lynched and burned, homes and communities destroyed, and people were raped.

In response to such social injustices and police brutality, during the Chicago Rights Movement in Denver in the 1960s and the East L.A. walkouts in Los Angeles in 1968, Latinx communities marched in hopes of receiving protected civil rights. Police were fast to act as they threatened and arrested many people during the uprisings. 

People everywhere must be willing to end the silence and mutually uplift voices that are restrained, especially Latinx and Hispanic individuals who fear wrongful convictions. The expression “tu lucha,es mi lucha”  is a declaration from the Latinx and Hispanic communities stating that they understand Black people and are also emotionally injured through the daily battle of racial profiling from police. 

Latinx and Hispanic communities have been left out of the debate and while people think they are mostly victimized over immigration, they are also criminalized over the same reasons as Black communities, such as assumption of drug use, skin color, and cultural customs. Unfortunately, focused attention on white and Black relations with regard to police violence, has silenced a lot of Hispanic and Latinx communities as they are afraid to speak. 

After all, much of this country’s southwestern territory once belonged to Mexico, so why are Latinos ignored and treated as if they have done nothing for this country but be immigrants?

It is time for Hispanic and Lantix individuals to take a stand and lead a movement of solidarity against such injustices. These communities must come together, especially those that have experienced injustices, and can no longer hide behind Black Lives Matter protests with the goal of having their own systematic racism be acknowledged. 

Everyone has a story to tell and everyone deserves the right to equal justice. It is not about who has it worse, but rather that no matter one’s race or ethnicity, all deserve to be treated justly and humanly. 

Angie Tehuitzi is a student at the University of Maine at Farmington, and this piece was written as part of coursework in Incarceration Nation class.


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