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Can Black and Brown Ever Learn To Get Down?

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With somber news like the string of race-related murders in Highland Park, the battles being waged between black and Latino politicians and the recent prison race riots in Chino frequenting local headlines, it sometimes feels like the Latino and African American populations of Los Angeles are on the verge of a war. Depending on whom you ask, the black-brown race problem is either being blown way out of proportion by the media or it is just the harbinger of an even bigger looming crisis. One thing most national commentators agree upon is that the problem seems to be unique to largely Latino Southern California.

However, last week The Economist published an insightful and disturbing feature illustrating how this problem has spread far beyond California's borders, and how that conflict could even affect the 2008 Presidential race. On the heels of the recent arraignment of two Latino gang members accused of the racially-motivated slaying of 14-year-old African American girl Cheryl Green, The Economist headed east to Durham, North Carolina, where a similar racial fissure is festering despite the fact that the southern city is far from being a Latino hotbed.

Durham, which forms the well-known “Research Triangle” along with Raleigh and Chapel Hill, has historically been almost equally divided between blacks and whites. Things changed when a building boom a decade ago attracted a wealth of workers from Mexico, both legal and illegal. Apparently, the new arrivals brought pre-conceived notions about the existing black populace. The story said those views have turned out to be even more extreme than what many perceived were common feelings held by conservative Southern whites:

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Blacks are less likely than whites or even Hispanics to believe that immigrants end up on welfare or commit crimes. Latinos, on the other hand, appear to make no such concessions. One survey of Durham, in North Carolina, found that 59% of Latinos believed few or almost no blacks were hard-working, and a similar proportion reckoned few or almost none could be trusted. Fewer than one in ten whites felt the same way.

Photo by Nathan Gibbs via Flickr