As Latinos and African Americans increasingly live side by side in large urban centers as well as in suburban clusters, the idealized concept of a "rainbow coalition" would suggest that these two disenfranchised groups are natural political allies. Such a notion would be based on the presumption of a commonality between the two groups that serves as the glue for forming political and economic alliances on a mass level. However, contrary to this theoretical approach stands evidence that few formal or even informal coalitions exist between Latinos and African Americans.
Many political insiders are asking themselves in private how one might interpret the taboo yet very real subjectof the often-frayed relations between African Americans and Latinos. Many who do not address this divisive issue fear that to acknowledge such a rift would invite adversaries to cast tension as a political weakness.
Indeed, as the number of Latinos has increased dramatically over the last ten years, competition over power and resources has led to antagonism and a failure to cooperate. Many African Americans now view Latinos, because of their growing numbers, as a threat to their social, economic, and political gains. Conversely, Latinos do not view African Americans as an oppressed group in the same way other Americans do, and this often has negative results.
In The Presumed Alliance, Vaca examines the historical context as well as the contemporary manifestations of the conflicts between Latinos and African Americans in an engaging, informative manner. Using case studies from New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, D.C., Compton, and Houston, Vaca illustrates just how contentious the two groups have been toward each other, and what issues are at the root of such discord. With its discussions of language barriers, competition over affirmative action, and the overlooked contributions of Hispanics during the American Civil Rights movement, Vaca's narrative is both eye-opening and well informed.
By daring to raise a topic that may upset so many, Vaca believes the issues surrounding these sometimes strained relations also may be resolved, if only they are addressed. This thought-provoking topic invites all to stop and think about important questions, and offers a glimpse at the future makeup of the American political landscape.