“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
These words were written by Dr. Martin Lither King, Jr. in 1963, but their relevance is no less strong in 2010.
Today, some claim there to be a disconnect between the actions of black leaders in support of immigration reform, and what appears to be a divergent opinion among African-Americans en masse. They question why black civil and human rights leaders would rally against laws that seek to punish undocumented immigrants, or why the NAACP, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the National Action Network, among others, would stand in solidarity with undocumented immigrants, mostly from the Latino community, who are often publicly portrayed as threats to the social and economic mobility of African-Americans.
Our communities should be reminded that our racial justice organizations have always used coalition-building and multiracial solidarity to dismantle individual bias and structural racism. At no time in history has a single liberation movement advanced or been sustained by the interest of only one segment of society.
Everyone’s heard it before—divided we fail; together, we succeed. Our black leadership is not aligning themselves with undocumented immigrants per se; they are combating laws that encourage civil and human rights abuses, and that could potentially have severe, negative effects on African-Americans and other historically marginalized communities.
The black collective, including its leaders, has always stood up against the public will when it was on the wrong side of justice. For example, when the public will was to lynch African-Americans, Ida B. Wells said it was time to “arouse the conscience of the American people to a demand for justice to every citizen.”
When the public will was to support segregation, many black leaders, including Thurgood Marshall, pointed out that the “separate but equal” doctrine was a violation of our civil rights -and everyone benefited as a result. This is a proud tradition of our history. It is a calling to our better selves, but it is also rooted in practicality.
To see more on the immigration debate, check out ‘A Nation Divided’ on msnbc.com