LATINO VOICES

Jesse Jackson Likens Latinos Building Border Wall To Black People Building Slave Ships

"That's choosing dollars over dignity."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson had a powerful analogy Wednesday on the topic of Latinos who might aid in the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Jackson spoke with UNICEF’s Claudia González Romo during the annual Hispanicize conference, which brings together Latino media and marketing influencers, in Miami. During their fireside conversation, the reverend and civil rights activist commented on how the Latino community should fight back against the Trump administration. 

While discussing the need for solidarity among Latinos and communities of color, according NBC, Jackson likened the idea of Latinos helping build President Donald Trump’s planned border wall to “blacks building slave ships.”

He specifically criticized the dozens of Latino-owned firms that submitted proposals to the Department of Homeland Security to build the first stage of the wall.

“If they were going to build slave ships to take blacks back to Africa, I hope blacks would not try to get the contracts to build the slave ships,” Jackson said, according to USA Today. 

It’s almost inevitable that some Latinos will participate in the construction of the expanded border barrier. Latinos make up a large majority of the workforce in many counties along the U.S.-Mexico border. Pablo Aguirre, the communications director of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, told The Huffington Post in January that his organization would urge the federal government to contract with local businesses. Some 80 percent of El Paso’s population is Hispanic. 

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Jackson said the wall “symbolizes something very ugly” and is meant to “demean.” When Latinos help, he said, “that’s choosing dollars over dignity.”

Jackson, who also denounced the Trump administration’s deportations, asked Latinos to come together to fight for their shared values. He pointed out that the size of the Latino population in the United States means very little without a sense of unity.

“That’s potential. Unless it’s organized it’s not actual power,” Jackson said, according to NBC. 

The activist also urged all communities of color to come together to fight for shared causes, noting that “sometimes suffering is the common cord” that connects the communities. 

“When we close ranks on common interests, we win,” he said. “When we don’t, we lose.”

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