This week someone sprayed "Go back to Mexico" on the side of Las Palmas grocery store in Brookline. There is nothing ok about this.
Let us revisit the historic relationship between the United States and Mexico. Once upon a time, the entire Southwest of the United States was a part of the Spanish colony known as "New Spain" (now Mexico). As the United States moved west, through various wars and treaties, it took away this land from Spain. Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them Indigenous, became American citizens overnight. Prior to this, Spain had already colonized the area - taking the land from the indigenous people who were living there prior to his arrival. The legacy of Spain's colonialism and the proximity of this land to Mexico has left a permanent "Latino" or "Hispanic" (also known as "Mexican", "Chicano, Xicano, "Text-Mex") cultural foot print within the United States.
Then of course there is the little spoken about part of American history where the United States deported American citizens of Mexican descent - it was called "Mexican-American Repatriation" and it happened during the 1930's.
Much of this history has spawned an American obsession with tacos. We love tacos so much that "taco Tuesday" is a standard thing in many local eateries. In Pittsburgh, Mexican restaurants populate the restaurant scene, many are owned by non-Mexicans. The rhetoric in the city around diversity centers on our "love for ethnic" food. But when it comes to taking a stand about issues affecting Mexican people, those who "love ethnic food" are silent.
You love tacos, but do you love Mexican people?
Have you thought about who picked the fresh produce you purchase from the grocery store and how much the person picking it got paid? Are you up to date on the Dreamer Movement? Do you have any idea what is going on in Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Guatemala? Are you aware that these are different countries and that we don't all eat tacos?
What changes when we start to value people over things? We have to ask these questions because if we don't, others won't. Black lives matter because in a city that is the most livable for all, those who find it least livable are those who are under attack. Last week a cab driver from Morocco was shot in the shoulder by a passenger and the week before that the V.I.P. Styles Inc. barbershop downtown was vandalized with racist messages. This blog post isn't long enough to fully address the chronic issues of gun violence, affordable housing and access to quality jobs. These truths are acts of violence against people and they are totally unacceptable. We should be embarrassed. They signal to us that certain people are not valued in Pittsburgh, that they are not welcome.
THE TRUTH IS CHANGE IS HERE. By 2040 the majority of our country will be be Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American. However, the Pittsburgh region remains vastly white/Caucasian. And understandably so - why would any person of color want to live here under the current conditions? This is where Pittsburgh loses it's competitive edge. I am tired of hearing "we can't find people of color to employ." If you can't find them it's probably because your too busy ignoring them. If Pittsburgh does not intentionally address systemic oppression that keeps people of color on the margins, we will be left behind as a region.
Pittsburgh must shift from the conversation about diversity to the action of investing in systematic change that brings us equity. Allies must stand up and loudly declare, "this behavior is not acceptable and I am committed to change in through these tangible actions". And then really commit. Really show up in authentic ways, in the moments that people need you. Otherwise the city will continue to face the same challenges to growth as it has in the past. Those who are uncomfortable talking about race need to get comfortable. And if you don't like, well too bad - the future is here. So get with it or get left behind, we don't have time to spin our wheels anymore.
Sign up for the Cafe Con Leche newsletter and follow us on Twitter to see more of the work we do in the community. Learn more about who we can invest in and how to shift this conversation on diversity. For more information on equity, check out the Equity Manifesto.
For more from Cafe Con Leche, follow us on social media + sign up for our newsletter!