By: Sarai Leon / Contributing Writer
The recent events following George Floyd’s death have caused an eruption of protests nationwide, with thousands of Americans calling for an end to racially-motivated violence and police brutality. The protests have extended to Miami, where various groups have organized mass demonstrations.
In response to these demonstrations, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez went to Twitter on May 30.
“Miami has learned many lessons from its dark past-when police brutality against POC was the norm,” Suarez said. “We’ve come a long way, and part of that growth has been our police working together to make sure voices are heard.”
However, in November of 2019, members of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association publicly voiced concerns about issues of racism within the Miami police department.
Miami Police Lieutenant Ramon Carr who is also the vice-president of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association along with others cited examples of officers discriminating against officers of Haitian background, the use of racial slurs within the department and instances of officers being demoted for filing complaints about the discrimination.
More notably, a white Hispanic officer, Capt. Javier Ortiz had been accused of sending an email with an image of a black male depicted as a demon, criticized a former Assistant Chief of police for not placing her hand over her heart during the pledge, attributing this to rumors of her being Muslim, and has frequently supported officers who have shot unarmed black males on his social media.
Contradictorily, Ortiz has also frequently classified himself as “African American (non-Hispanic)” on paperwork.
According to Ortiz during a City Hall hearing on January 17, “I”m a black male. Yes, I am, and I am not Hispanic. I was born in this country. Never went to Cuba. I never went to Spain.”
These instances of racism in the Miami Police Department and more importantly, anti-blackness within the Miami Hispanic community, have been of concern for many students at FIU.
Incoming junior and double major in English and Exceptional Student Education, Melanie Rodriguez said that many people like to talk about Miami’s cultural diversity, but there are still divisions within the city.
“If you just look at the way that our city is set up, and you go back to how districts were set up, there is definitely anti-blackness in Miami,” Rodriguez said. “And as someone from the Hispanic community, there’s anti-blackness there, as well.”
According to the 2013 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 55.9% of Miami officers are Hispanic.
This makes Miami one of the cities with the highest number of minority law enforcement officers in the United States.
However, a research report by the American Civil Liberties Union, found that the majority of defendants in Miami Dade County fall under Black Non-Hispanic (38%), despite the fact that 65% of the county’s residents are Hispanic. The American Civil Liberties Union notes this may be in part due to racial profiling from law enforcement.
Recent FIU Political Science graduate, Kiyra Ellis said that she came to Miami for undergrad because she had heard that it was a very diverse and accepting city.
She was in for a surprise.
“When I came here and I experienced a lot of anti-blackness, I went to my friend and I was like ‘What’s going on? I am so confused!,’” Ellis said. “She explained to me that in a lot of Hispanic cultures, blackness is looked down upon, the darker you are the less educated you look, the less money you have. There are a lot of racial stereotypes that are very prevalent in the Hispanic community.”
According to International Relations major Ryan Rodriguez, this racism is also extended to those from an Afro-Latinx background.
He recalls a racial microaggression directed towards him while he was at a Miami hospital in November. He said a Cuban nurse used a racial slur, usually directed at those of Afro-Latinx background, to describe his hair.
“Absolutely there is racism in Miami, and a sense of anti-blackness,” Ryan Rodriguez said. “I think if anything it is more subtle and the subtleness is what makes it dangerous. Everything is masked by this idea that ‘we are Hispanic’ to justify the anti-blackness.”
Biological Science major and incoming sophomore, Wayneisha Samuel, said that the Hispanic community tends to forget about the racist pasts of their own home countries and that Latinos need to take a look at themselves when addressing anti-blackness.
“It took me years to stop saying ‘I’m Dominican, not Black.’ Why do we as people find it so hard to acknowledge our beautiful ancestry?” Samuel said. “We need every person of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latin descent to realize that it is okay to acknowledge our beautiful African ancestry.”
Students at FIU have also addressed concerns of the partisan nature surrounding the recent protests in Miami. Recent International Relations graduate, Carolina Menache said she has seen many conservative Cuban friends and families cherry-picking news stories and quotes to support their views and criticize the protests.
The 2018 Cuba Poll conducted by the FIU Cuban Research Institute found that 54% of Cuban American citizens are registered under the Republican Party.
Menache recalled the public outrage and protests in Miami during the Elian Gonzalez situation, where the Castro Regime called for a young boy to be returned to Cuba to be with his father rather than stay in Miami with family, and the US government enforced his return.
“There is that very famous image, where law enforcement busts through the door of the house and takes this kid. And there were riots and looting in Miami because of this”, Menache said. “There are certain things that African Americans have experienced that Cuban Americans are just never going to understand.”
Melanie Rodriguez said that the first step to combating racism in the Latinx community is having a conversation with family members, even if it might be difficult to do so.
“It is also important to find alternative news sources that are not just Univision and Telemundo. Media plays such a big role in how people view the protests and the looting.” Rodriguez said. “Something important for those of us that are bilingual is taking the time to translate relevant information into Spanish, and posting it on Facebook so your older Hispanic family members can see.”
On the other hand, Ellis said it was important to also spread information to the next generation, rather than try to make someone with a closed mindset understand.
“There’s information everywhere, and if someone does not want to understand it is because they actively choose not to,” Ellis said. “There is no excuse for ignorance at this point.”