If Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric has been good for one thing, it’s unifying diverse Latino groups into a more cohesive political identity. As our numbers have boomed over the past few decades, it seems we just needed a cartoon villain sprinkled in Cheetos dust to help us recognize the shared political interests that unite us across generations, class, and country of origin. But with our growing clout comes the responsibility to fight for other, less powerful groups who are weathering the same institutional barriers and outright hostility.
And that’s precisely what Orange County Latinos are doing with the county’s small, but unified Muslim community centered around Anaheim’s Little Arabia. Just last year, local Latinos reached out to Arab-Americans to change county election laws, and now they are strengthening their bonds through field trips and informal get-togethers. It’s a logical strategy given that Latinos and Muslims have both found themselves in the crosshairs of Trump’s nativist campaign rhetoric — and even more so considering that Orange County is the only bright-red bastion of conservative politics in deep blue Southern California.
With 25,000 self-identified Arab-Americans in Orange County, the community accounts for a tiny percentage of the county’s 3 million residents; but together with a one million-strong Latino bloc, Muslim residents feel they can fight more effectively for their common interests. Yet, rather than banding together out of temporary political expediency, OC Muslims and Latinos talk of building a more personal relationship between their communities. To that end, one recent event started with a tour through Little Arabia and ended with local Muslims and Latinos literally breaking bread.
Unsurprisingly, one of the event’s Arab-American tour guides dedicated some time to breaking down the shared origin many Arabic and Spanish words, driving home a familiar point about common history. But whatever our cultural similarities or differences, this example of Latino-Muslim unity is an important reminder of our responsibilities to other groups as we lead the demographic shift into a browner United States.
[H/T LA Times]