Cultural Influences

minorities in the United States, it is hard to find two cultures more distinct than those of African and Hispanic-Americans. Both are vibrant communities, known for specific styles of music, dance, and cultural food. These two groups comprise the largest minorities in the United States, but account for the majority of crime reported in major cities. Often, and especially in cities where these two cultures intermix, much of this crime is unleashed upon one another.

It seems strange for two cultures, so closely related, to harbor such a bitter rivalry, especially among the youngest members of the communities. But perhaps it is those similarities that drive the wedge between these two groups.

In late September of 2005, a committee of black and Hispanic students known as the Presumed Alliance discussed the issues facing the Latino and African-American communities. Many African-American students discussed the issue of immigration, and the economic impact that has had on many black Americans. "A lot of African-Americans feel threatened by this influx," sophomore Eric Woodard said. "The media shows (Latinos) as downtrodden, but they are successful, even though they haven't been here for 300 years."

Indeed, the influx of illegal immigrants is at a record-breaking high in the United States. In the past decade, the number of Mexican-born illegal immigrants in the United States has multiplied 17-fold, now surpassing 12 million people.

These people risk their lives to cross the border, in the hopes of sending money to their families back in Mexico, or to reunite with relatives already in the states. For many young Mexican men, the illegal journey to El Norte has become something of a rite of passage -- thus encouraging the influx of illegals in the U.S.

Most of these illegal immigrants end up working on farms along the south and western U.S. However, many take jobs in the hospitality and service industries, filling many positions that American citizens might have otherwise taken.

For many African-Americans in the United States, the quick success of other minorities has only highlighted the long road to equality that lies ahead for the black community. Many black people recognize the struggle for black equality worldwide, in a variety of societies, including ones built of a Hispanic majority.

Famous rapper Tego Calderon is a black Latino from Puerto Rico. For him, the worldwide discrimination of black people is apparent, especially in his Latin homeland of Puerto Rico. "Latin American blacks are confused because we grow up side-by-side with non-blacks and we are lulled into believing that things are the same," Calderon explained in a recent interview with the New York Post. "[but] we are not part of the government or institutions."

When he first moved to the United States, he had a hard time finding a niche. The Latino community treated him as an outsider because he was black. He eventually found more acceptance from the African-American community as a "brother who happened to speak Spanish"

than as a part of the Hispanic community.

According to Calderon, the racial tension between black and Latino people is not confined to the United States, explaining that in Puerto Rico, black Puerto Ricans are treated like second-class citizens. He noted, "It takes a visitor to point out that all the dark skin sisters and brothers are in the service industry."

Beyond the obvious parallel between these two minorities finding socioeconomic stability in a predominantly white society, there are several other similarities that these groups share. The growing crime rate, for instance. In a recent study, "The Educational Crisis Facing Young Men of Color," it was determined that in the United States, there are currently more African-American men in prison than are enrolled in college.

For those that do find a way to enroll in college, only twenty-two percent will graduate within six…