Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Blacks, Latinos spar in small Georgia town
Willacoochee, Georgia, population 2,000, is the kind of small American town you hear about every now and then, but don't visit very often. It's located in Atkinson County, which is about 45 miles north of Georgia's border with Florida.

Willacoochee and the county it resides in may be small, but think of them as sort of test kitchen for race relations for the future. Back in the 1960s, when the U.S. population was closer to 200 million, 30 percent of Atkinson County's population was black and the rest was white. There were almost no Hispanics.

Now, as we approach 300 million people in the United States, Atkinson County is still mostly white, though by a smaller percentage, and the minority population has shifted greatly. The county is now 19 percent black and 21 percent Hispanic, due to a steady stream of immigrants settling in the area.

Here's the issue: Racial tension between what locals call the "blacks" and the "browns" is booming. Blacks say Latinos are taking their jobs, buying up their land, and moving in on their public assistance. Latinos say blacks don't want to work very hard and are turning down jobs. The mayor of the town, who is white, says, "We don't have any problems." But racial tensions between blacks and Latinos do appear to have increased.

To get a better handle on these dynamics, I visited with two local pastors, Harvey Williams and Atanacio Gaona. Williams is black. Gaona is Hispanic. They are good friends and say that everyone stares at them in town when they go out to eat or do anything in public. They're trying to unite the community. Pastor Gaona won't tolerate jokes about blacks, and Pastor Williams waves to unfriendly Hispanic drivers even when they don't wave back. They say they may even bring their congregations together for a service one day.

This is where the rest of the country is headed, isn't it? As more immigrants start to call the United States home, the nature of relations between different racial groups is changing, and not always for the better.
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 3:32 PM ET
  39 Comments
Oh, the out growth of uncontrolled immigration, mostly illegal fueled by the 'cheap labor', NAFTA, North American Union alliance to get Mexican Oil gaggle courting the Hispanic vote. Jobs are a white, black, brown issue and so is the 'gang turf wars' to control the 'underground drugs, weapons and human trafficking' world. Welcome to the third world we are creating with the failure to respect and enforce laws without regard to the real societal chaos that its creating.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista, ar : 4:03 PM ET
As Rodney King said, why can't we all just get along? . I am African American living in NYC and I have friends of all backgrounds. Judge people by their hearts not by their race. Racism is old school and silly.
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Brooklyn and New York : 4:06 PM ET
This is another product of illegal immigration. It has been happening for decades in Texas and California, now it is inevitably spreading to other states. When will our politicians wake up and put a stop to this influx of people that do not belong here?
Posted By Anonymous Will, Houston, Texas : 4:07 PM ET
Hi Randi,
You ask if this is where our country is heading? In my opinion, growing up in Southern Calif. it was always this way to a degree or two. What seems to be happening is everything in our country is magnified 1000 percent..ON EVERY ISSUE. We seem to be ready to implode..I hope we all can take a deep breath and let the smoke of anger come out our ears..None of us are going to get out of life, alive..We might as well be civil and kind to each other. And no, I don't for a moment think we all should join hands and sing Kumbaya, but I believe there are alot of people not even trying to get along..Please try..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 4:12 PM ET
Hello Randi~
Although our country may be a melting pot of different races and cultures, we still have a long way to go. Unfortunately, many communities seem to be heading toward the meltdown. Harvey Williams and Atanacio Gaona are to be commended for setting an example of peace in their community. As a society, we must celebrate each other's cultural differences. In my town we have an annual mulit-cultural festival where we celebrate with music and food from many cultures. I find this fun and interesting. I believe that this is the direction we must go to "love thy neighbor". It is so much more pleasant and easier to live together in harmony than in conflict. There are lots of problems associated with the population boom. It will be interesting to hear you report Randi!
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 4:15 PM ET
As an African American, I feel that it is UTTERLY ridiculous for Blacks and Browns to fight each other. How can two groups of people who have absolutely nothing fight over scraps? Its stupid! We should be supporting each other because when you think about it, as "minorities" in this country, we have a lot in common.

If Blacks and Browns came together as one, we could make some serious changes in the United States of America!

I know other Blacks feel the same. This is why our colleges and Universities are offering Mexicans scholarships. Together we stand....divided we fall!!! This is what I tell ALL of my "minority" friends.
Posted By Anonymous San Jose, California : 4:18 PM ET
I guess that we have forgotten the 60's. I guess we've forgotten the riots sparked by the beating of Rodney King. Have we learned nothing from these and many other race-related struggles throughout the years? Can't we all just get along?? The issue here should not be race, but if these immigrants are LEGAL or not. If so, learn to deal with it, America! We're all in the same proverial boat. If we rock it too much, only the deep, dark bottom of the ocean awaits us all.
Posted By Anonymous Derrick S. , Tampa, FL : 4:21 PM ET
I completely agree with the last paragraph. Unfortunately, we will see more of these racial tensions. I am a high school student and at my school I was the only hispanic in my grade. Now as the new year came, about 15 new hispanic students enrolled in my school and about five of them were in my grade level, and I noticed more racial jokes and and slurrs. It really bothers me. I am friends with whites and blacks and hispanics. My best friends are black, Indian, and white. I see no color just personality. I just wish everyone else would too.
Posted By Anonymous Angeles, Columbia, South Carolina : 4:24 PM ET
As long as the immigrants are LEGAL and speak ENGLISH, they may live where they want... It is usually the illegal immigrants that will work for much smaller wages in order to get work... Without harrasing, this town should just insure that all the immigrants are legal and that employers are not paying "under the table" to obtain cheap labor... Having illegal workers only benefits the employer...I live in South Florida, so I have seen first hand what happens when there is an abundance of illegal immigrants...The employers that hire illegally live by their own set of rules, and it's not usually in favor of the illegal immigrant...Nobody wins, except employers... Employers will say it keeps down the cost for consumers, but I have seen first hand that this is not true...
Posted By Anonymous Sherry Sarasota Fl : 4:25 PM ET
I find it interesting that the black community would segregate the Latino immigrants. It wasn't that long ago that the black community found themselves segregated as well, and fought against that sort of ignorance. It's an awful shame to see ignorance repeated by the same community that was once a victim of it.
Posted By Anonymous Summer S. Ogden, UT : 4:26 PM ET
We need to start controlling immigration.
Wake up and realize we have added almost 100 million people since the 60's to our population and then build the biggest wall that you can...
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Chicago, IL : 4:27 PM ET
It's sad and embarrassing that people have not changed much intellectually in the past decades. By now, rascists should have learned no one is better than anyone else!! That's regarding race, as well as gender, religion, etc. The world is growing. Why can't that be accepted with gladness? This ignorance has been around since the dawn of time so I wouldn't say it's where we're heading; sadly it's where we've been. Peace.
Posted By Anonymous Cyn, Tupelo, MS : 4:28 PM ET
I am black and have ALWAYS embraced Lations. I finally found a job after 3.5 years of "bushanomics" after 25 years of Corporate America employment. And I do mean with the best, EF Hutton, Xerox, United Airlines, Touche Ross just to name a few. Unable to find work in "corporate america" a Latino woman appreciated my skills (my resume submitted for employment). I had no idea she owned the business for which I had applied, interviewed and got the job. I'm sorry but blacks have given up, run out of excuses and ain't doing a damn thing. Blaming others for what you no longer have is not the answer. Prior to blaming the Browns, their excuse was the whites. I have NEVER had a problem with any of them. The only color that has ever mattered and will ALWAYS continue to matter to me is GREEN! Not black, not white nor brown. My hats off to the Hispanics, they have been through "HELL" and basically worked for "free" all these years, and if they didn't do what they have done, who would have done it? Blacks have removed their ownselves and it's an individual thing. I am black, born and raised in Compton, California, now residing in Las Vegas, NV. I just hope blacks have it together by the time Jesus gets here!
Posted By Anonymous Marayven Beasley, Las Vegas, NV : 4:34 PM ET
I absolutely agree with those who say that we should find some way to get along with one another. It is ridiculous to fight. The broader question (as someone else posed) is are they here legally? If someone is here legally, I have no problem with them working hard, earning a decent living and above all...paying their taxes just like everyone else! Now, if they are not paying their fair share of taxes, I personally have a problem with that.
Posted By Anonymous Dennis, Plano, Texas : 4:35 PM ET
Well, a sad state of affairs is this.
But it does not suprise me, it has been this way for a long time. This appears to be two "have not" groups who are trying to get their little piece of the American pie. As long as one group thinks the other group is trying to get over on them, this existing racial tension will no doubt remain the same, or possibly escalate.

Just one man's opinion.

Thanks for taking my call.

BCNU
Posted By Anonymous Rollo Rogers, San Diego, CA : 4:37 PM ET
"Blacks say Latinos are taking their jobs, buying up their land, and moving in on their public assistance."

Buying up THEIR land? Don't like it, then don't put it up for sale!

THEIR public assistance? Did someone miss the word PUBLIC?!

Looks like the pot calling the kettle brown.
Posted By Anonymous Lakisha Washington, Cleveland, Ohio : 4:37 PM ET
Your question, "this is where the rest of the country is headed, is'nt it?" almost sounds as if you are willing it to happen. Since when is WillaWHATEE, Georgia a barometer for the nation at large? Be careful or you may just go out of your way to help racial tension blow up in places where it otherwise wouldn't.
Posted By Anonymous Gordon Downey, Columbus, OH : 4:47 PM ET
My comment is that PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE and only the truly ignorant get hung up on skin color. There are good PEOPLE and bad PEOPLE to be found in every race, without exception. Regarding some of the comments posted earlier...NO SINGLE RACE has ever, in the history of the world, overcome the social obstacles they've faced without the compassion, commitment and support of members of other races. This includes the "black and white" issues America faced in the '50's & '60's and the immigration issues we face today. I do not support or condone illegal immigration and I do believe it is a situation that America must deal with, but people should not be denigrated for participating in the most basic of human instints, which are the struggle to survive and to succeed. If these acts offend you, or if varying skin colors offend you, we've got shuttles going up all the time...pick the alternate planet of your choice!
Posted By Anonymous Sherry, Firestone Colorado : 4:49 PM ET
Well what about Black Hispanics? What are they going to do - fight themselves! Stop the stupidity and band together to have a stronger voice -geez.
Posted By Anonymous Donna, St. Louis, MO : 4:50 PM ET
This is just a shame. Thank goodness for men like Pastor Williams and Gaona. I hope the rest of the town follows their example.
Posted By Anonymous Jen, Olney, MD : 4:50 PM ET
I am a latina born and raised in Southside LA. I think it is important for Hispanics to remember that Latinos from all Latin countries are heavily influenced by many other races such as the African and Asian people. There are many black hispanics and Asian hispanics. It is also childish to say that immigrants steal jobs and homes. They can't possibly steal them but if they work harder to achieve their dreams and goals then they deserve the outcome of their efforts. I don't beleive that you necessarily have to agree with another culture but you must respect their way of life just like you would like them to do unto you.
Posted By Anonymous Mari G, Los Angeles California : 4:50 PM ET
Mexicans are not Latin. Therefore they are not Latino. Please stop calling us that... We will deal with Hispanic for now...
Posted By Anonymous Juan, New York, NY : 4:57 PM ET
The big difference I see is that the "browns" do not seem to have the addiction to the "victim mentality" that the "blacks" do and I think this makes a big difference in who succeeds and who is worried about others buying "their" land and taking away "their" public assistance.
Posted By Anonymous Donna T. Mena, Arkansas : 5:06 PM ET
wow. "Blacks say Latinos are taking their jobs, buying up their land, and moving in on their public assistance."

i don't know any black person who believes welfare is a birthright. that sentence completely disturbs me and is just amazing in its uncritical acceptance of the stereotype that black folks want a handout. i hope the report is a heck of a lot more nuanced than that sentence.

that anger, though, is no different than white anger at immigration. or the reaction whites had to black citizens who migrated north to work in factories. when your community is upended and you feel like you're being displaced by some newcomers, it will make you a bit cranky.
Posted By Anonymous Tiffany, Atlanta, GA : 5:10 PM ET
As an intellectual young 22 year old American Latina may I just inform everyone that "illegals" (cause everyone is here illegally) do pay their taxes. They actually pay most of all. The sad thing is that as us Americans we work hard, get tax deductions and then claim that nice fat check at the end of the year, the "illegals" do the same BUT without claiming the big fat check. Is this fair?? I don't believe those that say they are not prejudice just as long immigrants are here legally. Let me remind everyone that if your only concerned is if taxes are being paid then do not worry anymore because the "illegals" are paying they just do not get the luxury of spending what is being taken away from them. We should all be concerned with as to why Americans are ignorant and keep passing on the ignorance to our children. Remember immigrants come to the land of free and of better living to get away from the imprisonment they were given into. Though are we showing them that our lives are better when there are Americans still hating and fighting over petty things. Just notice who is at the end of the freeway entrance and or/exit working to survive and who is out begging and willing to die. Americans of any race should not hate on "illegals" coming to the U.S working. On the contrary we should be proud that we have other people doing the work that Americans could not even imagine of doing because we are "Proud Americans". Life is hard for everyone. Nothing is free. Who are we to judge when we in some way, shape, or form struggle to survive.
Posted By Anonymous Maritza, Reseda, CA : 5:12 PM ET
Taking their "Public Assistance"!??? You've got to be kidding. Someone needs to show them the way. The mexican people I am acquainted with do get up and go to work everyday. There are generations of blacks that have never worked so they are not taking their jobs.....
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl, Mobile, Alabama : 5:13 PM ET
There has historically been conflict betweeen working poor and working immigrants . Particularly when businesses take advantage of the situation to hold back blue collar wages..while CEO wages increase 200-500% But for now protecting people from the Abuses of Business..doesnt seem to be on the agenda for the current administration giving them tax breaks is their solution
Posted By Anonymous XplicitMa1n New York NY : 5:19 PM ET
Mari G's got it right. And this is true everywhere in America. Immigrants can not steal a job. They can only do good hard work and hope they become the best in their jobs .... if they succeed, God bless them.
Posted By Anonymous R. Hilgenberg - Evanston, IL : 5:21 PM ET
I appreciate the debate. I just wish the Federal Government would have done their job in the first place. They have let the American people down. For the past 30 years, they have failed to secure the border, therefore allowing so many people to flood into the United States in search for a better life. I am African American, raising 3 children and working hard everyday. I also live in Southern California and I see both side to the argument daily. They need to plug up the holes in the border and then deal with all of these people. They have families and a life and truly want to intergrate if given the oportunity. Our Federal Government has created this problem and we the middle class are suffering for it. Its bound to cause racial and class tension. It's up to all American to force our representative to put up or shut up.
Posted By Anonymous Sabrina, Reseda California : 5:38 PM ET
This is a growing issue and seems to be getting bigger. I have observed that everytime Euro-Americans have an issue with Latinos, then Black N Brown should stick together but any other time they have no love for us. How is it right that they recieve a quick route to being legal citizens when other people(Asians, Afrikans,) who live and work here have to wait? I think it is because you have an easily exploitable workforce and an instant voter pool. Illegal is Illegal.
Posted By Anonymous Harold, Marietta, GA : 5:46 PM ET
This may be true but what both groups need to keep in mind, they are the minority. Studies show that America will not have a majority by 2075 at the current pace of growth in the various ethnic groups. We need to realize that we are ALL neighbors in a global economy and start thinking how we can keep America strong, intelligent and safe. We need to brace the values that maid America an economic model for the world and stop wasting our time worrying about the color of someone's skin or their ethinicity. We need to keep God first because he is the rock that America was founded upon even though America had its issues, i.e. slavery, eradiaction of the Indian, etc.
Posted By Anonymous Al, Lorton, VA : 5:49 PM ET
There has always been tension historically between Blacks and Hispanics. If you want a good barometer of where race relations are headed and what that means, you only have to cast a look unto Latin America. I have been looking at these issues for years and anywhere you go in Latin America, blacks are extremely marginilized and "nonexistent". Also unfortunately, as newer immigrant groups have tended to assimilate, they have always easily taken up bad habits like racism and epithets. That is not to say that blacks and browns cannot get along. They must overcome the derogatory conversations they have about each other in their living rooms at night and find a common ground. As a black person in America, I must also point out that it is now upto us blacks to grab our destiny in our hands and stop grumbling about brown, white or whatever no matter what these groups do or not do unto us. Blacks have to come together and contribute to American society as much or more than anyone else to make up for what we haven't been producing because of our own reluctance or due to racism.
Posted By Anonymous Simon, Chicago IL : 5:53 PM ET
THe Mexicans are right and the African Americans are wrong. Mexicans are willing to work harder and work the minimum wage jobs. African Americans in that area need to quit waiting for Jesse Jackson to push for more affirmative action and get better jobs the old fashioned way and EARN IT.
Posted By Anonymous Brian, Bolingbrook, IL : 5:55 PM ET
Let's look back in time here, before there were blacks and hispanics, there were the irish, german, polish, etc. That's what makes this country the melting pot that it is. There were always immigrants in this country doing what they had to do to hopefully achieve the "american dream", if that means taking a job instead of a handout, so be it. No one should be sitting back and whining, their destiny is what they make of it. I'm a product of an interacial marriage, father black, mother white, I get to see both the bad and the good in my fellow americans on a daily basis. When will people learn to judge others on their character and merits rather than the color of their skin? By the way, mines a very interesting shade, confuses alot of people, it gives me the opportunity to judge them first and know where I stand. It's a shame we all have to live in this kind of a world.
Posted By Anonymous Terry Flynn, Townsend, Ma. : 7:39 PM ET
Reading this particular blog hit close to home in a big way. I am Mexican-American and was born and raised in El Paso, Texas where the population is around 88% Hispanic. I have since relocated to St Louis where the Hispanic pop. is below 5%. I can not help but notice how people here look at me differently every where I go. Especially, when I try to go to the Department of Revenue. They always find a way to prevent me from trying to do anything. Sadly, racism is still alive. I feel people need to think outside of the box and look at the whole picture. I wish people would stop looking at the color of everyone's skin and look at what's inside.
Posted By Anonymous Chrystal St Louis, Mo : 8:20 PM ET
I have to agree with Sabrina,Reseda California. Who says we have to take the tired and the poor,the masses yearning to be free. Nice song and sentiment back when our grandparents were running this country and they didn't face the population we now are. Who says that our country should take everyone who wants to come here and work. Should we not take care of who is here already. It seems that the people in this situation are just tired of people coming in from other places and taking what we feel is ours. The government needs to stand up and say, instead of letting these people come in we are going to help the family on the streets of the United States before we help someone who already has a home. Close the boarders and take care of all our family here first! I think deep down we all need to look out for each other and not look at what other countries see us as. We have a melting pot that is boiling over all ready, stop adding more to the fire. ARE YOU LISTENING WASHINGTON?
Posted By Anonymous Debbie,Toledo Ohio : 12:11 AM ET
I work in one of those "public assistance" offices. I see who comes in to apply - the ones who work hard every day at a minimum wage job and can't make ends meet with a typical 4 person family, and the generational assistance families where it is a way of life to live on public assistance. Believe me, there are plenty of all ethnicities receiving benefits. I see the young girls who come in at 14 or younger for pregnancy medicaid because their good religious teachings won't allow birth control but premarital sex seems to be OK. I believe that illegal immigration could be significantly slowed, at least in the border states, if America would join the rest of the world and eliminate the right to citizenship for anyyone born on American soil. Even Great Britain did away with that in the 80's! When a foreign nation produces instructional materials on how to illegally enter a neighboring country it demonstrates where it's priorities truly lie - encouraging the less educated to leave home and go work elsewhere for slave wages so they can send dollars back to the old country and support it's economy while undermining ours! If someone waits their turn to enter the United States like thousands of others do around the world, more power to them. Come on in, and Welcome! If they break the law and enter illegally, they should face the consequences and be deported, just like I'd have to face the consequences if I broke the law. Why should illegal activities be tolerated from one group and not another? I hold those who discriminate against others because of ethnic background in the lowest contempt. Those who are lazy and demand to be supported by others, however,deserve to be discriminated against, regardless of their origins.
Posted By Anonymous Julie, Plainview, TX : 12:45 AM ET
There is always going to be 'racial tensions' as long as people keep identifying themselves as a race.

How many 'caucasians' actually identify themselves with that label? Not too many. They say "I'm American" or "Floridian" and so on. Let's face it, there are very few "african-americans" who have ever been to Africa, have parents or even grandparents who have been to Africa, know what tribe their ancestors came from, want to go back, etc.

The thing about cultural integration, is that it takes both sides to integrate. Some people come to the US (or are already here) and refuse to actuallly intigrate but instead choose to remain cloistered with others 'of their kind' and developing a false-cultural sense instead of embracing people as people and as Americans.

This isn't really endemic to just the US, one need look only at the problems in France last year to see what this sort of thing can lead too.
Posted By Anonymous Justin, Miami Fl : 4:24 PM ET
If you stick two desparate groups together fighting for the same resources of course they are going to try and pick put differences and gang up on each other. Those two groups need to come together and fight the group that put them where they are and are trying to keep them there. It's the oldest trick in the book.
Posted By Anonymous Ameera in San Jose, CA : 8:00 PM ET
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