Blaming immigrants for job scarcity can have a corrosive effect on communities. Working Family Solidarity and Chicago Community Trust are working to combat that with a series of dialogues that build connection, understanding, and empathy across Black and Latinx communities.
Working Family Solidarity held the second of three racial unity dialogues on Thursday, December 10, 2020, via Zoom. The event began with a brief presentation. It was then followed by dialogue, and it finished with remarks from guests.
WFS founding executive director Leone Jose Bicchieri said the dialogues are a space where Blacks and Latinx can speak openly about race.
"If we don't create a space where people can say what they feel, not that they're right, not that they're wrong," Bicchieri said, "then they are gonna say that somewhere else out of our orbit. Then we can no longer help them."
The event, "Anti-Immigrant Sentiment & Xenophobia: Why Does This Still Persist?" centered on tying the experiences of Latinx and Black workers together and promoting a common cause.
Bicchieri spoke of his experience organizing day laborers as an example. Although Latinx and Black workers both line up early, Bicchieri said that he has seen mainly Latinx workers being called for work.
That arrangement is "designed to divide. But no one blames rich people," while issues such as unsafe working conditions go unaddressed, Bicchieri added.
A Latinx woman who attended the event contrasted her and her friend's experiences. She and her friend are both immigrants, and her friend is Polish.
"From the moment [Latinx immigrants] get here, we live in fear," the woman said through a Spanish language interpreter. "It's starts with the label we're given, 'Illegal.'"
In contrast, her friend doesn't get that label. Also, she said her friend earns more than she, and her friend doesn't experience the same general fears.
Daniel Ash, an executive of the Chicago Community Trust, the event's funder, also attended and made remarks. His work centers on advancing livable and resilient neighborhoods within under-invested Black and Latinx communities.
He said that truth telling about issues and actors that divide minority communities are key to bringing about healing and liberation. "If we want to liberate ourselves, we have to work together," he said.
The next Racial Unity Dialogue, "The African American Experience: Anti-Black Racism," will occur on Thursday, January 28, 2020, at 6 p.m. Central Time. Follow Working Family Solidarity on their website (www.workingfamilysolidarity.org) to register.
Dialogues that promote understanding and empathy are one type of project funded by Healing Illinois. Collaboration and facilitated learning, and restorative healing activities (also called seeding connection) are the other three. Working Family Solidarity was a sub-grantee, one of 17 sub-grantee organizations that will host events, recruit participants, and conduct specific racial healing sessions. Healing Illinois has awarded $590,000 to these groups. WFS received $10,000.