CHARLOTTE – New census figures reveal Hispanics to be one of the fastest growing minority groups in the country, having reached parity with African-Americans as the largest minority groups and fueling speculation about what it might mean for race relations in the United States.
Artellia Burch, a reporter for The Charlotte Post, was assigned to get reactions from Charlotte's black community to the growing number of Hispanics in Charlotte.
"We are a black newspaper and our slogan is 'we are the voice of the black community,' Burch said. "We just wanted to know what [blacks] actually thought about the census information" showing rapid Latino growth in metropolitan Charlotte.
Burch's interviews with Charlotte residents resulted in an article called, "When Worlds Collide." Her story is filled with some extraordinary statements from some African-Americans about the influx of Hispanics.
— "I definitely think they are people to fear. They travel in packs. They like to play stupid acting as if they don't understand English when you know they do. A group of them will sit around and talk to each other in their language. They could be plotting to kill you and you would never know it."
— "We shouldn't fear them just because they outnumber us. Just because someone multiplies like a rabbit doesn't mean you should fear them. They need to fear us."
Some of the other quotes were even more inflammatory.
Fox News contacted the people quoted in Burch's story and, while they stand by what they said, they did not want to be quoted again. The Post, too, is standing by its portrayal of the growing friction between the black and Hispanic communities.
"I guess racism is systematic," said Post publisher Gerald Johnson. "And everybody is looking for someone to step on. And I guess black people are no different from anyone else from that perspective. The more we talk to people about this, the more we are finding out that it's a lot more rampant than we would have assumed."
The article has provoked howls of protest from some in the Latino community. Raul Yzaguirre of the national Hispanic organization Council of La Raza said, "I call on the African-American leadership to disavow it in the strongest possible terms."
But so far, the reaction has been muted.
Bob Lichter of the Center for Media and Public Affairs said, "In this instance, you had an African-American saying the kinds of bigoted things about Hispanic-Americans, that if a white had said something like this about black or Hispanics, they would have been run out of the country on a rail."
While the Post article focuses on the comments of a few people, black and Hispanic groups suggest the tension and misunderstanding between the two have been building for some time.
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