Recently, I have been thinking about how to best contribute to breaking down racism, specifically anti-black racism, in my community. See, white supremacy is a global phenomenon, where the closer to the idealized white you are, the more beautiful you are. The Latinx and Latin American community does not escape this.
Since I was young I was aware that the whiter you looked, the better you were. It was not always explicitly stated, but you saw it everywhere. Novelas showcased blonde white women who spoke Spanish, with the brown women relegated to be maids and secondary characters. Musical artists looked more white than black. I saw it in the discrimination my Afro Dominican and Puerto Rican friends faced beside their light skinned brothers and sisters. I saw it in my own family, both in the States and back in El Salvador and Argentina. I saw curly hair lamented and straight hair celebrated. Growing up Latinx, being black is not something coveted. Being white is.
Anti-Blackness in the Latinx community is real, violent, and destructive to the body and soul. Latin America has a complex history when it comes to race. We are the true crossroads of the world, as we are the descendants of every continent mixed in one. But not every shade is loved equally, if at all. Many Latinxs in the US and throughout the continent deny their African (and Indigenous) roots. There is a strong disassociation with Africa and our Indigeneity , as to become beautiful, desirable, and matter, translates to “be white.”
I won’t delve into the history behind this phenomenon or the reasons behind it. However, what has been long on my mind is what we, Latinxs, wherever we may be, and whatever we may look like, can do to fight against this anti-blackness in our everyday.
The first step is to love your Blackness.
This intense love of the self must be purposeful, directed at the parts of ourselves that has been denied love for centuries. This love must be declared in public, loud and unapologetic. We must showcase our curls, our Negro and Moreno skin, our African named hills and waves. It is not to say we should not love ourselves completely, but given that only part of ourselves is valued, our whiter parts, we must place upon the mountain tops what has seen so little of the warmth of Sol y Estrella.
What does this do? Our bodies are political, since we are born, and in being so, are the battlegrounds of ideological titans. White Supremacy waits patiently at the gates of life, ready to give us value based on the color of our eyes, the hues of our skin, and where our hair grows between savagery and civility. Thus, our public, outspoken, unapologetic love of our bodies, our black bodies, becomes a political act. it is in this utterance that we challenge the white hegemony that has told us we are ugly, undesirable, unlovable. By doing this in public, we reclaim the spaces that never speak such words. We make it known that it is not only part of ourselves that deserves love, but it is our whole selves, and that we will no longer accept the lie that the only piece of us that is valuable is that which is white. We also make others see our blackness, especially Latinxs, and declare to them that we will no longer deny it.
Some will be quick to condemn this and say that “all skin is beautiful” (akin to #AllLivesMatter). That misses the point. All skin should be seen as beautiful, but to say that it is is to ignore a social fact – that Black is not (meant to be) as beautiful as white skin. To declare your Blackness as beautiful is not to say that white skin is not, but it is to vocalize a counter-narrative that works to break down anti-blackness.
Latinos come in every skin imaginable. We are not locatable by the naked eye (though mass media would say otherwise), and in being so, we complicate white hegemony by simply existing. But that does not mean we are immune from its effects. Any part of us that is seen to be rooted in Blackness is almost always immediately rejected. Be it darker skin, curlier hair, bigger lips, curvier bodies, whatever it may be, it is to be undone. It is colonized and violently transformed. It is destroyed. It is then first in our own skin that we must decolonize, reclaim, and rebuild.
Anti-blackness is hard to dismantle. And that journey is a long one, especially for Latinos. But the first step is to look in the mirror and see not only part of ourselves, but our entire selves, and say,
You must declare, as loudly as you can, “My Blackness is beautiful”.