This is for my Latinos in the US and beyond.
The recent events in Baltimore are nothing new. Many of us have voiced our solidarity through social media, through conversation, through however we can make our voices heard. But I have seen too few within my community stand with Baltimore, with the #BlackLivesMatters movement, with our Black brothers and sisters. I have seen a few of us let some misinformed information influence their beliefs on what is happening. I want to address them now as your Latino-Latin American Hermano.
1. #BlackLivesMatter v. #LatinoLivesMatter v. #AllLivesMatter
Yes. All lives do matter. But our social structures value the lives of some at the expense of others. I have seen some of you post the latter two hashtags and not the first. You have to remember that we live in a country that systemically kills, imprisons, and impoverishes and entire group of people based on the color of their skin, and so #BlackLivesMatter is a counter-narrative to have us love Blackness. Yes, Latinos suffer at the hands of this system because of our skin color too, because of our (perceived) legal status, and there is a violence we experience that is unique to our identity, but as a community we must recognize our complicity in this system that devalues Blackness. Which leads me to my second point.
Latinos are the “cosmic race”. We are not bound by one skin color, creed, or genealogical history. This means that there are Latinos who are Black. We have an internalized racism that devalues Blackness to the point where we deny our African roots. Look at our media. From our Tele-Novelas to our News outlets (Univision & Telemundo) – we have a historical racist ideology govern which lives are worth protecting. Our social fabric works to keep our Black and Afro-Latinos on the fringes. What does this mean in the US context? Many of our brothers and sisters have to navigate a space where in the US imaginary they are Black and many times only Black, and thus, experience violence, imprisonment, and poverty at a disproportionate rate than the rest of the country. We live in a racial caste system, and at the very bottom of that system are those who are read as Black, no matter their history or complex identities. By not embracing this movement, you are again reproducing a system that says some of us are better than others. What you are doing is saying Black lives don’t matter.
3.The White Latino
This then brings me to an uncomfortable reality for many Latinos. As there are Black/Afro Latinos, there are White/Anglo Latinos. Half of me stems from Argentina, a nation whose capitol is bursting with blue eyes, blonde Hair, and white skin. This affords them access to White Privilege. Perhaps not completely, but White Latinos are able to navigate social spaces differently from other Latinos. Yes, they may be racialized through their accents, our last names, how we self identify, but the experiences are fundamentally different because of how Race is read and the impact race has on our daily existence. White/Anglo Latinos must confront their privilege and understand that while you may experience racism due to your Latinidad, your white skin gives you access to privileges Latinos at large, especially Black/Afro Latinos, cannot access.
4. What does Solidarity look like?
Solidarity is a hard thing to do. It isn’t only about a hashtag or liking a status. For Latinos, it means doing some deep, hard, painful reflection on what race means in our communities across the continent. The first step to that is looking in the mirror and figuring out which spaces we occupy afford us privilege because of the color of our skin. This means to admit that we have a deep rooted, colonial, internalized racist ideology that seeks to maintain Whiteness as the ideal state of being and Blackness as the undesirable body we need to escape and/or help destroy. This also means examining our indigenous history, and how White Supremacy has made invisible the narratives and histories of the indigenous people across the continent, and how we have lost the ability in many ways to embrace that history in the same way we deny our Blackness. This movement demands that we call each other out in moments we uphold White Supremacy or devalue Blackness. It demands honesty and conviction. It demands we decolonize our minds and rebuild.
I can go on, but for now I’ll leave it here. These discussions are integral to dismantling the systems at work that are murdering Black men, women, and children every 8 hours. We should care because these individuals are human, not because some of them may be Latino. Our bodies also experience violence on a daily basis, but we cannot stand here and play oppression olympics. We are all victims of White Supremacy and the Colonial Enterprise. The first step, for us, however, is to do some soul searching. We cannot be the warriors our ancestors were if we are divided from our Black family, if we continue to deny our African heritage.
Many of us are here to discuss this. If you want and need to, reach out via my blog, email, Skype, etc. I am more than willing to continue this dialogue, because I know this takes work and it takes a team to understand all of this. Please, reach out. This is a journey we must take together.
Pa’lante, mi gente! #BlackLivesMatter