Race-work, Race-love

Latinidad Without Latinos: In Response to the Question: “Will Hispanics be The New White?”

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2014 at 2:57 am

Let’s be honest.

We are terrified of the disease that is White Supremacy.

And let’s be even more honest: we are terrified of the bodies capable of spreading that disease.

The effects of White Supremacy – otherwise known as racism – are very real. The mortality rates of people of color are much shorter than that of Whites; the educational and employment opportunities are much less for people of color; mass incarceration of Black and Brown people are at an all time high; and the likelihood to be Stopped and Frisked or detained for looking Brown and Undocumented are much higher for people of color….need I go on?

Essentially, White Supremacy kills.

So I am not surprised that Latinos would be thrown in the debate about tipping the scales of White Supremacy. But this point keeps getting missed when we ask “Who is White?” in relation to Latinos as Jamelle Bouie attempted to answer in his piece Will Today’s Hispanics Be Tomorrow’s Whites? Bouie begins his piece by providing the very real example posed by the case of George Zimmerman who “chose” to be Latino-por-conveniencia – or Latino for convenience’s sake. Bouie writes:

For good reason, this debate—whether the half-Peruvian Zimmerman was “Hispanic” or “white”—was quickly overshadowed by the activism and acrimony around Martin’s killing. But it’s not unimportant, as it reflects the tension and confusion over race in a changing America and offers a 21st-century spin on one of the oldest questions in American life: Who is white?

Bouie then uses a Pew Report to provide evidence of the diminishing populace of White bodies as constructed by the U.S. by writing:

Come 2050, only 47 percent of Americans will call themselves white, while the majority will belong to a minority group. Blacks will remain steady at 13 percent of the population, while Asians will grow to 8 percent. Hispanics, on the other hand, will explode to 28 percent of all U.S. population, up from 19 percent in 2010.

He continues by discussing the effects of intermarriage and wonders what children of these marriages will choose (isn’t this question ironically familiar?). The crux of his article centers on the very important questions: “…will white Hispanics see themselves as part of a different race—light-skinned but distinct from whites—or will they see themselves as another kind of white?” Finally, he ends with what seems to be a contradictory message “Our hierarchies are a little flatter, and—in public life, at least—we aren’t as obsessed with racial boundaries.”

(Side note: In my opinion, this message is contradictory because if we weren’t so obsessed with race, we wouldn’t constantly use Latinos as the racial pawn or tipping point – so yes, Jamelle Bouie, we are totally obsessed with racial boundaries, including you.)

While the questions posed by Bouie are interesting, they miss good analysis because of the lack of authenticity that is presented in these questions. There is a dishonesty about fear of Whiteness that we are not willing to explore. However, if we honestly confront the fear, we can come up with better questions. What is this fear really about?

We are terrified of White Supremacy. We are terrified of the bodies that mobilize White Supremacy.

For this piece, I propose other questions that I believe are more constructive and can help us understand Latinidad a bit more: What are the effects of White Supremacy? Can Latinos consume the principles and values of White Supremacy and if so, will Latinos have the power to turn those principles and values into practices and policies? Finally, how does this threaten Black people and yes – even other Latinos?

(PS: Some of the answers are mentioned earlier in this piece when I wrote: “The effects of White Supremacy…”)

In other words, what is the real threat that Latinos who are not critical of the White Supremacist values pose to Black people? And while we are here, what is the real threat that Latinos who ARE critical of the White Supremacist values pose to White people – and more significantly – White Supremacy?

In his response to Bouie, Julio Varela suggests that part of the problem with Bouie’s piece is that Latinos are forced to choose between White and Black and that Latinos are only imagined in this racial binary. His last sentence so poignantly makes us further consider Latinidad outside of that binary – “That’s why ‘tomorrow’s whites’ will never be ‘tomorrow’s whites.’ They will be tomorrow’s Latinos.”

Indeed, what Bouie’s piece reminds me is that Latinos continue to be discussed, theorized, feared, and politicized, without Latinos. This is what I call “Latinidad without Latinos” – akin to ‘Racism without Racists” in the sense that had Bouie just done a Google search on Latinos and race he would have realized that Eduardo Bonilla Silva and others already thought about the question “Will Latinos be a different type of White?” In fact, Bonilla Silva calls this “Honorary White”. Bouie also would have found work by Dr. Clara Rodriguez and Dr. Hector Cordero  or Dr. Marta Moreno Vega who wrote extensively about this very subject. If research is too difficult to access, then what about looking through twitter for public intellectuals who also discuss this such as Dash Harris, Sofia Quintero, Daniel Jose Older, Alex Trillo or Bad Dominicana? What about glancing through The AfroLatino Reader or Latino Education? In fact, with just one tweet I was able to access an article titled Latina/o Whitening: Which Latinas/or Self-Classify as White and Which Latinos Report Being Perceived as White by Other Americans by Dr. Nicholas Vargas. When we hear from Latinos, we actually see how they can turn White Supremacy on its head and read pieces like the one from Roque Planas who wrote 19 Reasons Latin Americans Come to the U.S. That Have Nothing To Do With The American Dream.

But y’all don’t want to hear me, though.

By no means am I suggesting that non-Latinos shouldn’t be a part of this ongoing discussion. What I am suggesting here is that we must ask better questions and we must begin by including Latino voices who are already engaged in these conversations and research to help us ask better questions about Latinos and race. What I am suggesting, most forcibly, is that when asking “What race will Latinos choose” it is necessary to stop thinking about Latinos as “Sleeping Giants”. Instead we MUST start thinking about Latinos as thinking, theorizing, writing, and active people. We have been studying the question about race and Latinidad for many, many years. The Latin American discourse on race is long and well-researched. Yet, think pieces from media outlets such as Slate continue to perpetuate the myth of Latinos as the Sleeping Giants and as a people whose voices are not necessary to include on all topics and even more ridiculously – about who we are, about our own Latinidad.

In essence, it is insignificant to ask how many White people there will be in 2050 and how Latinos will contribute to this number if we don’t consider that the values, beliefs, and practices that uphold White Supremacy are much stronger than our mortal bodies. Yes – we are all carriers of these values, beliefs, and practices. Thus, Latinos “choosing” White could only mean something when we consider what we are taught about Whiteness and the mechanisms that are still firmly in place that make people desire Whiteness and reject Latinidad.

Finally, Bouie’s analysis failed to provide insight on the idea that we have the ability to “choose” race. It is a lie that the American Dream is built on: the lie that suggests that individuals can CHOOSE their identity. We are all born into a structure. At birth, our identity is chosen for us. How we manage that identity is then confronted by how society sees us. We can either choose to resist or accept the conditions around us. Thus, racial identity for Latinos (for everyone) is an interactional process between the individual and society that was overly simplified by Bouie’s piece. Will Hispanics choose to be White? Or will White be chosen for us? These questions can only come out of discussions that don’t include racially and ethnically conscious Latinos. What people fail to realize is that Latino/Latin American voices have been contributing to this discussion for years now – so, for lack of a better way of saying it – y’all are just late to this party.

Returning to George Zimmerman – because Bouie started this discussion on race and Latinidad with him – we absolutely should consider Zimmerman as a good example of the perils of White Supremacist values living in a genetically White and Peruvian body. In a blog post I wrote earlier this year, I point out the racist sentiments that Zimmerman’s mother espoused which were passed on to her son which resulted in the death of a young Black man named Trayvon Martin. This is an effect of White Supremacist values – values that can survive and thrive in any body. For these reasons, it is more important to explore what values and beliefs Latinos hold about race in addition to what race we will choose —  because as we saw in the Zimmerman trial – it is easy to now use our Brown bodies as proxies for anti-racism.

There is some hope though – there is evidence that the more Latinos engage race education via mechanisms such as ethnic studies, the more we learn to be racially conscious and racially complete and move further away from Whiteness. Sadly – despite the positive results of ethnic studies on Latino students, these programs are being dismantled and defunded. Coincidence?

There is so much more to be said about the racialization of Latinos, too much to be written in just one piece. Thus, I urge those of us who are more educated on this subject to begin writing and submitting to places like Slate – and if rejected – to publish on our own sites. I also encourage us to submit to places that are supposed to provide Latinos with a platform. Essentially, what I am asking is that Latinos make themselves visible and heard at this discussion table – and not just be a part of the Racial Binary menu.

Latinidad Without Latinos – No More.

Que en Paz Descanse: Love In the Time of Gabriel García Márquez

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2014 at 5:36 pm

“Things have a life of their own,” the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. “It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.”

And that’s just page two of One Hundred Years of Solitude by the great Gabriel García Márquez.

Although literature and genius have been birthed out of Latin America long before Gabo (how Gabriel García Márquez is affectionately known) it is said that there is no other author who has put Latin American literature on the global map as has this gran maestro. Just a few of his notable moments include: a Nobel Prize in Literature (1982), getting into a fight with Mario Vargas Llosa, and earning a number two spot (after the Bible,) on the best seller list in Latin America for One Hundred Years of Solitude.

The truth is, I only know Gabriel García Márquez’s work. I had minimal knowledge of his political leanings, his personal ambitions, or his life as a writer. I did not know that he was a great friend of Fidel Castro or that he fought against those detained in Cuba despite that friendship,  I had no idea that (like many of us who desire to be writers) he held down a couple of jobs and a family. I had no idea that his life began in poverty and that it was during these years that his imagination took him to places later in his writing that made his home town glitter in gold and simultaneously smell pungently of political oppression.

Only a man who loved his hometown but hated injustice could make Latin America broadly, and Macondo specifically, seem like the ice he describes in his first page of One Hundred Years of Solitude.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Col. Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of 20 adobe houses built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.”

How do I make race work, racial justice, racial equity desirable as ice, I continue to wonder…He made revolution and Latin America irresistible and we all fell for it. The whole world fell in love with a revolution and didn’t even realize it.

Gabriel García Márquez threw his spell on me and made me want to be a writer – a great autora of a revolutionary Ecuadorian American novel – oh how I dream!! Gabriel García Márquez helped me feel normal at a predominantly white college (Brandeis University), where I was first introduced to his work.

Oh, Gabo! How proud you made me of being born of Latin American parents and made me think that, maybe, even though you are from Colombia and I from EcuaYork, I too can be just as creative, as imaginative, as genius as you…

Gabriel García Márquez demonstrated to us how it is absolutely possible to make love to words to birth beautiful stories – I desired to live and love in his head. We all wished for him to live forever but in the end – at least we have his words.

En poquitas palabras – millones de gracias al gran genio, al gran maestro Latino Americano. May he always rest in our dreams of revolution and love and justice.

2013 Fascinating Latino Story 3: How Exploring Racism & Latino Identity Can Help Us Leave This World Better Than We Found It

In Uncategorized on January 1, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Because the U.S. Census does not consider Latino/Hispanic a racial category and because Latin Americans over time have consistently tried to move further and further away from Blackness, the question “Who is Latina/o?” and “Can Latinas/os be racist?” are very much intertwined. As I mentioned in my first post, George Zimmerman was immediately called “not a racist” because he is of Peruvian descent, even though there have been claims that his Peruvian mother and other family members have revealed anti-Black sentiment. Thus, it continues to be important, and remains a relevant topic of discussion, to analyze not just Latina/o identity but also the characteristics that we as a society use to define a racial identity. Furthermore, these discussions also reveal how important the exploration of race is to understanding how racist feelings manifest itself in people of color. It is important that we begin to  specify “racism”  by connecting it to “White Supremacy” in order to help us understand that people like George Zimmerman and his mother could in fact live out White Supremacist values that affect their decision making in how they perceive as “positive” in our society and in this case, who is worthy of a life.

I begin this section by exploring the events or people who have caused us to question “Who is Latina/o?” Pope Francis has become increasingly more popular for his anti-capitalist views and his service to the poor. But, for Latinas/os, he has also crept into our Latina/o collective consciousness for his racial/ethnic identity. Born and raised in Argentina, Pope Francis is also of Italian descent. While he is hailed as the first Latin American/Latino Pope, many have questioned how Latino he really is because of his Italian heritage.  A very interesting conversation indeed, but what outlets do Latinas/os have to have full discussions about this very important topic?  The point is not to find an answer or come to a conclusion about Latina/o identity; the point is to help bring forth the conversations that many are having but with very little educated facilitation of these questions.

In Reality Show news, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (RHOBH) has a new cast member, Joyce Giraud Mojica, who is a beauty pageant queen and actress from Puerto Rico.  As with most predominantly White casts, racist comments and colorblind racist events are bound to happen, particularly when there is ONE cast member who identifies as a person of color. In one instance another cast member told Joyce that she was a Black person because Joyce didn’t know how to swim. This racial microaggression heard around the Bravo Twitter world caused a bit of a stir (as it should). Because people generally do not know how to respond to such microaggressions, I must admit, I thought Joyce was going to turn around and consider this an insult. Instead, Joyce made it very clear that she actually is Black because Puerto Ricans do have African heritage. This was a whole new moment for me in Reality Show television. I never heard any Reality TV star clearly delineate Latino heritage and I would imagine this was a first for some  people who have none or minimal awareness of who Puerto Ricans are. In one sentence, Joyce gave RHOBH audience a lesson on Latino heritage whether some may agree or not that this is what being Puerto Rican means. BRAVO to Joyce.

Then, of course, there is Zoe Saldana and Nina Simone. The news of Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone broke in late 2012 but her response (or repeated responses) came in 2013. Critics are largely unhappy with the Zoe as a choice to play Nina Simone, and Zoe has openly claimed that she does not have time to worry about whether she is “Black” enough to play Nina Simone. This leads to the other question that many Latinos face – what does it mean to be “Latino” enough – particularly if you largely see yourself in different racial categories. For example, AfroLatinas are still largely unincorporated into the Black imagination, even though many AfroLatinas will tell you that people will often see them as Black first. Thus, there is clearly still a large miseducation of who Latinos are not only by non-Latinos but also, sadly, by those of us who identify as well.

(Side note: I wish Zoe would realize that this is not just whether she is Black enough but whether her “lighter skinned, more European appealing traits garnered her a role over a Black woman [AfroLatina or not] who didn’t appeal to a more European aesthetic and if she was REALLY doing it for her “sisters” as she claims she would realize this…but this conversation is for another blog post. Entirely!)

(Another side note: As I reflect on this piece, I continue to be dismayed that at the heart of figuring out Latino identity, there is so still much anti-Black sentiment. This is an important topic to place at the center, one which I will continue to focus on, which other blogueras and other racial analysts should explore as well.)

Unfortunately, this year we saw much structural and interpersonal racism come alive and targeted to Latinos and Latin Americans. In November we saw how dangerous the intersection of immigration status and race can be when the law is used to legally discriminate against a certain population. In the Dominican Republic, we learned that the DR made a whole new class of undocumented immigrants by ruling that those born after 1929 of parents who are not Dominican born, specifically, Haitian parents, would find themselves without Dominican citizenship. It’s horrifying to think that this can happen in the 21st century, but, if we follow the interpersonal racism steps that could lead to or maintain the justification of legalized racism, then perhaps this may not be so surprising. Good articles to read about this are found here and here. In solidarity, four prominent authors (Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, Julia Alvarez and Mark Kurlansky) wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times that can be found here.

Social Media can be great for many things like sharing information but it also helps allow racism to rear its ugly head.  Along with hatred spewed by racism is also the ignorance that is often displayed by racist individuals. In July, we saw how ignorant people are about Latinos because Latinos are still not considered Americans. Case in point: Marc Anthony sang God Bless America for the MLB All Star Game. Once he stopped singing the racist tweets came in: “Why is a [insert all words describing non Americans here] singing the national anthem?”

Oh, boy. Some Americans need to go back to school.

For one, Puerto Ricans are not immigrants, and two God Bless America is NOT the national anthem of the U.S. Yet, people INSISTED on showing their racist, ignorant selves on Twitter and got caught for making these stupid remarks.  Interestingly,  some Latinos responded in a weird fashion, as well. While some were vehemently reacting back to these racist responses, others were responding with anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant sentiments, too. Puerto Ricans have the privilege of being U.S. citizens while other Latin Americans do not have this automatic birth privilege. What both kinds of critics failed to realize is that immigration status or our parents’ orgin of birth does not make us any less American, either.  Yet, many Latinos continue to participate in some kind of anti-Latino sentiment that was completely inappropriate by vehemently claiming that Marc Anthony is not an immigrant and they would understand the anger if he was. WHAT??!! It might serve us more if we (yes, Latinos, talking to you) begin to understand the complexities of Latinidad, one of those being immigration status. At the end of the day, Marc Anthony  should be able to be invited to sing a song even if he wasn’t “American” not just because he has US citizenship!

Another example of public social media displays of racism happened in June to 11-year-old Sebastien De La Cruz who sang the national anthem for an NBA finals game. These interpersonal cyber racist attacks are becoming the norm and IS the new stage for White Supremacy. Thus, it is of high importance to explore social media racism and its discontents.

Speaking of stages for performing Latinidad or anti-Latino sentiments, in October we witnessed the birth of Fusion. Fusion is meant to target younger, Latino viewers, but they neglected to mention that many of the reporters are White Latinos mirroring the class, gender and racial regimes that reign supreme in Latin American television such as Univision and Telemundo. One commentator (a Greek reporter) when describing the network said that Fusion was what happens when you marry Univision and ABC.

Ok. Did we mention that both networks are really very White? So what does that make Fusion?

Right.

You can find more critiques of Fusion here and here.

Thankfully, there are venues that have seen the light of day but has been a long time coming!  The AfroLatino Festival in New York saw its birth in June.  They are in fund raising mode to ensure a second festival is in the works.  Read about the festival here. Happily, Seattle, Washington seems to be ahead of the game in this area. Check it out here.

As with my earlier posts, I need to recognize the importance of platforms for artists, educators, reporters, social media activists, and others to discuss Latinidad.  These platforms have the important responsibility to nurture these individuals and also create a community among these individuals interested in the exploration of Latinidad in the US and beyond.  I wrote this piece on the sixth day of Kuumba, the principle for Creativity, which helps us reflect on creative ways to work toward a world better than we found it. In this second year of my writing Fascinating Latino stories, I think it is time to expand this to a larger platform and create a community discussion around these issues.  Therefore, I am thinking of a master plan… who knows what will be in the works for 2014!  Stay tuned…

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