Monday, July 15, 2013

Trayvon Martin: An Afro-Latina Perspective

The picture on the left is me when I was in eighth grade.  As a punker, I've changed the color and texture of my hair as often as the color of my blue-black-red lipstick.  I've gotten different reactions from Black, White, and Latino/a people based on the texture of my hair and/or the color of my skin, but once I learned my history, I have never, ever forgotten where my kinky hair comes from: Africa.  It wasn't until I moved to New York, away from Chicago, that I met other Latinos/as like myself, who embrace identifying as Black Latinos/as.

Unfortunately, some Latinos/as, in every shade of skin, from the loveliest ebony to the palest blue-white, never learn about our shared history with African Americans and/or never care to draw connections.  We have many Latinos/as who would like to pretend that all our history comes from Spain or various indigenous populations in the Americas, but that is not true, as the Afro-Latino/a movements across the globe have recently proven. Projects like The Afro-Latin@ Reader made me much more hopeful of achieving a unity among Latinos/as and the wider African Diaspora, but today I find myself in the same place I found myself years ago, when I had to listen to White Latino/a friends spew racist remarks about Black people without realizing that they were insulting me.  I find myself in the same place, listening to my African American friends remind us that George Zimmerman is Latino/a because his mother is Peruvian, and he does not just represent "regular Whites," or his Jewish father's side.  I find myself in between and so incredibly sad that parts of myself, in the greater world, are at odds with each other, when I know by the very fact of my existence that we can be together in peace.

Take a look at this picture:

My cousin, Romelio, Jr., is on the left, then my mother, then my cousin, Dorcas, then me, then the 1/2 German, 1/2 Polish guy, Dennis, I was dating at the time, then my uncle Romelio, Sr.  We look like the United Nations.  Dorcas and I have some of the most visible Black features; Mami, even though she is whiter than most of us, has Black blood and she married my Black father even though her own father, my grandfather, didn't go to the wedding because of it; Romelio, Sr. has features that look Indian (from India, the country) - a recent visit to the Caribbean Museum in Barranquilla, Colombia, revealed to me the large number of folks from India who were brought to South America as indentured servants.  This is how the wonderful diversity in places like Guyana was created; it isn't too difficult to grasp that some of the folks who were in the area of Guyana, on the eastern-most location of South America, migrated west to the areas that are now called Venezuela and Colombia.  My family IS the U.N. (The Museo Caribe has great information on our African heritage, too.)

So, I am deeply hurt when Latinas, like Zimmerman's mother, forget their own history, their own broad noses, their own brown skin,

Gladys Zimmerman.

and breed Latino men like George Zimmerman, Latinos who hate themselves, who hate their history, who hate their own family.  Because that is what we are, my friends of many backgrounds and shades, we are family, just like my own picture up there.

I ask all of you for something that I know might be really hard for some, given the circumstances, but that is entirely necessary for our survival.  I ask that if you are a Latino/a who has always identified as White, or different from Black people, please learn about the history of the Americas and the varied migrations and slave trades that occurred in Central and South America and the Caribbean.  We have no White purity, people.  That is a myth.  If you think you are White because you can trace yourself back to the elite in Spain, I ask that you learn about Spanish history - the Moors invaded Spain and ruled there and we have many Middle Eastern influences.  There is no White purity there, either.

And my Black family, please know that there are Latinos/as who have cried for Trayvon Martin.  I am crying as I write this because my biggest fear is that people in power want to divide all people of color who are family, who have so many common interests, who have a wonderful power when they unify.  Please find your Latino/a friends. I guarantee we will not let you down.  I have no interest in racist Latinos/as and I will not defend their actions.

Thank you for reading.