Culture

Cardi B Reminds Us That Latinos Have A Complicated Relationship To The N-Word

For those who have been hiding under a rock over the past few months, Bronx native and proud Dominicana, Cardi B, has taken the world by storm with her hit single, “Bodak Yellow.”

We’ve all heard the song at this point (even our moms and tias) and as a result, it’s reached the number two spot on the Billboard music charts. Why do we love it so much? Because it celebrates an unapologetic brand of feminism, the hustling mentality that many of us were raised on, and it reminds us that stunting on your haters is sometimes the only way they’ll ever get the point.

But while Cardi B continues to compile accolades and rep her Dominican and Trinidadian heritage, some internet blogs have recently questioned her for responses related to a question about using the N-word in a recent interview with DJ Vlad for VLAD TV.

Credit: Cardi B/Instagram

What does the N-word have to do with Latinos you might ask? The short answer: A lot.

If you live on the East Coast, then you’re probably aware that Latinos can be of African descent. From the Caribbean to South America, Afro-Latinos of various nationalities have made their imprint on New York for centuries. But in cities like Los Angeles, there are far more Latinos of indigenous and mestizo descent than Afro-Latinos or Blaxicans (Black-Mexicans) like myself.

For some, Cardi’s use of the N-word comes with no surprise, especially for those who grew up using the word around African Americans and other people of African descent.

“And I’m quick, cut a n***** hustle, Don’t get comfortable,” she recites throughout “Bodak Yellow.”

“N***** hatin’ on me, really be upset,” she raps in another song, titled, “Red Barz.”

While the conversation around the word now involves Cardi B, she is, however, not the first Latina to be publicly questioned (read: dragged) for using the N-word in a song.

Jennifer Lopez (J.Lo) holds that title.

In 2001, J.Lo was publicly scrutinized for using the word on “I’m Real,” before rapper Ja Rule (everyone’s favorite summer-of-2001 rapper) came to her defense, claiming there was an “unwritten rule” that allows Puerto Ricans to say the word because African Americans and Puerto Ricans “are all kinda in the same family.”

Credit: Kevin Mazur, Getty.

Other prominent Latino artists like Latino rapper Fat Joe – whose racial background has been debated in the past – has consistently used (and defended) the word throughout his career.

Still, while J.Lo and Fat Joe may have defended themselves, there are a large majority of people in the U.S. who rightfully feel like the word has no place in Latino communities and outside of them.

So where does Cardi B fall under the complicated history of Latinos and the N-word? As a self-identified black woman of Caribbean descent and someone who has openly spoken about the racial discrimination that she has faced in her life, it almost seems like Cardi B has “rightfully” earned the right to use the word.

“… because at the end of the day, there are also Latinos (many of whom exist in our families) who use the N-word in social settings and are openly anti-black.”

But Cardi B’s response to DJ VLAD’s question revealed that she has her own hang ups about the word’s loaded history.

“It’s just something that like, is a lingo, like even I want to stop saying it,” she explained. “I really can’t stop saying it, I’m sorry.”

“It seems like something that is so normal, which is bad, but it is what it is,” she continued.

We’re introduced to her own racial background moments later when she claims that she and all Latinos come from diverse backgrounds.

Credit: Cardi B/Facebook

“My parents, my father’s side, we’re Spanish, were Hispanic, and everything. But it’s like where do them Spanish people come from? Where do them Latino people come from? They’re mixed people, we’re mixed with African, European… What is it? Mulatic?”

It’s safe to assume that Cardi B probably didn’t mean to say Mulatic. I’m guessing she was looking for the word Mulatto or Mestizo — both represent different forms of racial mixture, but we can never be too sure. Mulatic may, in fact, be the group of undiscovered people in the Caribbean that white scientists and anthropologists are dying to “discover” next.

But Cardi B was far from finished.

She concludes the interview by explaining that, according to white people, there is no difference between Latinos and African-Americans. “And at the end of the day,” she says, “like Latinos and Hispanics they are considered a minority, like you think white folks see Hispanic and Black people, like oh yeah they are Hispanic and they’re black, no, we are all considered the same to them.”

Cardi B raises an interesting point and something that some non-black Latinos who use the N-word have often alluded to: African-Americans and Latinos are both victims of racial discrimination, which makes it OK for Latinos to use the N-word.

(Another point often used by Latinos who use the N-word: African-Americans and Latinos often grow up in the same neighborhoods, listen to the same music, adopt the same fashion trends, which also makes it OK to use the word.)

We’ve all heard these arguments before. And while they may occasionally ring true, they can easily downward spiral because at the end of the day there are also Latinos (many of whom exist in our families) who use the N-word in social settings and are openly anti-black.

Credit: Facebook

Last year, the popular television show, “Black-ish,” created by Kenya Barris, took up the ongoing debate in an episode, titled, “The Word.” During one of the scenes, Curtis (Allen Maldonado) and Charlie (Deon Cole), used a dry erase board to stage an informative session at their workplace in hopes of educating their white coworkers about which Latino groups could and couldn’t use the n-word.

One of their white coworkers ask, “Mexicans can’t say the N-word, but Dominicans are OK?” To which Charlie explains, “Puerto Ricans are cool too unless you’re a J.Lo (Jennifer Lopez) Puerto Rican.”

Other people in this group, according to Charlie, include actress, Rosie Perez, deceased rapper, Big Pun, and Fat Joe. Marc Anthony and Ricky Martin, however, were, “no bueno,” and not allowed to say it under any circumstances.

“See basically the whole terror squad can say it, but not Menudo,” both men add.

While the scene was filled with comedic moments intended to diffuse such a loaded topic, it also raised an important point about the question of geography with regards to Latinos and the N-word.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Dmitry Rogozhin; CC0 Public Domain, George Hodan

Do Latinos on the west coast and east coast use the word in different ways? 

DJ Sour Milk, a Latino Los Angeles-based DJ and radio show host at POWER 106 FM, believes that there are differences between the West and East coast Latino’s relationship to the word.

“I think there’s always been tension between the Mexican and the Black community in L.A.,” he explained to me over the phone. “There were always race riots in my high school between blacks and Mexicans.”

“But the N-word was something that my African American friends and I often used as a term of endearment and love even if black and brown people were beefing around us. I don’t think New York has all of that; I feel like it’s all love out there between African-Americans and Latinos,” he continued.

“Do Latinos on the west coast and east coast use the word in different ways? Should one group be allowed to have more access to it?”

DJ Sour Milk’s attempt to differentiate between Latinos on the east and west coast shows that there may be a regional difference with regards to the word. Particularly, if there are more Latinos of African descent on the east coast then there are on the west coast.

Perhaps the racial lines are often blurred between African-Americans and Latinos on the east coast in a way that they are not on the west coast where, in contrast, there are less Afro-Latinos according to the censusStill, a continued examination of the word’s existence in the Latino community will certainly prompt differing views, but what will also continue to transpire is the reality that African-American and Latino experiences are undeniably woven by a thread that, as our current political and racial climate shows, has the potential to create bridges.

That said, Latinos of non-African descent must also acknowledge that before these threads can be woven, the anti-black sentiments that are deeply ingrained in our communities must be addressed, while simultaneously realizing that being part of a discriminated group doesn’t exempt one from confronting their own racial prejudices.

The differing viewpoints that continue to revolve around the word reveal another glaring detail: Cardi B shows us that the Latino relationship to the N-word is part of the unresolved legacy of racism and mistreatment of people of African descent both in the U.S. and throughout Latin America.

Should Latinos be allowed to use the word? The debate will continue long after you finish reading this story. But if you’re a Latino who continues to use it, you should also remind yourself that for people of African descent in this country, the word means more than just a term of endearment amongst friends. It can also be a vivid (and sometimes haunting) reminder that being black in this country means that you are part of a group that continues to be disprorportionately impacted by the unrelenting legacy of white supremacy and police killings. 

READ: 9 Things That Happened While I Dated Outside My Race

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A PhD Student Made History By Writing Her Entire Thesis In An Indigenous Peruvian Language

Culture

A PhD Student Made History By Writing Her Entire Thesis In An Indigenous Peruvian Language

Lino Obarallumbo / DailySol

Scholars at Lima’s San Marcos university say it’s the first time a student has written and defended a thesis entirely in a native language. Roxana Quispe Collantes made history when she verbally defended and wrote her thesis in Quechua, a language of the Incas. While Quechua is spoken by 8 million people in the Andes with half of them in Peru, it speaks volumes that this hasn’t happened before at the 468-year-old university, the oldest in the Americas. 

Quispe Collantes studied Peruvian and Latin American literature with a focus on poetry written in Quechua. The United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages program has Peru a part of a global campaign to revive 2,680 indigenous languages at risk of going extinct. Peru is home to 21 of those languages. 

Roxana Quispe Collantes brings Inca culture to her doctoral candidacy.

Quispe Collantes began her presentation with a traditional Inca thanksgiving ceremony. She presented her thesis “Yawar Para” (or blood rain) by using coca leaves and chicha, a corn-based alcoholic beverage in the ritual.

For seven years, the student studied Andrés Alencastre Gutiérrez, a poet who wrote in Quechua, and used the pen name Kilku Warak’aq. For her thesis, she analyzed his mixture of Andrean traditions and Catholicism. 

“I’ve always wanted to study in Quechua, in my original language,” she told the Observer

Quispe Collantes traveled to highland communities in the Canas to confirm the definitions of words in the Collao dialect of Quechua used in the Cusco region. 

“I needed to travel to the high provinces of Canas to achieve this translation and the meaning of toponyms that I couldn’t find anywhere,” she said. “I asked my parents, my grandparents and teachers, and [it didn’t prove fruitful].”

Quechua entering the academic discourse can help preserve it. 

“Quechua doesn’t lack the vocabulary for an academic language. Today many people mix the language with Spanish,” she said. “I hope my example will help to revalue the language again and encourage young people, especially women, to follow my path. It’s very important that we keep on rescuing our original language.”

Her doctoral adviser Gonzo Espino told The Guardian he believes Quispe Collantes’ thesis was a symbolic gesture. 

“[The language] represented the most humble people in this part of the world: the Andeans, who were once called ‘Indians’. Their language and culture has been vindicated,” he said. 

It should go without saying but the doctoral candidate received top marks on her project.

Quechua is the most widely spoken indigenous language in South America. 

The oldest written records of Quechua were in 1560 in Grammatica o arte de la lengua general de los indios de los reynos del Perú by Domingo de Santo, a missionary who learned and wrote the language. Before the expansion of the Inca Empire, Quechua spread across the central Andes. The language took a different shape in the Cusco region where it was influenced by neighboring languages like Aymara. Thus, today there is a wide range of dialects of Quechua as it evolved in different areas. 

In the 16th century, the Inca Empire designated Quechua as their official language following the Spanish conquest of Peru. Many missionaries and members of the Catholic Church learned Quechua so that they could evangelize Indigenous folks. 

Quispe Collantes grew up speaking the language with her parents and grandparents in the Acomayo district of Cusco. Quechua today is often mixed with Spanish and she hopes that “Yawar Para” will inspire others to revisit the original form. 

Peru takes Quechua to the mainstream. 

Under the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages campaign, this year, Peru began the official registration of names in its 48 indigenous languages.

The U.N. launched its initiative to preserve indigenous languages in 2019 after the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues determined that, “40 percent of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing. The fact that most of these are indigenous languages puts the cultures and knowledge systems to which they belong at risk.”

According to the Guardian, for years, Peruvian registrars refused to recognize indigenous names on public records. They would then force indigenous people to register Hispanic or English-sounding names on government forms while keeping their real names at home. 

“Many registrars tended not to register indigenous names, so parents felt the name they had chosen wasn’t valued,” said Danny Santa María, assistant manager of academic research at Reniec. “We want to promote the use of indigenous names and recognize the proper way to write them on birth certificates and ID documents.”

In 2016, Peru began airings its first news broadcast in Quechua and other native languages, ushering into the mainstream. 

“My greatest wish is for Quechua to become a necessity once again. Only by speaking it can we revive it,” Quispe Collantes said.

Cuban Man Who Held Undocumented Immigrants for Ransom, Sentenced To 14 Years In Prison

Things That Matter

Cuban Man Who Held Undocumented Immigrants for Ransom, Sentenced To 14 Years In Prison

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The man who led a group of criminals to prey on and kidnap undocumented women and children in an extortion scheme has been sentenced to 14 years in prison by a federal judge. Francisco Betancourt, a Cuban immigrant, led a group of other Latino, Spanish-speaking men to target Central American immigrants, who had just arrived, disoriented, at bus stops in New York City, seeking to be reunited with their families. Betancourt would use his Latinidad to gain the immigrants’ trust, then, steal their bus tickets, and coerce them to get into a cab that would ultimately cost their families well over $1,000 in “cab fees.”

District Attorney Judge John H. Durham announced Thursday that Betancourt was sentenced in New York, New York by U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill to 168 months of imprisonment in the Bridgeport facility, followed by three years of supervised release. Betancourt will be 84 years old by the time he is released from prison.

Francisco Betancourt conspired with three other Latino men to carry out the kidnappings of primarily young mothers with children.

Credit: @TheWomensWatch / Twitter

“The victims included women, men, and children from Central American countries who did not speak English and were seeking asylum in the U.S,” according to a statement by the US District of Connecticut Attorney’s office. “Some of the victims planned to travel from New York to Connecticut. Telling the victims that a connecting bus was not available and that they would provide transportation, Betancourt and others coerced the victims into vehicles. The co-conspirators would then drive the victims around, sometimes for hours, and refused to release them until they or their families agreed to pay the co-conspirators an exorbitant amount of money, on average more than a $1000.”

Betancourt used his Latinidad to victimize fellow immigrants.

Credit: @migrantfreedom / Twitter

Betancourt allegedly fled Cuba on the Mariel boatlift that famously aided a mass emigration of Cubans in the 1980s. Prosecutors allege that Betancourt was one of the prisoners, convicted of theft, that Castro ejected from the island and put on a ship with other freed inmates and mentally ill people to Mariel, Florida. Betancourt has served two prison sentences in the United States since his arrival. 

His victims were often young women traveling with children. They were nearly at the end of a long, treacherous journey, often having traveled from their dangerous homes in Central America, through Mexico, and past the U.S. border. Once granted asylum, or strapped with tracking ankle devices, border authorities put them on a bus from the border to New York City. Days of traveling later, they have one more bus to catch before being reunited with family.

At times, Betancourt’s co-conspirators would pose as immigration officers to further intimidate the victims.

Credit: @icegov / Twitter

Betancourt and his crime gang could spot the families from a mile away, having been immigrants themselves. They would steal their bus tickets and immigration forms and tell them that they worked for ICE and had arranged a taxi cab service instead. With their contact information in hand, from their immigration forms, they would call their relatives and request a taxi fare (ransom) for $2,000. Often, the families didn’t have enough money on hand, and they would settle for hundreds of dollars less. Because the relatives were often undocumented, they would never report the crime. 

Half of the four-person gang of criminals have been sentenced, with another two co-conspirators awaiting their sentences.

Pascual Rodriguez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, had already been sentenced in July to nearly 12 years in prison. Upon his release, his custody will be transferred to ICE, which will promptly deport him. Carlos Antonio Hernandez and Lucilo Cabrera have both been convicted in the extortion scheme, but are awaiting their sentences. Meanwhile, Betancourt is likely to live out his remaining days in prison.

Meanwhile, folks are pointing out the similarities between Betancourt’s crimes and Trump’s policies. 

Credit: Twitter

“Strangely enough, Trump is doing the exact same thing……” tweeted Raul A. Maestri, Jr (@itsgoodtoberaul). “Can he charge Trump with the same?” asks Justin Clay (@jclaywow32). “I hope that man was named Donald J Trump,” tweeted @LindaMadison10. Trump’s administration has seen an increase in privatization of immigrant detention facilities. The stricter the punishments placed on immigrants, the more money private detention centers receive from the federal government. 

Trump’s policies have drastically increased the number of migrants in detention and privatized detention facility political action committees like the GEO Group Inc contribute 89 percent of their political donations to Republicans.

READ: Senior Border Patrol Officer Gets To Retire After Allegedly Kidnapping And Sexually Assaulting Another Agent