Culture

For Afro-Latinos Celebrating The Right To Freedom On The Fourth Of July Invokes Memories Of History And Government Wrongs

If you identify as Afro-Latinx, the Fourth of July can bring up some complicated feelings, to say the least. Although the day commemorates the Founding Fathers officially declaring independence from Great Britain’s tyrannical monarch, it also is a day to celebrate American patriotism, which in some spheres has developed into a sort of blind nationalism.

It can be difficult to feel in the mood to wrap yourself in the American flag and sing the “Star Spangled Banner” when we’re constantly subjected to headlines exposing the horrors of the migrant crisis at the border, mass incarceration of black and brown people, and not to mention, the history of the US being founded through the oppression and enslavement of black and brown people.

Chris Rock put it perfectly a few years ago when he took to Twitter to speak his thoughts about the Fourth of July: “Happy white people’s Independence Day. The slaves weren’t free, but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks”. That’s the feeling that many Black Americans feel regarding the day that we’re supposed to celebrate as the birth of one of the greatest, richest, most powerful countries in the world.

For many Black Americans, the Fourth of July is simply a painful reminder of all of the injustices, past, and present, that America has inflicted on their people.

From slavery to Jim Crow laws, to lynchings, to police brutality, to mass incarceration, there seems to be so much violence inflicted on the Black community at large by the hands of American institutions of authority.

Not only does the celebration of the “independence” of America from its colonial oppressors conveniently ignore the years of slavery America subjected Black people too, but it also ignores the genocide of the indigenous populations that lived in the U.S. before European colonization. Are we to forget that the whole continent of North America was completely “independent” before white colonizers ever stepped foot onto its soil?

As Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez from Latino Rebels wrote scathingly  in her piece, “The Fourth of July: A Celebration of Hatred” and you will find a lot of white smiling faces, celebrating as if America was ever theirs to begin with.” So yeah: Independence Day is a complicated holiday for people of color for more than one reason.

Before the Civil War, Independence Day was historically a holiday almost exclusively celebrated by whites.

And why shouldn’t it have been? Even for free blacks, it would’ve been hard to express devotion to a country that currently enslaved thousands of people of your same race solely based on the color of their skin. As Frederick Douglass put it eloquently in a speech addressed to a crowd of white people during a Fourth of July gathering: “I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn…”

According to historians, if a black American did celebrate Independence Day before the Civil War, they would often do it on July 5th to acknowledge the different relationship they, as black people, had with the so-called “land of the free” that was both their oppressor and their home country.

But, interestingly enough, there was a major shift in feelings towards the 4th of July in the black community after the Civil War ended.

So, although the Fourth of July does not rank among the likes of Martin Luther King day for its importance in Black History, it nonetheless has a surprising history of celebration with America’s black community.

While most white Southerners felt little to no loyalty towards the United States of America after the Civil War and would “shut themselves within doors”, as one woman put it, in order to blot out the shame of their failed rebellion, black Southerners began to look to the holiday as a way to celebrate their new-found freedom. Basking in their new freedom, black Americans looked to the holiday as a way to celebrate their own independence as well as the independence of the country they lived in.

According to Ethan J. Kytle and Blain Roberts at The Atlantic, after the Civil War ended, free blacks “gathered together to watch fireworks and listen to orators recite the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence, and the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery when it was ratified in late 1865”. Black Americans organized parades in honor of Independence Day, congregating to watch companies of black militia march down the streets.

Black southerners also created a ritual song and dance called “Too-la-loo” in which a group of men and women would form a ring, a woman would move to the center, and eventually, she would choose a suitor to join her. The game was so popular that “Too-la-loo” eventually “became shorthand for the Fourth of July” in South Carolina.

But like many burgeoning black traditions in the Antebellum South, the establishment of the Fourth of July as a black holiday was short-lived. Once Jim Crow laws took hold of the local government, the white population made it all but impossible for black people to continue their Independence Day festivities. Authorities pushed their “Too-la-loo” festivities to the outskirts of the city, and eventually, out of the city altogether. They forbid vendors from setting up shop on the streets where the festivities had been taking place. After a few years, black people no longer looked to the Fourth of July as a means to celebrate their freedom, and it became a “white holiday” once again.

These days, the Afro-Latinx population in America still wrestle with complicated feelings towards the Fourth of July.

On one hand, it can be viewed as a carefree celebration–a time to enjoy barbecues, beer, and fireworks with your friends and family and, of course, to get a day off of work. But, when some Latinx people look deeper into the holiday, it’s hard not to experience feelings of emptiness or frustration. And these feelings can be exasperated when you’re Afro-Latinx, as you have both the specter of black slavery and indigenous genocide to contend with on a day that is meant to celebrate American exceptionalism. As Patricia Montes, a Honduran immigrant living in Boston, said about the Fourth of July in an interview, “I feel very conflicted. What are we celebrating? Are we celebrating democracy?”

This Study Just Identified The Most Migrant-Friendly Cities In The US And The List Might Surprise You

Things That Matter

This Study Just Identified The Most Migrant-Friendly Cities In The US And The List Might Surprise You

One of the biggest misconceptions that the world has about the United States and its approach to migration, particularly during the Trump administration, is that immigrants are facing rejection everywhere. It is important to explain, however, that federal policies for which the White House and State Departments are responsible sometimes run contrary to what states and even city officials do. 

That is the case of immigrant policies: states like California, for example, have often disagreed with federal authorities in issues such as sanctuary cities. In turn, cities like Chicago, for example, boost and celebrate migration and the multicultural prism that it generates, and run programs that attempt to make new arrivals feel welcome and become a part of the wider community. 

A new study has revealed which cities are most welcoming for migrants, fostering their incorporation into the wider community and encouraging diversity and cultural exchange.

Credit: New American Economy

The study was conducted by New American Economy, a bipartisan research group that is doing work on Immigration Reform. This is the second annual city-index. New American Economy was established by very wealthy corporate executives and mayors including Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch. The group’s webpage states its aim: “fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans”.

The group conducts high-end research and they have found that migrants are very important to the economy (duh! did you need all that research to find that out?).

In their first report they found out that “more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children – a key takeaway that has shifted perspectives and laid the foundation for better conversations about the role of immigrants in our economy and society”. Yessir! The study took into account cities that met these criteria: “Total population is more than 200,000 people. Foreign-born population is more than 10,000 people. The share of total population that is foreign-born is more than 3.6 percent”. 

Chicago reigns supreme! The jewel of the Midwest.

Credit: Crain’s Chicago Business

As a region, the Midwest was the most accomodating site for new arrivals. So why was Chicago ranked on top? Because it provides a better environment for social, political and economic integration. The city’s mayor Lori Lightfoot was, of course, superhappy, and said in a statement: “We are tremendously proud Chicago has been named the most welcoming city in America for immigrants and refugees. This ranking reflects the passionate and dedicated work of countless public officials and community members across our city who have come together to stand up and fight for the rights of our immigrant and refugee communities, no matter the cost”. Preach!

Let’s not forget that Chicago’s history is full of migratory waves from Greece, Poland, Mexico, Italy… basically people from all over the world have contributed to the economic and social fabric of the city. 

Second place, Chula Vista, California… and the state as a whole is pretty well ranked.

Credit: Port Of San Diego

It is interesting how the border state of California has a total of four cities in the top 10. Common sense could dictate that the states closer to the border would face more challenges when it comes to migration, but the study reveals that California is using its history to develop better programs for integration. The state is in a key geopolitical position: bordering Mexico and the conflicted entry point of Tijuana, but also with a shore in the Pacific Ocean which encourages ties with Asia and Oceania.  Chula Vista got perfect scores for Economic Empowerment, Community, and Inclusivity. Well done! 

A very honorable third spot: Jersey City.

Credit: Jersey Digs

Jersey is sometimes seen as secondary to New York City, but it is the third place, a great win in itself. According to the report: “The city earns high marks for Government Leadership, Inclusivity, and Community, among others. Economic Empowerment and Civic Participation are two areas where the city could improve”. 

4th… San Francisco, California, the entryway for many Asian migrants.

Credit: AARP

San Francisco’s history is tightly linked to migration. This city has attracted multiple groups since the Gold Rush, up to the dotcom era when many young professionals arrived in the city looking for that big breakthrough. According to the report, the city scores great in most areas but is expensive: “The city boasts impressive marks across the board in all policy categories. There is room to improve when it comes to Livability, which takes into things such as cost of living and educational attainment levels”.

Yes, the city is very expensive for anyone… one of the most costly in the world. But those views, though!

Latinidad Is Being Cancelled By Afro And Indigenous People Who Do Not See Themselves Represented

Culture

Latinidad Is Being Cancelled By Afro And Indigenous People Who Do Not See Themselves Represented

indyamoore / Instagram

While we’re in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s important to note how the outdated term “Latinidad” excludes a large portion of the Latino community. We’re talking about the existence of indigenous and Black Latinos. The “Hispanic” label specifically includes those from Spain, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month feels completely weird if you’re Afro or indigenous. 

There’s been more of an uproar recently between Hispanic, Latinos, and Afro-Latinos after musical artist Rosalia got awards and praise for her music as a Latin artist. The thing is that she isn’t Latina, she’s Spanish. That entire debacle was just another nail in the coffin that proves how white-washed our society is, and it’s not just coming from Caucasians but Latinos as well. 

People on social media are using the hashtag #LatinidadIsCancelled to discuss anti-Blackness in the Latino community. Not to mention, how society, in general, discriminates against Black Latinos when referring to Latinos as a whole demographic.

Journalist Felice León did a brilliant segment for The Root titled, “Black and Indigenous Millennials Are Cancelling Latinidad” in which she discusses how Black Latinos are not included under the Latinidad umbrella.

“Latinidad just really just centers on the shared history and shared culture, but doesn’t necessarily, like, delve into all of those multifaceted identities,” writer Janel Martinez told León and added she’s straying from the term Latinidad. “And for me, Latinidad ultimately serves white cis-gendered, straight, wealthy men.” Martinez continued, “I am none of those things, so for me, I’m at the margins of this term.”

While we know Latinos are already excluded from significantly from TV and film, the ones that are visible are mostly white Latinos. 

Credit: @TheRoot / Twitter

You ever noticed how the most popular Latino celebs are light-skinned? We’re talking Jennifer Lopez, Camila Cabello, Gina Rodriguez, America Ferrera, Rosalia and that’s just when referring to the women.

The topic of canceling Latinidad shows how racist our own people are against Black Latinos. 

Credit: @EnLatinidad / Twitter

Ever notice how some Latinos praise a baby that is born with light skin and blue eyes? Or how they object to someone dating a Black man? It is a sentiment that has been part of the Latino community for a very long time.

Afro-Latinos face so much discrimination because of their ancestors, their dark skin, and their hair. 

Credit: @juni0r973 / Twitter

How can a group of Latinos fit nicely and perfectly under the Latinidad family if some people there clearly don’t want to include Black Latinos? It’s kind of sad how light-skinned Latinos favor their whiteness as superiority. Black is beautiful. When will the Latino community finally realize that? Thanks to the inclusion of Black Latinos in the media, we’re able to see the representation even though it’s still quite limited.

The exclusion of Black Latinos could also be seen in this year’s Latin Grammy nominations, which excluded a lot of reggaeton artists. 

Credit: @rosangelica4u / Twitter

Another hashtag making the rounds on the internet included #SinReggaetonNoHayLatinGrammy after several artists spoke out against the Grammy’s exclusion of reggaeton artists. The most nominations this year went to two Spanish artists, Rosalia and Alejandro Sanz

While we know some Latinos are racist against their own people, it’s important to know that colonized societies have been white-washed and that cycle continues to this day. 

Credit: @themermacorn / Twitter

How do we break a cycle of racism against our own people? By educating ourselves about the history of our diaspora, and not by closing our eyes to the reality of colonization. We’re not perfect people, but we can learn to be more inclusive by realizing our own hate and blindness. The blatant and longstanding practice of ignoring the Afro and indigenous identities within the Latino community has justifiably left so many people done with Latinidad.

It’s funny how Rosalia was beloved from day one until she starting owning her Latinidad on a public stage. 

Credit: @elliottraylassi / Twitter

During her acceptance speech at this year’s MTV VMAs, Rosalia said, “Wow. I wasn’t expecting this, honestly. Thank you, because it’s such an incredible honor. I come from Barcelona. I’m so happy to be here representing where I come from and representing my culture. … Thank you for allowing me to perform tonight singing in Spanish.”

So if she said she’s representing where she came from, which is Spain, she is certainly not Latina so why is she cradled into that group so openly?

As one person put it nicely on Twitter, @gacd86 writes, “Latinidad isn’t just for white Latinos though. Mestizos participate in the normalization of anti-blackness and the benefit of the exploitation of indigenous communities.” The rampant and dangerous anti-Blackness in the Latino community needs to stop now.

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month.

READ: Spain Has Colonized The 2019 Latin Grammys And Latino Twitter Has Some Serious Thoughts