“In some rooms, I’m never Latina enough, in other rooms I’m never black enough, I’m constantly code-switching…”
NPR’s Latino USA had an amazing discussion on the topic of Afro-Latinidad, zeroing in on the panel’s thoughts about who actually gets to call themselves “Afro-Latino.” The panel, expertly led by NPR’s Latino USA anchor Maria Hinojosa, consisted of Amilcar Priestley, director of the Afro-Latino Project and co-director of the Afro-Latino Festival; Marjua Esteves, Senior Editor at Vibe; M. Tony Peralta, artist and creator of lifestyle brand Peralta Project; and Jamila Brown, of HUE, a digital marketing company.
NPR’s Latino USA held a panel that kept it ? on Afro-Latinidad.
The conversation ran the gamut, from the realization that as a Latino you could even be black, to the “pelo malo vs. pelo bueno” conversation, to the discussion about whether ancestry, physical appearance, or both, are the main qualifiers over who gets to claim to be Afro-Latino. An important point that everyone gave a big “mmm-hmm” to was someone phrasing the question of Afro-Latinidad as “What color does a police officer think you are?”
The conversation of anti-blackness and racism within the Latino community came up when discussing the case of Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a Mexican-American police officer. Of Yanez’s motivation, Hinojosa says “you bought into the entire narrative of anti-blackness as a Latino and you acted on it.”
The conversation ends on what can be done about changing views, with the suggestion that white people educate and challenge themselves as people who can have a major impact on dismantling white supremacy from the inside. Another important suggestion was to build on the work of others who have been making an effort to dismantle anti-blackness in Latin America for centuries. Most importantly, the panel states that we need to unite around the issues facing us, from racial profiling to being targeted by the police and deportation of immigrants, many of whom are black Latinos. The panel ended on “we all need each other, particularly in this political climate.” Word.
Later in the radio program, Hinojosa spoke to Congressman Adriano Espaillat on his experiences as an Afro-Latino.
Rep. Espaillat, of New York’s 13th District, made history as the first Dominican to serve in the U.S. Congress. As an Afro-Dominican, he was welcomed warmly by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. But he faced opposition when he tried joining the Congressional Black Caucus. This isn’t the first time Espaillat has come up against opposition for being Afro-Latino, and he isn’t as frustrated about it as one may think. Not being frustrated, however, doesn’t mean he isn’t a fighter and isn’t ready to kick some doors down.
Listen to the second part of the program to hear what Rep. Espaillat’s Afro-Latinidad meant to him and how it helped shape his political career.