A Latino Village Submission
I was a freshman in high school the first time anti-blackness from the Latino community became clear to me. It was not something that existed within my own home, my parents were Puerto Ricans born and raised in New York City. Uncovering how segregation sliced up the City of Buffalo when they moved here in the early 90s was alarming. On my first trip to the island, I talked about the boy I liked, he was a mix of Black, Puerto Rican, and Mexican. I was met with strong negative use of the n-word by adults as a descriptor of my friend. This changed not only how I viewed my extended family but also contributed to the crisis surrounding my own Latina identity. Puerto Ricans are a mix of Taino Native, African, and Spanish. We are non-white but suffer from racist indoctrination that tries to get us to condemn Blackness.
In October, we saw the intentionally hidden racism of Latino elected officials on the City Council in Los Angeles. It was reminiscent of when Goya, the long-time brand of the Latino Community, had a CEO that praised Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States and known racist. Latinos who use their power to disenfranchise other marginalized people should not be tolerated in our ranks. We must eliminate narratives that perpetuate colorism, such as telling kids to stay out of the sun or they will get “too dark”. Afro-Latinos are our family, whom we need to stand in solidarity with. No one should have to feel like they can only be Black or Latino, but not both. Bomba, mofongo, bacalaitos, and pasteles are Puerto Rican traditions that were born from African influence. We cannot overcome racism by trying to side with the oppressor who will never see us as white and therefore never see us as good enough. Even if Puerto Ricans didn’t exist in the beautiful color spectrum they do, all people of color’s freedom from oppression is tied together.
There are both generational and geographical divides that separate Latinos when it comes to anti-racism work and it’s been this way for awhile. Older generations, the generation of my grandparents, created The Young Lords Party in solidarity with the Black Panther Party. A time when young people were joining gangs for protection from various racist white groups. In the 60’s younger generations of Latinos began to resent their parents for their feeling of racial superiority to the Black community. Youth were witnessing in real time that the Black and Latino struggles were both structured the same. There was more safety in building together than apart. When organizers like Fred Hampton managed cross-racial unity, our pathway to freedom became a threat to US Capitalism. Institutions like the FBI had to infiltrate our movements and tear us apart. When folks like the City Council in LA made their racist remarks they were doing the job the FBI set in motion a long time ago.
This is a call to action for all my Latinx brothers and sisters. I need you to critique the work that you are doing. Ask yourself questions about how your work is not only impacting the Black community but how you can upgrade your work to uplift the Black community. Challenge problematic narratives in our communities. Racial solidarity has to be a priority if we want to see Buffalo grow and desegregate. Us versus them narratives make us all lose. Buffalo is still reeling from the hate crime at Tops, we have increasing numbers of refugees, and our low-income communities are being gerrymandered. The only way forward is together.