To the members of my Latine community,
When I heard the recording of the Los Angeles City Council Members and leaders, Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo, Kevin de León, and Ron Herrera, it was yet another moment of deep disappointment, embarrassment, and anger toward our community. Representation doesn’t mean shit if it’s not rooted in our collective liberation.
Their anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-Asian, colorist, and xenophobic, self-hating rhetoric is all too familiar. As familiar as a casual conversation between my cousins or tios. As familiar as the tia that refuses to acknowledge her own Black grandchildren, the cousins making “stupid jokes” at the expense of another cultural group, the Concha Nacar whitening cream we saw our mothers put on every night, the grandmother reminding her darker grandchildren that “son bonitos, pero prietos,” the father refusing to meet his daughter’s partner of 12 years because he is Black, the green and blue colored contact lenses the Madrina wears, the n-word and the m-word. It’s the rejection of our food, language, and values. It’s all of it, it’s all of us.
It’s easy for us to call out these politicians’ behavior publically when we’re being dragged nationally, it’s harder to call that out in our own homes. This is a symptom of a much deeper wound we have to confront.
U.S. white supremacy taught us to hate ourselves, but Latinidad did it first.
Addressing our outward anti-Blackness and anti-Indigeneity requires us to look inward, at our conception. Latinidad is anti-Black and anti-Indigenous. It is the very definition. As a colonized people this wound cannot be separated from our identities.
The Casta system the Spanish implemented during the colonial period taught us that distancing ourselves from Blackness and Indigeneity, and approximating to whiteness is what made us “better.” It taught us that in order to survive we must compete for resources we were told were limited. It taught us that our livelihood depended on the subjugation of Indigenous and Black communities. Sound familiar?
This white supremacist agenda benefits white and mestizo Latines the most at the cost of violently erasing our Black and Indigenous siblings. At the cost of our own humanity.
It’s the lie of mestizaje. We were told we are the “Raza-cosmica”, and that this sense of unity is our strength. But the Raza only gets to be cosmic when we’re colorist, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous.
500 years later and we’re still here with the self-hate, the same violent rhetoric. All of them are tools of a white supremacist agenda that we have learned and weaponized. We have become experts at our own demise.
It’s Gina Rodgridez using Black Panther’s success to ask about Latino superheroes, it's Rosalia appropriating Black culture while hiding behind Latinidad and making a lot of money for it, it's Jimmy Gomez not calling for resignation until forced to do so, it’s the outrage at Yalitza Aparacio’s academy award nomination, it's Lin Manuel-Miranda not casting enough Afro-Latines for the In the Heights movie. It’s the defensiveness we feel whenever we try to even bring these conversations up. It’s the “well the (enter other racial community) is doing it too, we aren’t the only ones being (enter some problematic thing here).”
I’m tired of less than mediocre leadership, I’m tired of the oppression olympics, I’m tired of us pointing fingers out instead of in, I’m tired of us accepting this as “cultural norm” or “just politics,” I’m tired of us playing small when we think we’re playing big, I’m tired of this scarcity mindset, I’m tired of the way our community keeps aligning itself with a white supremacist agenda for some superficial sense of power that continues to implode on itself and harm us more. I’m tired of us thinking that our interests, healing, and liberation aren’t bound with Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.
We deserve better.
Resignation is not enough. That won’t mend the wound that we’re now forced to nationally acknowledge and heal.
We have to hold the mirror up and ask ourselves: How am I reinforcing white supremacy in my own community? What are the privileges I am weaponizing? How have I been complicit in harming my community and other BIPOC communities? Is it through silence? An awkward laugh? Through deflecting and othering? An avoidance of a conversation? Is it comparing the oppression of another group against the oppression of my own? What have we lost at the expense of aligning ourselves with whiteness?
This is the long overdue work. Not the politics, not the damage control PR, not the empty public statements and half-assed apologies. This, the healing.
Our community works too hard, has made too many sacrifices, and loves too deeply for us to continue to show up in these violent oppressive ways. Honoring our struggle and our people, is centering the healing in this conversation.
This is just the beginning. It’s the ongoing discourse. There’s no playbook or quick solutions. We have to stumble and struggle through it together. Our liberation depends on it.
This moment can be an invitation for deep reconciliation and healing if we allow it to be. If we love our communities enough to let it be.
With deep love,
My interrogation and analysis of Latinidad over the last several years comes from Afro-Latine, Afroingidgenous, Black, and Indigenous scholars and leaders. Namely, Evelyn Alvarez, Dash Harris and Janvieve Williams Comrie from Radio Caña Negra. Alan Pelaez Lopez, Tanya K. Hernandez, and Felice León. Follow them, find their work, take their workshops, hire them, and pay them.