Aaminah Saree Foye
For the past couple years, the movement celebrating the beautiful melanin of Afro Latinos. For many years, we have been dismissed by the Latino community do to one major issue: Colorism. Colorism has been an ongoing war within the Latino community, especially against those with significant African Heritage. Being an Afro Latina, I have struggled with identity, exclusion, racism, and discrimination. It its due to the ignorance of others, the world does not even know we exist. For many, the concept of a black latino does not even seem fatable. But rest assured, we have always been here! Before we dissect and analyze colorism and how it affects Afro Latinos, we first have to answer “Who are Afro Latinos.”
|(Above) Afro Latinos from the popular Buzzfeed video “What Afro Latinos Want You to Know”|
An Afro-Latin Americans or Black Latin Americans refers to Latin American people of significant African ancestry. The term Afro-Latino American refers specifically to people of African ancestry and little to none European ancestry. Notable examples include Afro-Dominican, Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Haitian and other nationalities within Latin America.
If we take a look at history, back through the 15th and 16th centuries numerous people of African descent were brought into North and South America via the Spanish and Portuguese. Mainly coming from West Africa, these people arrived in Latin America as part of the Atlantic Slave Trade. In the Caribbean and Latin America, approximately 95 percent of Africans arrived in the Americas while only 5 percent arrived in Northern America. These numbers are still relevant today as countries such as Brazil, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Colombia,Venezuela and Ecuador show staggering numbers of populations with those who identify African, Zambo, or Mulatto. African cultures mixed with the cultures of Spanish, Portuguese, French, and other indigenous cultures produced the distinctive forms of language, food, religion, customs and music.
In the article “ Colorism in the Latino Community and its Generational impact” by Dania Santana, she speaks of a conversation between her aunt and grandmother about her brothers new girlfriend. In the article she says” “Did you hear that Ramón has a Black girlfriend? anda con una prieta,” said my aunt. “Yes, but not any prieta, she has good hair, long straight brown hair. Es una negra de pelo, replied my grandmother. As I have mentioned before, my grandmother was Black as well as the rest of her family. These types of conversations were not uncommon between people around me; both from those with darker and lighter skin than mine.”
Growing up in a household with Afro Puerto Rican and Afro Haitian parents, I can relate to hearing these types of conversations. Due to the social constructs and discrimination in our country, we have been brainwashed into thinking anything light is great and anything dark is to be shunned away. This is how the vicious cycle of colorism works. Because of these false social norms, Afro Latinos get little to none when it comes to.
Miami based singer, Amara La Negra (Pictured) has become the new face of Afro Latinos since joining the popular reality series “Love and Hip Hop: Miami” Amara sat down in a live interview at the Build Studio, talking about how the latino community needs to hold themselves accountable for the discrimination towards Afro Latinos saying “I think it’s unfortunate that there’s so many talented Afro-Latinos all around the world but we’re not given the same opportunities based off the way that we look,. It’s not that we’re not talented. It’s not that we’re not educated. They just don’t consider that we [have] what they consider to [be] the Latino look.”
While digging in deep into the topic of colorism, a couple of pieces of text truly stood out to me. One excerpt is from the author David Knight. In this passage, he speaks about colorism and how it works in the minds of other
“Skin-color bias affects perceptions and interactions in ways that are at once subtle and profound. Since Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s famous doll study of the 1950s, researchers have known that young people of color are profoundly aware of our nation’s disdain for all that is dark. Color-conscious banter between students reflects unconscious and unspoken biases—otherwise called implicit biases—that favor lighter skin.”
Knight also uses a modern example of research on colorism. This study comes from Eddie Fergus, an assistant professor of education at NYU who conducted a study on Latino high school males.
“Fergus found that Mexican and Puerto Rican males with white-looking skin are perceived as white and sometimes treated more favorably, while boys of the same ethnicity who had darker complexions are perceived as black and often experience discrimination. Not only did the boys in the study navigate the world as Mexican and Puerto Rican, but each navigated different racial expectations based on external reactions to their appearances. Despite being close or even related, people of the same ethnicity face different expectations, different realities and—potentially—different educational and economic outcomes, solely based on their skin color.”
According to developmental psychologist Margaret Beale Spencer found in a CNN-commissioned pilot study of skin-color bias among U.S. children that “white children attribute positive traits to lighter skin and negative traits to darker skin, and—while black children also show some racial bias toward whiteness—white children in particular hold on to these prejudices more strongly as they grow older.”
“Our children are always mirrors,” says Spencer in a CNN broadcast. “And what we put out there, kids report back. … We are still living in a society where dark things are devalued and light things are valued.”
Knight continues to speak about the association of dark skin with being “criminals” is one of the most deep-seated stereotypes in American society. Multiple studies have shown that dark-skinned people are perceived to be more suspicious, more likely to misbehave and more likely to commit crimes.
In conclusion, as a nation we need to move in the positive direction. We need accept others regardless of skin tone, shade, or anything else. Instead of dividing ourselves, we should be embracing each other openly and getting to learn about each others traditions! Afro Latinos will continue their movement of acceptance, love, and showing the world our beautiful melanin! Afro Latino Para Siempre!