Coloring Latinidad: On being called out and learning from your mistakes

 

Coloring Latinidad

A few weeks ago I hosted an On Air Google Hangout titled “Coloring Latinidad.” It was advertised as a panel about “colorism within Latin@ feminism.” We had three wonderful panelists come and talk, and after a lot of work, the Hangout felt like a success.

But, soon after the Hangout went live and the recording was made available, we started to get a lot of criticism on Twitter concerning how we titled the Hangout, the diversity of the panelists we invited, and the topics we chose to cover. A lot of people felt that for what was supposed to be a panel on colorism, we sure had a lot of white girls not talking about racism. And they were right.

My original hope for the hangout was to host a conversation about how our skin color shapes how people treat us and, in turn, how/whether we identify as Latin@. The discussion was meant to explore the idea that Latin@s are expected to only look one particular way: neither white, nor black, but a “perfect” in-between. It was inspired by pieces written by two of our panelists on what it means to be white and Latina, and how oppression and privilege come together to make for a complicated activism. Whiteness was a big part of the discussion that we planned, that is the truth.

We made a mistake in how we advertised the Hangout and misrepresented its focus. By using the word “colorism,” we suggested that we would be discussing how Latin@s experience racism from other Latin@s due to their skin color. That was not the case. For a panel on colorism, the panel certainly didn’t include the voices it should have nor focus enough on the the often life-threatening racism and marginalization that Afro-Latin@s and indigenous Latin@s face, and we’re sorry for that.

I also think there was room for improvement in the conversation that we did have. Looking back, I think the group really lacked a voice who could speak to the linguistic and environmental marginalization that so many indigenous Latin@s face each day. Looking back, I wish we had dug deeper into how White Latin@s can use their privilege to challenge racism within their own community, and how privilege–whether it be class, skin color, language or education–can divide us and make us blind to the suffering of others. It can even make us perpetuate oppression without knowing it. Looking back, I see lots of room for improvement.

If we are going to practice intersectional feminism, part of that means considering the intersection of traditionally oppressed identities with traditionally privileged identities. I want to widen our understanding of Latinidad to include Afro-Latin@s, indigenous Latin@s, Asian Latin@s, and white Latin@s, all of whom experience different and overlapping forms of marginalization and privilege.

This Hangout was an attempt at that, and I hope that in spite of its many flaws, we can create space for that conversation to continue.

In order to do so, we are using this platform to highlight the work and voices of some badass Latin@ feminists. Last week, Suzanna interviewed Juana Rosa Cavero, director of the Reproductive Justice Coalition of Los Angeles, and this week she’ll be posting an interview with two members of the LatinNegr@s ProjectBianca Laureano and Jessica Marie Johnson. We’ve got a few other incredible activists coming up, so stay tuned! 

96ee0a3b286e0ab66e722794b16d9276_biggerJuliana is so glad to be part of a feminist community that helps her learn, grow, and improve as an activist.

Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Campaigner at Change.org, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

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