"not one more" protest sign

#BlackLivesMatter and anti-blackness among Latinxs

Ed. note: This post was originally published on the Community site.

As an Afro-Latina, I grew up aware of anti-black sentiments. A look at the attention that my light-skinned, green-eyed family members received was enough to learn that being negra wasn’t good, and I even came to internalize some of that self-hatred. Racial profiling is so common in our communities that it is almost a given, and more Latinxs in the US are even beginning to identify as white. Additionally, the recent work of AfroLatinxs (mostly women) holding conversations on Twitter, students hosting conferences in academic spaces, and women in Latin America initiating empowering projects also makes it very clear that the experience of Afro-Latinxs is different than that of white Latinxs.

Therefore, it truly came as no surprise to hear, in conversations with other Latinx activists, that not all Latinxs are standing behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Anti-black sentiments by Latinxs can be found on the hashtags #AllLivesMatter and #LatinoLivesMatter. Anti-black sentiments can be found at dinner tables where Latinxs are saying things like “Zimmerman was correct to kill Martin.”

The fact that one of the NYPD police officers shot on December 20th was Latino has complicated solidarity on the part of Latinxs who were on the fence even more.

I find myself questioning just how deep the roots of white supremacy and anti-blackness were planted. I find myself, like many Latinxs who are fiercely taking the streets, having to humanize Eric Garner and Michael Brown by reminding other Latinxs that even if they did have a history of arrest, no cop should have the right to target and execute them. I find myself facing a process of dehumanization that dates back to colonization — and that has led to a belief even among non-white Latinxs that whiteness and white attributes, whether they be physical or cultural, are to be desired.

And this anti-blackness is painful. It is painful not just because Latinxs are also victims of police brutality and racism (such as Reynaldo Cuevas), but because of its erasure of Latinxs who are black and of the history of black and brown people uniting in struggle. A look at the collaboration between indigenous communities in the Americas and African slaves in their fight against the European colonizers is enough to show the importance of that solidarity. A more recent example of such collaboration is the creation of of the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican revolutionary group that advocated for Puerto Rico’s independence and that fought for the improvement of the lives of Latinxs in inner cities; this group worked directly with the Black Panthers in a collective called the Rainbow Coalition.

Racism has severe consequences across Latin America, and many Latinxs in this country do purposely and intentionally reap the benefits of white privilege (and colonialism). And yet anti-blackness isn’t limited to rich and white Latinxs and its effects aren’t so narrow. Anti-blackness is the tool used by white supremacy to hinder us from building solidarity between black and brown Latinxs. It is a tool that denies us from embracing the richness of the cultural diversity in the Latinx community. Because if you’re going to be a white supremacist Latinx, you’re dishonoring the legacy of ancestors of the Americas and the history of black and indigenous people’s struggles in all countries; if you’re going to be a white supremacist Latinx, you’re also dishonoring the rhythms that you dance to, such as merengue, bachata, salsa, jazz, hip hop, and the foods that you eat, such as mangú; If you’re going to be a white supremacist Latinx, you’re dishonoring anything that came from the influence of African slaves and Afro-Latinos. So much of our culture is black, but the denial of that fact is part of the culture too.

Just like the Civil Rights Movement proved to be beneficial to Latinxs, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has the same potential. To refuse to be active in this movement is to deny that the struggle of Latinxs and African Americans is intrinsically connected, and ignore the benefits that you have gained from the fights that African Americans have led in this country. If you need an example, here’s one: More than half of prisoners between 2001 and 2013 that are serving sentences of more than a year in federal facilities were convicted of drug offenses. These drugs are the same ones that sanction corruption in Latin American countries, the kind of corruption that leads to the disappearance and killing of citizens in Mexico (see this article on the student massacre in Ayotzinapa and the hashtag #Ferguzinapa for more.)

And aside from all this, let’s be clear that joining this movement shouldn’t be about fighting for a struggle that is also tied to Latinxs. It should not only be about identifying a common enemy, but also about fighting to support our sisters and brothers and genderqueer family members who are targeted by this white supremacist patriarchal capitalist society. To refuse to be active in this movement is to deny ourselves an alliance that is not just necessary but mandatory in the fight for our collective freedom.

New York City

Amanda Alcantara is a writer, a journalist, and a community organizer. Her work has appeared on Guerrilla Feminism, El Diario La Prensa and The Grio. She is a Co-Founder of La Galería Magazine, a magazine for Dominican Diaspora, and author of the blog Radical Latina. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies and Political Science from Rutgers University where she helped relaunch the Latin American Womyn's Organization. Amanda also does community theater and writes poetry. She's a firm believer in healing through art and in fighting for liberation. A map of the world turned upside down hangs on her wall.

Amanda Alcantara is a writer and freelance journalist

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