This award is so much more than myself – it represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.
When Gina Rodriguez clutched her Golden Globe for Jane the Virgin in early 2015 and through a knotted throat paraphrasingly exclaimed she was doing it for the culture, my Nuyorican heart swelled con orgullo. Truthfully, I’ve never watched Jane and only familiarized myself with Gina Rodriguez through her breakout film Filly Brown, in which she starred with the late Jenni Rivera. I was immediately drawn to the parallels of a young Latina navigating the complexities of adolescence, while growing up in a marginalized community and discovering self-expression in the form of Hip-Hop music.
That Gina, a Chi-Rican who seemingly embraced her Afro-Latinidad, broke barriers as the first Puerto Rican to ever win a coveted Golden Globe…she was inspirational and I was rooting for her. Firsts mean something, especially in circles of influence where representation is nil. So when Gina and fellow actress America Ferrera teamed up and planned the Fiercely Latina brunch, then took to social media in celebratory proclamation of their #latinapower, sans any Latina darker than a manila envelope, a collective side-eye was warranted. Aside from Rosario Dawson (the token albeit light-skinned Afro-Latina), where were the high profile Afro (read: Black) Latinas? Without batting an eye, I could name five prominent Black Latinas at the top of their game who were visibly absent.
The problem is not with a group of influential women breaking bread and building upon their commonalities, as this should be the standard for any and all women, or even that Latinidad was the focus of this gathering. The issue lays in the celebration of one kind of Latinidad, the kind that enforces hierarchical perception. Or in simpler terms, the belief that “light skin is the right skin.” While fair-skinned Latinas took to social media in #squadgoals fanfare, Afro-Latinas were once again left to shoulder the painful, frustrating task of teaching identity politics to a community who bemoans the idea of identity ever truly being political to begin with.
The sad part is that while we’re applauding representation, we’re still perpetuating marginalization in the form of colorism. Phenotypically speaking, there was not a black woman at the table and that is a glaring omission, no matter how it’s spun.
How does one claim Afro-Latinidad and then negate the responsibility to center blackness in its totality?
Across Twitter this week the most vocal critiques of Gina Rodriguez’s #latinapower came from self-identifying Black Latinas defending their negritud and combating its erasure while their lighter counterparts were left cumbayaying somos unidos spiel and all latinas matter locura in a failed attempt to derail an open conversation on colorism. Get out of your feelings mujeres and create some inner/outer dialogue that helps you and your friends (cause each one teach one) better understand how privilege and proximity to whiteness rewards non-black Latinas with hypervisibility and access.
Let’s not use Afro-Latinidad as a mere buzzword to center ourselves into Black spaces and narratives. Let’s not merely talk about it, but be about it. Are our lived experiences equivalent to the many Afro-Latinas who show up in a society that devalues their very existence? Are we practicing inclusivity at our own brunches, networking events, panels, workshops? Do we advocate for black women? Do we call out anti-blackness in our homes, places of business, worship, ect? Do we challenge all the harmful tropes associated with black women or is the term Afro-Latina just a misnomer for accountability?
Gina Rodriguez ‘s #latinapower is a glaring reminder, that in terms of all encompassing representation and inclusion, we still have so much work to do.
Representation matters. It matters to my Afro-Boricua and Afro-Bori-Panamanian nieces who fight to straighten their 4A coiled kinks, cause they don’t want to be called nappy in school. Centering negritud when claiming Afro-Latinidad is important because my nieces will show up in this world as black women. They will spend most of their lives deflecting anti-blackness, dressed as community, unwavering in their willful ignorance to understand the multiplicity of Latino culture. Representation matters because my nieces deserve to know their lived experiences as Black Latinas have value and are merited in a culture that refuses to acknowledge that black girls are heroes too.
I’m a writer. From poetry to essay to song. I write to reclaim my history, my identity, my culture. I write to take up space in the world. Through my blog I explore the ways in which pop culture intersect with feminism and identity. I also spotlight women of color who are making major moves in their prospective markets, but still somehow fall under the radar.