What is it?... Whatever you might want it to be!
What is it?... Why you wanna hate on me?
What is it?... I ain't even trippin' dog!
What is it?... I mo' show you how to fall!
-- Frontline, 2003
An overwhelming majority of the e-mails and comments I get regarding my blog posts are positive, uplifting, and most of all, appreciative. However, every now and then, I get harsh correspondence from non-Black Latino haters who have stereotypical issues with the African-American community and/or feel because I'm African-American that I should only be listening to hip-hop and not bachata, eating collard greens and not pupusas, or reading the works Langston Hughes and not Nicolás Guillen.
In other words, I must hate being African-American or simply bored with my own ethnicity for me to be learning Spanish and exploring Latin-American cultures. I can only suspect that these haters have had bad experiences with a few African-Americans, casting an evil shadow on the rest of us. Life has taught me that in every community, regardless of color or ethnicity, you will meet the open-minded and the closed minded, the well-informed and the ignorant.
I received one anonymous message from a hater who went on to say how we Blacks are a mess and that he does not want to be associated with Black people, even though he has a Black Haitian grandmother. After making his remarks, he left his e-mail address in case I wanted to debate him. I not only responded to his comment on my blog, I sent him two e-mails taking him up on his offer of a debate; thinking that I might learn something, or at least, expand on my awareness. He never responded.
A Puerto Rican man from Minnesota complained about a museum in San Juan that is dedicated to Puerto Ricans of African ancestry. He felt the museum should be dedicated to the Spanish and the French. I reminded him that if he did not want to celebrate Black heritage that there are many more museums on the island that specifically excludes Black Puerto Ricans. His only response was about the young, fatherless African-American males he observed walking and holding their crotches at the same time. He too declined to debate me on his stereotypes. He did not want to hear about the respectable African Americans who actually are hard working, studious, and family oriented. If I can only get him to visit my church where there are Black professionals, entrepreneurs, writers, artists, and of course, spiritual leaders.
Then there was Alvaro, a former co-worker from Chile who made negative comments about Blacks in the ghetto saying they don't read. My mind went back to the days when I was growing up in the largest ghetto in the US, Harlem, NY, when I acquired my first library card at the age of nine. These libraries were well-patronized. Even my fifth-grade teacher, Ms Lawson, made everyone in class not only get a library card, but stroked us by putting stars next to our names on the bulletin board every time we finished reading a book, and mind you, this was a “public” school.
My supervisor twisted Alvaro's arm to apologize, shake hands, and make up, but because Alvaro could not articulate a rationale for painting all Blacks with the same brush, I called him on his insincerity and dismissed him.
Unlike Alvaro, most hateful Latinos I've met, seldom ever make these comments to Black people directly, unless it is behind the shield of the Internet. Alvaro seemed to have felt because I speak some Spanish and often travel to Latin American countries that I was not “Black” enough to be offended. Even his country, Chile, has a history of Black heritage due to slavery (see my blog post African Heritage in Chile).
It is of my humble opinion that good, honest communication with an open mind can solve a lot of these hateful issues.