Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Semantics: Black and Latino

Hacienda de San Jose

This former slave plantation in Perú's District of El Carmen had a Nat Turner type uprising in 1879. Today, a large chunk of Peru's black population reside in El Carmen.

Black and Latino Are Not Mutually Exclusive

The majority of slave ships went to Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries.

An African-American female was in my office going over her job search plan when our conversation somehow led to the discussion of my African-American heritage. In astonishment she said, so you 'are' black. I said, yes, the last time I looked in the mirror I was black. What color did you think I am? Her response was, I would have never known with all that Latin sh...(expletive) on your wall. I then pointed to pictures of Muhammad Ali, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. They were on my wall too. However, she pointed out that those pictures were overshadowed by my travel pictures to Perú, Cuba, and several other Latin American countries. She made a good point. What I had trouble sinking into her head was that you don't have to be African-American to be black. In each of those Latin-American countries, with the exception of El Salvador, I saw black people who speak Spanish as a first language.

Actress Omarosa is black, but her ethnicity is African-American

On another occasion, a Mexican-American woman told me that her boyfriend is black. Immediately, I stopped her and asked for clarification. I wanted to know if her black boyfriend is Jamaican, Nigerian, Cuban, or what? Oh, you know what I mean, she said. No, I don't know what you mean, I insisted. She finally broke it down to me that her boyfriend is African-American. In such a diverse, multiracial, multicultural society that we live in, it is imperative that we be more specific when it comes to identifying race and ethnicity. There is a distinct difference between the two. For example, in Oakland, where I live, there are black communities that are not African-American. There are Continental Africans, Caribbean Islanders, South Asians, Afro-Latinos, and African-Americans.

Actress Zoe Saldaña is black, but her nationality is half Puerto Rican and half Dominican

A black Puerto Rican woman got irritated with me saying, what you have to understand, Bill, is that when people say 'black,' they are referring to African-Americans. I'm thinking, how ludicrous. If this Puerto Rican woman knew anything about her history, a significant number of 'blacks' were brought to Puerto Rico as slaves. In fact, only 10% of all black slaves came to the US. I never understood why so many people use the phrase' black and Latino' to describe African-American and Latino communities when there are more blacks among the Latin-American population than African-Americans, and this is without counting the one-drop rule.
It is imperative that we be more specific when it comes to identifying race and ethnicity. There is a distinct difference between the two.

I was in a chess game with my goddaughter Daniela of Perú. Before the game started, I said I wanted the black pieces because I'm black. She then touched her arm and said that she is black too. I felt so proud of her. Bottom line, black people come in many different cultures and speak many different languages. Latinos come in many different colors reflecting their indigenous, African European, Asian, and Middle Eastern ancestries.


  1. Latinos --> negros african americans --> black ...

  2. Mr. or Ms Anonymous,
    Not all Latinos are black. Many are of European, Asian, Indigenous, and Middle Eastern ancestries.

  3. why bother being specific? i mean really, it's 2011 every person on this earth is mixed with all types of cultures. imperialism, globalism, colonialism, war,rapes, marriage, slavery, intentional mixing made sure of the mix. the real issue may be that the person(purple, green, or orange) does not know their history,refuse to acknowledge it, or don't give a sh**).

    when you are a historian...you are forever el profesor...get used to it.

  4. Bicycle,
    Even though this is 2011, I would not refer to a black person of another culture as non-black. It doesn't make any sense, assuming one knows something about black history.

  5. please do not read my reply as argumentative. just be reminded that i am a sista,so....

    semantics. if you really want to get down to it our history should be called "afro-american history"

    perhaps it's an american thing? jim crow and american slavery has taken its toll on afro-americans. scientist have proven that the original eve was from the mother continent Africa. hence, every single person on this earth today have their origins in mother Africa. punto!

    with that being said, race is a social construct. in your own words, within this post, you acknowledged that black was a color (not even a true color representative of skin because i have never seen a person with truly black skin). what makes each person unique is their culture, upbringing, environment, experiences ect...

    english colonialism established itself by separating people. they advanced the belief that one group of people was better than the other solely based on skin color.

    afro-americans struggle with made up concept to this day. people who immigrate to america learn to play the game (or may have been influenced by prior colonialist) and do the same.

    people who look like us have undeniable origins in Africa. we remained in Africa the longest and have carried our culture where ever we’ve been in the world (aka African diaspora). the people in Africa today do not consume themselves with the word/color “black” yet they still discriminate. while colonized, they learned to discriminate based on class and culture. who knows how they discriminated before colonalizm?

    shoot, afro-americans discriminate on their color of blackness, yet we were all born here. how crazy is that?

  6. Zoe her self was quoted as saying

    "When I go to the D.R., the press in Santo Domingo always asks, "¿Qué te consideras, dominicana o americana?" (What do you consider yourself, Dominican or American?) I don't understand it, and it's the same people asking the same question. So I say, time and time again, "Yo soy una mujer negra." ("I am a black woman.") [They go,] "Oh, no, tú eres trigueñita." ("Oh no, you are 'dark skinned'") I'm like, "No! Let's get it straight, yo soy una mujer negra." ("I am a black woman.")"

    Also triguenita is kind just a cover up to say I am not black because in the Hispaniola census in 1542 the population was down to 5000 Taino. Yo can go to DR1.com The population is mainly of African descendants around 75% to as high as 85% of the population with very few having Taino ancestry or even Spanish. This why Trujillo promoted the blanquismo project to whiting the race by bringing whites to the island from everywhere.

    Here is the link http://dr1.com/articles/history.shtml

    By 1512, 20 years after the Spanish had landed on Hispaniola, the Taino population had shrunk to an estimated 60,000 natives. By 1517 the native population was down to 11,000 and by 1518, after a measles outbreak, the native population was down to 8,000. The final straw would come in 1542, 30 years after the first contact; the population was reduced to under 5,000 native inhabitants, a decline of almost 98% of the indigenous population.

    Also even on the island they used Negro for blacks, Mulatto for black & white.

  7. Here is the thing people, when you grow up in one of the islands, like Cuba or Puerto Rico, race is very much secondary. We don't even think about it. We are all Puerto Rican, Cuban or whatever else we might be. It is not until we get to the US that all of a sudden people are trying to put us into a racial category. Most families from the Caribbean islands, at least the ones that once were a part of Spain, are mixed. So how can we define ourselves as being part of a race when our brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, grandparents, or other close relatives may have a completely different color combination than we do? We don't choose to isolate ourselves that way. Some people of Hispanic Caribbean (for lack of a better word) ancestry who are raised in the continental US (remember PR is part of the US) don't get that because they have adopted the US mentality of looking at race. Is there racism in the islands? I'm sure there is, although I didn't see any growing up there nor did my husband who grew up in a different island. What you do see if prejudice due to socio-economic status. That is what truly separates people over there. So stop trying to make such a big issue out of whether black hispanics are black or hispanic. One in a racial category, the other an ethnic one. The truth is that hispanics are hispanics (we identify more with the place we come from than the general term hispanic by the way, since all hispanic countries are different), and we come in all colors, shapes and sizes because we don't have the issues intermarrying people of different races others have. How can we? We are mutts! And proud of it!

    1. Acerogamma,
      I have a goddaughter (ahijada) in Perú. She is the only “black” in her family. She is loved by her family and gets along very well with members of her community, regardless of color. Yet, I'm concerned about the job discrimination that she is going to face when she grows up that other members of her family will not face because of the color of her skin.

      In every Latin-American country that I've visited (nine of them), the racial discrimination in terms of jobs and educational opportunities are worse than the U.S.A for black people. An old friend from Venezuela, a “black,” was the only one in his graduation class of journalism who could not get a job. He had to come to the U.S. to find work in his field.

      So, my question to you and others who feel the way you do about race, is color really as secondary as you say it is or is it swept under the rug?

      Please see my post entitled, “Latin-Americans Don't See Color?”



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