Friday, October 5, 2012

Latino Haters

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 Nicol├ís 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.


  1. Sorry to disagree with you, fellow Hispanophone and researcher into the African elements of Hispanic culture. I do not believe that these patently anti-Black sentiments ingrained within many Hispanics will be resolved through "honest communication", as you put it.

    From my OWN experience of traveling to Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Mexico, and only recently moving from the largest Spanish-speaking "barrio" of my city, I've come to the conclusion that "anti-Blackness" is too ingrained among most Hispanics!

    True, they will deny they are racists---even in the face of common occurrences such as disowning their daughters for having a relationship with a "mayate", (and I have heard from the mouths of Mexican-Americans THEMSELVES that "mayate" is by no means an innocuous word; it is the N Word in Mexican-American Spanish), referring to high-powered Black people as monkies, (I have even heard President Barack Obama called a "monito"--a little monkey), and all type of undeniable disdain for Black people, MOST Latinos will not admit and therefore be healed of their deeply-immersed racism against Black people. If they don't see that there is a problem how can these "hateful issues" be solved?

    I laud you, W. Smith, for your efforts in exploring and expanding awareness of Africanness in the Spanish-speaking communities in Latin America and in the United States. But as far as getting any kind of educated, mutually-beneficial people of color alliance through "honest communication" between Hispanic communities in the United States with the African-American community, I can only let out a long sigh and offer you a hopeful "Good luck!' Maybe your wonderful attitude and informative blog can do what Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Earl Ofari Hutchinson (Los Angeles), the rapper Snoop Dogg, and many other African-Americans, who have reached out to Latinos on a national level, have not been able to do: Convince the Latino community in the United States to forge a meaningful alliance with the African-American community via "honest communication".

    1. Yes, John, you make a lot of valid points and I have no argument against them. Perhaps, I've been lucky and have not had that many clashes with the Latino community. When I was growing up in New York City, the Puerto Ricans were right there in the hood with us; lots of cultural exchange, social interactions, and political alliances. Even here in Northern California I'm often treated “better” by Latinos. I've met very few haters personally. But, who knows, maybe they are calling me a pinche mayate behind my back, I don't know (shrug).

      In terms of ingrained racism, I see it in my travels to countries where people tell me there is no racism. Even in heavily populated Black communities, their visibility is extremely limited in terms of employment in local businesses. So, none of what you say comes as a surprise. In fact, I got a good laugh out of our long sigh.

      By the way, if you would like to post your thoughts on my blog with an article based on your experience an observations, let me know. I think I can learn from you too.

  2. Will,
    I'm a proud "afro-boricua" (puertorrican of african descent), born and raised in PR. I've always heard that there's no racism in the island, Puerto Rico has a rich and diverse culture. Compared to our neighboring islands in the caribbean we might have lighter complexions, and our spanish and sometimes Taino (aboriginal) heritage are celebrated, but in our "speak", music, cousine, art,... You see african.
    You always hear a racist comment or joke every now and then but when confronted they'll swear that they have a dark skinned cousin (primo negrito).

    1. Hi Vic,
      Thanks for your comments. Borinquen is on my list of places to visit. However, as you know there are actually Black people on the island and not just those of light complexion, like Tito Trinidad. Here is my question for you, how many Puerto Ricans of color are working in high levels of government and business on the island of Puerto Rico? Once I saw a picture of the Puerto Rican Senate, and there was not one person of color.


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