Thursday, January 8, 2015

Confusing Afro-Latinos with African Americans

“I really wish more people in the U.S. knew about Afro-Latinos. I'm tired of the stereotypes towards Black people—black people eat fried chicken, black people only speak English, black people eat soul food, etc. 

Not all Black people have the same culture. And I need more Afro-Latino friends. It's hard to find Afro-Latinos in Texas. 

I hang around Hispanics that are not black and they wonder if I'm mixed with black and how do I know Spanish. I need to surround myself with my people more.”

San Marcos, Texas 

The shame in the above statement is that even a lot of non-black Latinos are just as guilty of pigeon-holing black people as any other ethnic group, including African-Americans. Latin-Americans, of all people, should be aware of the racial diversity in their own community, and many, I found are not. To me, that is baffling. 

I recall many instances in my personal life where I had to educate U.S. people of Latin-American ancestry that real Latinos come in all colors. From my travels and interactions with Latinos in the U.S., I've met Latinos of Asian, African, Middle Eastern, European, and Jewish ancestries. When I was in Lima, Perú, I could not go into a Chinese restaurant without ordering in Spanish (or Cantonese) if I wanted to eat.

 Ironically, there is a segment of the Afro Latino population who speak Spanish loudly in order to differentiate themselves from African-Americans. It is as if to say, I'm different; I'm not like “those” black people. Doris, a former salsa dance partner of mine, once told me when she first moved to Brooklyn from Puerto Rico that she did not associate with black people. I reminded Doris that she too is black. She then tapped her arm twice saying, “I mean black-black people. I then reminded her while tapping my arm twice that there are black-black people all over the world. 

Too many blacks in the western world from the USA all the way down to Argentina forget (or want to forget) that we come from the same Africans whose bodies line the ocean floor and whose blood left a trail that moved the shark population into the Western Hemisphere. I recently read a sign saying the only difference between a Dominican, Puerto Rican, Haitian, Cuban, Bahamian, and an African American is a boat stop. Yet, most of us blacks in the western world are divided or misguided amongst ourselves as to who we are and our history. 

Then, I met other Afro-Latinos who are quiet and reserved about their culture and ethnicity in order to fit into the predominate African-American community in the US. I tell the ones that I'm close to that people need to be educated, which is why I've been blogging African American - Latino World for five years. Although my blog attracts African Americans, Latinos, and others, I'm only one person. More Afro-Latinos can do more to educate because, sure enough, people need it!

We all have the power and the responsibility to tell our own stories and stop fussing about people's ignorance like passive victims. I would like to see more Afro Latinos write their own stories and control the narrative.  

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