Both of my parents are from Panamá. My mom came to the states when she was three and my dad when he was 18. I’m no mathematician but this makes me 100% latina. Although I have always been secure of who I am, several of you struggle with my identity and I think it’s important now more than ever that I speak on it. Before we get started, it’s important to know the following:
I am Black before I am latina.
I know you’re probably thinking, “no duh, dark skin”, and I get that! I say this because the racism that I’ve dealt with within my own community time and time again makes it clear that they do not see me as one of them. I say this because I cannot run and hide, nor would I want to, from the physical attributions that don’t reflect the stereotypical “spicy, exotic, hot tamale” latina. Side note: one day we really have to discuss why people love comparing latinx to spices/food. I say this because when I say Black Lives Matter, I have family members telling me that this movement is excluding and denying the importance of the lives of latinx.
When I went to México to see Bad Bunny, Farruko, and Wisin, the security guard physically patted me on the head after he was caught by surprise at how fluent I was in Spanish. Like I was a dog who was deserving of a treat.
When I was at a pregame a guy asked me to guess his ethnicity. Due to his dark features I guessed Middle Eastern when in fact he was Mexican. When he tried to guess where I was from he in return said “Africa is too large of a continent to choose from.” Keep in mind, I had to guess from the entire world map.
When I went to see Plan B in Los Angeles, a man stared at me for ten minutes until he finally asked me how I knew all of the words to the songs. Mientras me miraba como si fuera una bruja, I told him that I was a fan and that I’m Panamanian. He looked me dead in the eyes and said “no you’re not.”
I am reminded on a daily basis that sometimes their definition of ‘mi gente’ excludes los negritos that look like me. I love my culture and I love my people but it’s exhausting fighting this fight. Especially when you don’t have the full support in your own community.
And the Black community is just as guilty as the latinx community when it comes to judging my roots. Although my Black experience may differ from the average Black American...it’s still a *gasps* Black experience.
When I share my family roots with Black & African-American people, a majority of the time they translate it to mean I’m mixed. Their eyes begin to examine my body as if they’re scanning which parts of me are latina. Again, I completely get it. If I saw me in the streets I’d think what a beautiful, strong, courageous, intelligent, Black woman. But I do find it interesting that they automatically assume that my mom, the fairest in my family, represents my hispanic half. However, those who have met my parents in person think the exact opposite as they can quickly hear the juxtaposition of my dad’s accent versus my mom's American accent.
Not only do I face prejudice in my latino community but also in a community that is known for celebrating Blackness. I've unfortunately learned that this celebration is solely based on their own terms.
Black people and latinx alike need to understand that we are not the gatekeepers of race nor ethnicity. Who are we to deny someone in our community because their upbringings don't reflect ours yet we’re biologically the same?
I say Black Lives Matter because the racial profiling which leads to unjust killings must come to an end. I say it because it’s time to change the systemic racism that has been present my entire life. Y a mi gente: cuando llegue la hora a decir Latinx Lives Matter, ¡voy a ser una de las primeras en decirla! Pero en este momento, necesitamos su ayuda en esta lucha.
It's important to note that this is the only blog post which will feature a photo in color. To say you're colorblind to race issues is a complete cop out and forces us to question how the issue can be solved if you refuse to acknowledge it.
Please click here for a list of ways in which you can donate and support Black lives and communities of color.
This playlist is comprised of Panamanian artists (except the first song which reveals where the title comes from). ¡Viva Panamá!