I’m Not Black, I’m Hispanic!

“I’m not Black, I’m Hispanic!”

The first time I heard that statement coming out of a family member’s mouth, I was confused.  In my mind, a violation of logic had occurred. After all, the person making this statement was blacker than the black hair on their head.  I mean, this person is black.  Anyone with reasonable vision would agree.  So what was meant by this apparently irrational statement made by an otherwise rational person?

I’ve concluded it’s a confusion of color (race) and culture (ethnicity).  More specifically, an attempt to distance oneself from the term black because of deeply seeded negative connotations associated with the word.  This bothers me.  The reasons for these unfair connotations will be discussed in a future blog entry.

So let’s address the basics.  Black refers to race.  Culture refers to ethnicity.  These terms often get confused.  The moment we start hyphenating the term black, a clearer cultural picture begins to emerge.  For example, when you encounter the term Black-American (or African-American) or Black-Hispanic (or Afro-Latino), one gains a better feel for the cultural orientation that is being referred to.  Indeed, there is a relationship between color and culture, but when we make the two indistinguishable, confusion follows.  My point is we should challenge ourselves to be accurate and respectful of who we truly are.

Consider the following:

(1)   African-Americans are not the only blacks.  In the U.S., the term black is largely monopolized by the African-American community.  I don’t think it’s by design.  It’s just the way it has been in the U.S. since I can recall.  The dialogue regarding race is either black or white.  I remind us that there are blacks from across the globe residing in America.  These blacks who are not of African-American culture should be proud to claim their color (race) without apprehension that they’ll be mislabeled African-American.

(2)   All colors are beautiful.  To run away from the term black because of a probable misassociation with African-Americans is insulting.  Additionally, to look in the mirror, see a black person and publicly distance you from the term is indefensible and technically incorrect.  I, for one, look at my Hispanic mom and even more so, my dark-skinned grandparents and cousins and embrace the term black because it’s part of who I am.  Conversely, I have fair-skinned Hispanic family members as well, resulting in a mix of races referred to as mulatto.  I’d prefer we embrace our color (black) and combine it with our culture (Hispanic in my case) and proudly declare what you truly are, be that Black-Hispanic, Afro-Latino, mulatto or whichever term best describes who you actually are. 

In a country historically divided along color lines, let’s start being real about who we are, deny nothing and celebrate our color and culture accurately and respectufully.

Your thoughts?

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20 comments

  1. I not Black, I am Hispanic: (I have to say I am Black, not Hispanic) making a notation, black and white or race issues have been a major problem in American since America became America.
    Clarification of race and ethnicity is noted and appreciated and agree that it needs to be eplored with more details especially with with the cultural group. My definitition of culture, ethnic, and ethnicity: Culture sum of values, beliefs, and practices of a group of people that is transmitted from one generation to the next. Ethnic pertaining too religious, racial national or cultural group characteritistics, especiall speech patterns, social customs, and physical characteristics, Ethinicity condition of belonging to the particulra ethnic group (also referred as ethnic pride). Cultural values are among the most significant factors that influence one life experiences. Now one must conisder their own cultural values and examine how these value smay create conflict with those whose values ae different.
    thanks for the opportunity to share. Happy New Year!

    1. Loretta,

      Thank you for your contribution. As an African-American woman married to a Black Cuban (my cousin Pedro), you have an interesting perspective on having a family joined by common races but different cultures.

      What are some of the positive experiences that are born out of being in a common race, different culture family? Please share some of the challenges.

      Thanks again Loretta.

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  2. You make some excellent points here Alberto. I too have heard Afro-Latinos make statements like this and just shook my head. The concepts of race and ethnicity are a knotted, bundled mess in this country. Mostly because some individuals have to distinguish themselves with labels instead of their own accomplishments.

    I had a history professor at FIU tell me once that race is outdated, disproven concept. The more I learn about human history and the migration patterns that have been going on for millions of years the more I realize he was right. No one is pure anything we all are “mulattos” of something regardless of what corner of the world your from. Hopefully with time, (and with ever-more affordable genetic testing) people can get away from this dinosaur of a concept known as race.

    1. Julio,

      Genetic testing is very affordable these days, I think the standard test runs at about $110-120, and can provide for some very interesting results. I would suggest you check out the Genographic project.

      Alberto,

      Very interesting write up. I look forward to your next entry.

      1. Julian,

        Thanks for checking in. I wonder if Julio (our fellow FIU Panther in upstate NY by the way), is interested in genetic testing. From my viewpoint, the scientific answer resulting from a genetic test is interesting, but is not at the heart of the daily reality experienced by bicultural and multiculturals from a societal perspective.

        As usual, I respect your contribution and look fwd to your future comments.

        Alberto Padron
        Born Bicultural USA

  3. Julio,

    Thanks for your contribution. You’re a clear and effective writer and possess a perspective that I respect and appreciate. I agree that most people are not pure anything, but i’m not sure a race agnostic world should be the aspiration. Yes, the human race is the larger ideal, but race is an inescapable factor. For me, the point is not that we erase race, just simply respect and celebrate all races.

    May I ask you a related question regarding Phi Beta Sigma?

    Thanks again Julio.

    Alberto Padron
    Born Bicultural USA

  4. Alberto,

    First off, I applaud you for this blog entry and for delivering a message that needs to be heard by many Hispanics in the US that are on some serious bs when it comes to the color line. As a person that spends 90% of his family visits arguing with his relatives about the fact that we are indeed black because of our color and, most importantly, by race (because Dominican is a nationality/culture, not a race), I can more than appreciate this post.

    I can remember being as young as six years old and being told by an older Dominican man “Oye morenito, danaste la raza”. “Danado La Raza” is a Dominican concept that stems from the Trujillo era in the Dominican Republic where the ruthless Dictator, Rafael Trujillo, embarked on a journey to purify the Dominican race by bringing over the fair skinned people of Spain while massacring the dark skinned Haitian population of the Dominican Republic. Hearing that comment as such a young age led me to begin my own “I’m not Black, I’m Hispanic” campaign that would last through most of my adolescent and young adult years. It wasn’t until I was 21 years old and driving through Tulsa, OK (where most white Americans have no clue what a Dominican is, let alone what we are supposed to look like) that I realized that despite what my family would want me to believe I was indeed “Black”. When I began to speak Spanish during a phone call with my mother the white person standing next to me asked me if I was Black and Mexican; too funny!

    Many “pigmentally-challenged” cultures across the globe view being Black as something very negative, which leads many people of color to go to extreme lengths in order to disassociate themselves from this color label. As you mentioned above, there is an especially huge stigma that comes with being perceived as just black (and not Hispanic/Latino) in Hispanic culture which stems from the racist views of most white Hispanics in all Latin American countries. That is why so many Afro-Latinos are quick to utter that ludicrous statement at the drop of a hat, “I’m not Black, I’m Hispanic”.

    I will even say from my own experiences here in Miami that I’ve developed a new “I’m not Black, I’m Hispanic” in order to avoid dealing with the silliness that white Hispanics are on down here and that’s to just begin speaking in many of places that I see a lot of white Hispanics. As silly as it sounds, most white Hispanics treat you nicer than they would if you were just “Black”. The entire situation is enough to make you laugh and cry at the same time, it’s like being stuck in the twilight zone.

    Thanks,

    L. Moreno

  5. Rudy A.K.A. L. Moreno (clever – i like that),

    You have just dropped serious knowledge on Born Bicultural USA. This blog’s mission of learning through sharing is happening. Despite my near 20 year involvement with Dominican culture, I never new about the term “Dañando La Raza” until now. Although the terms may differ from country to country, if you’re an Afro-Latino, the experience is the same. As a New Yorker who has lived in Los Angeles and now find yourself in Miami, you could probably write a book on the experience of a dark-skinned Latino with a bicoastal point-of-view.

    Rudy, I can’t thank you enough from stopping by Born Bicultural USA. My hope is that you keep coming by and sharing your authentic and interesting perspective.

    Sincerely,

    Alberto Padron
    Born Bicultural USA

  6. Born Bicultural USA readers,

    For clarification, in Rudy’s insightful response to “I’m Not Black, I’m Hispanic” he refers to the term “Dañando La Raza” which translates into “Damaging the Race”. Now reread Rudy’s post with this term clarified and you’ll discover how deeply troubling that terms and Rudy’s experience has been.

    Regards,

    Alberto Padron
    Born Bicultural USA

  7. On January 13th, Born Bicultural USA received an e-mail from Dr. Carlos Moore, an ethnologist and political scientist, specializing in African, Latin American and Caribbean affairs. He researches and writes on the impact of race and ethnicity on domestic politics and inter-state affairs. Here’s what he said about Born Bicultural USA:

    “Dear Alberto,

    Thank you very much for your email. Also, I visited your blog and found what you had to say very accurate and sincere. You are correct: we must embrace who we are, rather than attempting to be “someone” else who´s considered to be racially superior.

    Please continue spreading those healing words. Moreover, the fact that you are standing up, will help others do same.

    I congratulate you.

    Warm fraternal regards.

    Carlos MOORE”

    For more info on Dr. Moore, visit: http://www.drcarlosmoore.com/

    Thank you for your comments Dr. Moore.

    Sincerely,

    Alberto Padron
    Born Bicultural USA

  8. Alberto
    A jumble of thoughts: 1) I’m a military brat so my perspective has always been American first. The “melting pot” concept was and is very real to me but I realize mine was a (touch) sheltered reality; 2) The very diversity of Hispanics does not help at all towards “uniting” us as a group or assisting businesses in marketing to a Hispanic market; 3) Adding the race consideration makes the conversation just that much more…interesting.

    Love the thought you’ve put into this – look forward to more
    R

  9. Rich,

    Thank you for your contribution. I remain as much a fan of your intellect and polish today as the first time our paths crossed. Your three “jumble of thoughts” are not surprisingly insightful. These matters race, culture, business, etc. are multifaceted and contributions like yours help us all learn through sharing. Please stop by and deposit your thoughts on any of the issues I’ve tee’d up here. My handful of valued readers and I are better off for having read your commentary.

    Thanks again and kind regards,

    Alberto Padron
    http://www.BornBiculturalUSA.com

  10. In the early 20th century, the ruling classes of some Latin American Countries insinuated superiority of mulattoes over “pure blacks”… Due to the large amount of blacks with some percentage of non-black blood, this hint sparked a feeling of being better than “pure blacks”.

    The strategy: Inveigle!
    The purpose: To hamper political mobilization of blacks in Latin America.

    This inveiglement has caused disinterest in the developing his Black Consciousness… So, the struggle for their “Afro-descendants rights” in Latin America has never had intensity, because a good portion of them do not want to be seen as black.

    This mindset has been passed from generation to generation and reached to the present day… But it was never more than a decoy to prevent them from becoming conscious, because, in fact, mulattoes have always been discriminated and excluded in Latin America… There was never any privilege.

    BLACK HISPANIC ARE SIMPLY BLACKS… But many still insist on this foolishness of trying to “hide their blackness” up to be better accepted by whites… They know that doesn’t work, but insist on this.

    The funny thing is that they think normal to hide their blackness for nothing.

  11. Yes, there is a very damaging, and still relevant sentiment that Black/African = bad. People are always trying to downplay or minimize their Blackness. On the other hand we as human beings have a lot more going on with us then just our race. It is very frustrating to me…the older I get especially. My Grandmother was born in Jamaica to East Indian laborers. She is native Jamaican and has always seen herself as such and so did I. That was until I got older and went to school. My classmates (I grew up in Pennsylvania…where you only had two races really, Black & White) called my Grandmother the “Voodoo Chinese Lady”. Needless to say I was thoroughly confused. I knew for sure my Grandmother wasn’t Chinese. But then I noticed for the first time it seems…that she didn’t look like other Black people or even the Jamaicans that I knew (besides my own family members). My father was 1/2 Black, but a Black man with “good hair” (as I was incessantly told as a child). This left me with a feeling that I was from a different planet completely than my Grandmother….since we ultimately were not of the same race.

    Now I look bad and shake my head at all this pain and confusion and alienation [from my Indian family] I experienced…for no good reason at all. In spite of our different races, the love was their regardless. So why all the insecurity? Today, my boyfriend is White and it’s the same thing…a generation later. “Oh wow, you like WHITE men, don’t you girl?” No…I like love. I like appreciation. I like kindred spirits. Yes our unique backgrounds and races are interesting. But at the end of the day, it’s nothing to brag about…relationships between each other and how we see ourselves should not be limited to just race.

    1. Shona,

      Thanks for chiming in. I’m deeply interested in the study of race and identity, self-worth and community. I like that you challenge us to look beyond unchosen differences (we don’t choose where we’re born, the color of our skin, etc.). Instead, you remind us to focus on what should matter, love and human harmony.

      Sincerely,

      Alberto Padron
      Born Bicultural USA

  12. http://www.yahspeople.com/a-scorn-to-all-nations.html

    1857: “But Judge (Stephen) Douglas is especially horrified at the thought of the mixing blood by the white and black races: agreed for once – a thousand times agreed… In 1850 there were in the United States 405,751 mulattoes.Very few of them are the offspring of whites and free blacks; nearly all have spring from black slaves and white masters… These statistics show that slavery is the greatest source of amalgamation; and next to it, not the elevation, but the degradation of the free blacks.”(Lincoln, 1953, v2, p 407-8)

    1858: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and
    black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” (Lincoln, 1953, v3, p145-6)

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