The Latino community is not monolithic, far from it. Everything about it – its legacy, its composition, its ambitions – is diverse and multifaceted. The term Latino is not a specific and exclusive identity, but a broad one at best.
Take, for instance, Black Puerto Ricans, who perceive themselves through the multiple lenses of Blackness, Puerto Rican-ness, and colonialism. As Black people, they must contend with the realities of America’s slave history, its Jim Crow legacy and persistent institutionalized racism in a still highly-racialized society. As Puerto Ricans, they are also Latinos, and as such, are seen by a powerful minority of Americans as a people whose histories, culture, traditions and growing numbers rank among the greatest threats to the American fabric. Also, as Puerto Ricans, they must live everyday with the awareness that they are in diaspora, that they and at least half of all Boricuas live exiled from their homeland, esa “isla del encanto,” which remains under colonial rule. In short, as Black Puerto Ricans, they are spics, they are niggers, and they are property.
Or how about undocumented Latinas, whose consciousness springs from multiple essences: as Latinos, as women and as so-called “criminals.” In addition to the obstacles attached to being Latinos, they also encounter sexism – at work, in their neighborhoods, and even within their families. Society tells them that they are the inferior of any man, and social cues train them to understand themselves as mere sex objects. Included in the 10 million undocumented souls who endure in this country, they are told by our nation’s leaders that they are not only drains on society, but that they are threats to the American way of life, and as such, are zealously hunted by the same republic they and their children pledge allegiance to.
There is also the plight of the countless Latino Americans who demand nothing more than the rights afforded to all Americans, namely, the right to love and marry the persons of their choosing without reproach from their neighbors and their government. I’m talking, of course, about the millions of Latinos who are, by their natural and inalienable right, non-heteronormative. As is well-documented, members of the LGBT community across the country are regularly derided and shunned by members of their family, members of their community and members of the national leadership. Many are driven toward hopeless despair and suicide. Sadly, the Latino community is one of the worst offenders.
The multiple-consciousness connected with being Latino seems self-evident. There are, without question, other identities that many Latinos struggle to incorporate: being a poor American or a rich Latino, being monolingual, being part Native American or European or Asian, being bi-ethnic, being disabled physically or mentally, and so on.
As Latinos, we must come to accept these subcategories as representative of the our community as a whole, for what affects one of us, affects all of us. Latinos everywhere must ensure that justice, equality and inclusion are sought throughout our vast and diverse community by standing up for the rights of all of our brothers and sisters.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.