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The death of brown pride

In last week’s article on multiple-consciousness in the Latino community, I touched on the existential issues ascribed to the prevalence of Afro-Latinos in the community. While I only discussed Black Puerto Ricans, Afro-Latinos come from all parts of Latin America. There are Afro-Cubans in Matanzas, Afro-Brazilians in Salvador, the Garifuna on the island of Roatán and – though most Dominicans don’t like to admit itprietos in Santo Domingo. There is also, of course, the proud Black nation of Haiti, often left out of the Latin American equation.

Growing up Black and Latino in the United States, as I have, is both a unique and troubling experience. On the one hand, being both allows the individual to see the world through different lenses and express themselves in a variety of ways. Being Afro-Latino, however, allows society to judge the individual through the same lenses and persecute them in an equal variety of ways. Their Blackness and Latino-ness are the tools with which Afro-Latinos better understand the space they occupy and the world beyond it, but the racism and xenophobia centered on their Blackness and Latin-ness facilitate the oppression of Afro-Latinos, who are hated and feared for being Black, “brown” and different.

Rather than Du Bois’ “two-ness,” the Afro-Latino in America more often than not experiences something like three-ness, or what New York University professors Juan Flores and Miriam Jiménez Román describe as “triple-consciousness.” In one essay, Flores and Jiménez Román write:

“Afro-Latino is at the personal level a unique and distinctive experience and identity, ranging as it does among and between Latino, Black and U.S. American dimensions of lived social reality. In their quest for a full and appropriate sense of social identity, Afro-Latinos are thus typically pulled in three directions at once, and share a complex, multi-dimensional optic on contemporary society.”

If they’re lucky, an Afro-Latino child is raised in a community where being Black or Latino is not a choice forced upon them; they can be who they are, both Black and Latino. Yet all too often, Blacks and Latinos themselves draw the line between their two communities. Afro-Latinos may be nicknamed something like “El Negrito” or “trompudo” by their relatives or friends, which are playful on the surface, but serve as constant reminders of their dark difference. And almost inevitably, Afro-Latinos are too “Spanish” to be accepted by Blacks. Let him say the word nigga around a group of Black people and he’ll get a look that says, “Watch it, nigga! You ain’t Black.” (Look no further than American baseball if you need more proof of Black discrimination against Afro-Latinos.)

The Afro-Latino struggle for inclusion into the larger Latino community has come a long way, thanks to the efforts of pioneers like Schomburg and the late Piri Thomas, but Afro-Latinos still face oppression in places like Honduras’s Costa Norte, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. What’s left now is for the global Latino community to come to terms with three essential truths about themselves: that Latinos are not the “brown” race, that Latino-ness is not a color, that being Latino goes beyond the colors with which we paint ourselves.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHpqlcTocXU&list=UU1GvlCh6tfLA7NmBQrs87wQ]

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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.

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About Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper's Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He's also a cultural critic for 'LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007, YoungObservers.blogspot.com, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

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.

Comments

  1. This article hits close to home. As a black/latino it’s funny how much you get lost in one or the other. Never really bridging the gap between both.

  2. Wow! Great piece.

  3. Not sure how I feel about the whole “death of brown pride” thing. Brown pride movements, such as the Chicano Movement and La Raza have been very important historically, politically, and for instilling a sense of worth and value in many Latinos who have been negatively affected by white supremacy and racist society. However, I certainly agree that it’s critically important for Latina/os to address our own internalized racism and to recognize and appreciate that Latina/os come in all different colors and mixes.

    At any rate, reading your piece reminded me of Gloria Anzaldua’s poem “To Live in the Borderlands Means You.”

    To live in the borderlands means you

    are neither hispana india negra espanola
    ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata, half-breed
    caught in the crossfire between camps
    while carrying all five races on your back
    not knowing which side to turn to, run from;

    To live in the Borderlands means

    knowing that the india in you, betrayed for 500 years,
    is no longer speaking to you,
    that mexicanas call you rajetas,
    that denying the Anglo inside you
    is as bad as having denied the Indian or Black;

    Cuando vives en la frontera

    people walk through you, the wind steals your voice,
    you’re a burra, buey, scapegoat,
    forerunner of a new race,
    half and half–both woman and man, neither–
    a new gender;

    To live in the Borderlands means to

    put chile in the borscht,
    eat whole wheat tortillas,
    speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;
    be stopped by la migra at the border checkpoints;

    Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to

    resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle,
    the pull of the gun barrel,
    the rope crushing the hollow of your throat;

    In the Borderlands

    you are the battleground
    where enemies are kin to each other;
    you are at home, a stranger,
    the border disputes have been settled
    the volley of shots have shattered the truce
    you are wounded, lost in action
    dead, fighting back;

    To live in the Borderlands means

    the mill with the razor white teeth wants to shred off
    your olive-red skin, crush out the kernel, your heart
    pound you pinch you roll you out
    smelling like white bread but dead;

    To survive the Borderlands

    you must live sin fronteras
    be a crossroads.

  4. Hector,

    I dig this piece. It aligns with the themes and arguments I expand on in my blog BornBiculturalUSA.com (sorry for the plug, but the content is relevant). In any event, I get the tension you speak of…the blessing and the curse of being accepted at some level across the spectrum of color and culture and at the same time being judged and rejected for the exact same traits (too black for some, do light for others).

    Keep raising awareness and giving us an opportunity to share the story of our struggle…good will come of it. I trust it arleady has.

    Happy holidays…ap

  5. Esther says:

    Absolutely spot on.

  6. Stephen Walker says:

    I think it is noble to discuss brown pride. I am an African American with mixtures of African, American Indian and a pinch of Irish down thw line. My appearance has been observed as a Dominican when in New York. I look like I am mixed with some bloods but for the most part I look definitively black. Your article is interesting. I think the issue with brown pride is two fold. In the seperate countries like the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Brazil ( which speaks Portugese, not Spanish ) Honduras, Panama, etc. where African slaves mixed with the local Indian tribes and Spainards ( European Caucasians ) there have been racial issues separate from any of these countries migrating to America and becoming American. Once Latinos hit these shores the issue is three fold. You have a black skin, you speak a foreign language, you are culturally disconnected. Latinos who have a fair skin to almost pale face a discrimination that has nothing to do with their black skin color, African features or nappy hair. Language and culture have always made it difficult for non- Americans, except if you have a European background. These connect easily. But the black skin is as much an issue in the American culture as it may be in several of the Latino countries. The sooner those of you with the brown skin realize this fact the better you will be prepared to handle the hurdle. African Americans hgave been fighting this rascist American society for over 400 years. Join the club and join the fight. Puerto Ricans in New York joined arms with their African American brothers and began to make strides in the community. If you deny what you are and where you are you are fooling yourself. If you think that being a Afro-Latino gives you some upper hand over blacks in America you are fooling yourself. Look at the baseball player Sammy Sosa and his need to look unblack by bleaching his skin and straightening his hair…. a Michael Jackson syndrome. Embrace yor blackness. Realize the advantages you have here in America as a person of obvious African descent. But you must master the English language. We all struggle to not loose our culture, but take time to embrace the strong African blood running thru your veins. Accept who you are. Accept what you look like. Love your African self. Where is the African pride in my brown brothers. You are not just some caucasian european spainard just because you speak the Spainish language. Speaking spainish doesn;t make you a Spainard – european caucasian. Brown pride should be very alive in America. You are free to express yourself as an American citizen. Anything less is futile.

  7. Daniel Ruiz says:

    Great piece. Being the darkest member on both sides of my family every now and then I still get comments and/or jokes.

    Further its time we stop using “Brown Pride” as an umbrella term for all Latinos. Having lived in Puerto Rico as a child and moving to the mainland I never understood the notion of “Brown Pride” or “Hispanic Pride” as in Latin America, at least Puerto Rico, there are many who are not brown or Hispanic. Its time Latinos here on the mainland start accepting what is known in Latin America. Being Latino isn’t about race, color or ethnicity but about geography. Its no different than being American, anyone can be one.

  8. Daniel Ruiz, I agree that brown pride is not necessarily synonymous with being Latino or being proud of such. However, brown pride movements, such as those built by Chicanos, have played a key role in the development of the idea of “being Latino,” which in part stemmed from political alliances between Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in places like Chicago in the 1980s.

    Brown pride movements are indeed a COMPONENT of what Latino means in the US and the historical outcome of racism against many Latinos. For example, for at least 2 centuries now people of Mexican descent have faced large amounts of discrimination at personal, institutional, political, and cultural levels in the US. And, generally speaking, the browner and darker you are the more vicious the racism has been. This is still the case today as we see in Arizona and elsewhere.

    Mexican Americans have faced lynching, segregated education, poverty, racial profiling, forced deportation of citizens, etc. etc. etc. Brown pride movements such as the Chicano Movement of the 1960s originated to address these issues that stem from xenophobia, ethnocentrism, AND racism. As such it’s a little offensive and historically inaccurate to claim that being Latino and the harsh prejudice some have faced isn’t about “race, color or ethnicity” in any way shape or form.

  9. Daniel Ruiz says:

    I find your comment puzzling. On the one hand I agree with the historical impact of what “Brown Pride” meant for Chicanos, especially to Chicanos of indigenous or mixed raced descent who were and continue to be targeted. But your position on being Latino is not clear.

    Are you claiming:

    1.) to be Latino you have to in some way have gone through discrimination targeted against Latinos?

    2.) being Latino is intrinsically linked with being Chicano despite the fact that 30-40 % (depending on study) of us are not Chicano?

    3.) Or is it your position that due to the historical discrimination faced by mixed race and indigenous Latinos to be Latino you have to fit the American mythical view of all Latinos, i.e. brown skin and a Spanish last name? So for example are you trying to say that Joan Smalls, Alexis Bledel, and Bruce Chen would not be Latino (or not Latino enough?) while George Lopez and Jennifer Lopez would be?

  10. I was primarily responding to your claim that “Being Latino isn’t about race, color or ethnicity but about geography.” I was getting at the fact that the historical development/construction of the idea of “being Latino” is in part connected to the racial/ethnic/political/cultural/economic struggles of Mexican Americans and of course also Puerto Ricans. It is a historical fact that the idea of “being Latino” partly arose out of the political alliances between both of these ethnic groups in the 1980s, political alliances that were a response to discrimination both groups have experienced in the US.

    In this sense, “being Latino” is inherently partly about “race, color, and ethnicity” and not simply geography.

  11. Daniel Ruiz says:

    So basically you are saying more or less what I listed as option 3, that being Latino means having to fit the U.S. belief of what Latino race, color, and ethnicity are as those were the factors by which they were discriminated and how they eventually formed groups/support networks in the US. You’re not alone. Most Americans have this belief.

    But I have to disagree. By saying being Latino is even partly about race, color or ethnicity then you open a door to blatant discrimination and exclusion by creating a way to tell individuals who do not fit into those categories they are not truly Latino. It is no different than someone stating that to be “real American” is inherently partly about being Christian.

  12. No, I’m not saying more or less what you listed in “option 3.” Once again, part of how the idea of “being Latino” came about had to do with political alliances between Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans in an attempt to fight against oppression. Now if we accept the scholarly literature on the topic (as I have) then what you’re disagreeing with is history.

    Of course “Latino” is also a reference to people of Latin American and Caribbean descent beyond just Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. I’m not disputing this. I believe the umbrella term “Latino” is a good thing. However, you’re choosing to ignore history and how the concept of “being Latino” developed. This is problematic.

    You essentially want to depoliticize “being Latino” by erasing the idea’s history at a time when I believe we should more actively politicize the word and continue to foster ethnic coalitions between different Latinos in order to address the xenophobia, racism, poverty, economic exploitation, assaults on the Spanish language, etc. that affect us all.

  13. Nancy Sepulveda says:

    This is a very interesting article and comment thread. I can see the validity and merit of points made by both Daniel and gg, though my personal POV is more paralell with the latter.

    On a side note, Daniel mentions that he did not experience/understand the idea of Brown Pride while growing up in Puerto Rico, as (he points out) many in Latin America do not. However I would say that this is due precisely to some of the points being made by gg; that is, if the idea of Brown Pride was in some ways borne from the historical struggles/experiences of a group of Latino people(s) in the continental United States, it is an idea inherently tied to the stateside U.S. Latino Experience (of some). There would really be no reason to experience “Brown Pride” outside of the movement’s geographic focal point.

  14. Daniel Ruiz says:

    @ GG and Nancy. I hear what you two are saying and am not denying the struggles of Latinos in the mainland US nor trying to depoliticize being Latino in US. We just share different views on what being Latino is. You both seem to have what I call the American view and see being Latino as defined, in large part or primarily, by the experiences and struggles of the earliest/largest and distinguishable groups of Latinos in the US.

    However, the article calls for “the global Latino community.” And being Latino in the global sense is not defined by the struggles of those in the US, but geography. You really think a young Peruvian of Japanese descent should have to take into account the struggle of Latinos in the US before identifying themselves as Latino/a? No. Its just a matter of waking up in the same place they were born.

    Which leads to what I believe the author meant by naming the article the death of brown pride and why I stated the term needs to be done away with. IMO Latinos in the US need to stop believing that all Latinos are a distinct people that can be categorized by color/race/ specific ethnic group. Are some of us brown? Yes. Are all? No. The problem with phrases like “Brown Pride” is that it leads many, including members of the US Latino community, to believe that being a shade of color between white and black is required to be truly Latino. I have personally witnessed and have had friends experience US born Latinos telling individuals born and raised in Latin America that they were not real Latinos because they did not “look” Latino but instead were white, black, asian, etc., which is beyond absurd.

    Despite its noble origins it has become an exclusionary term and belief. I prefer to include everyone. Time to throw out “Brown Pride” for “Latino Cultural Pride”. Further, I think we can all agree of the need to stop equating the term Hispanic with Latino. Do we call all Americans British or Germanic (largest group to immigrate to US)? Then why should we call all Latinos Hispanic when not all Latinos are Hispanic? It makes no sense and is another exclusionary term.

    Well this was a lunch break well spent. Good back and forth guys.

  15. I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. I understand your concern with the term “Brown Pride.” But again, as I mentioned in my very first post, I’m not sure that calling for the “death of brown pride” is the way to go considering that this idea has been extremely important to many Latinos like Chicanos. Rather than call for its “death,” I think it might be more productive to highlight the fact that “Brown Pride” is just one part of what defines “Latino.” Of course there are other Latinos who value Africanness, indigeneity, “mixedness,” etc. This is all part of what “being Latino” means.

    You obviously don’t need me to tell you that there are white Latinos, Afro Latinos, mixed Latinos, indigenous Latinos, etc. etc. etc. In my view “being Latino” is all of this and more. To recognize the racial, ethnic, and geographic diversity of the global Latino community doesn’t mean we have to call for the death of “brown pride” and risk alienating some Latinos. Also, to recognize the geographic diversity of the global Latino community doesn’t mean we have to ignore the history of the concept of “being Latino.”

    For me, I don’t want to erase the history of how “Latino” came about. The fact that Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans came together to fight against oppression and discrimination is something we should all be proud of. These 1980s political alliances are for me signs that Latinos can love each other and fight for our well being. I look to our past and how Latinos have fought to protect each other, and others, so that I can imagine a more equitable future for everyone and commit myself to working toward it.

  16. At any rate, it’s been a lovely conversation. Happy New Year.

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