“You’re not really Puerto Rican,” my Latinx middle school classmates would say to me. “You’re an African booty scratcher.” And though my Latinx relatives didn’t vocalize it, they agreed: No one with a skin complexion as dark as mine had the right to claim anything but black. One of my lighter relatives even went the distance of posting an offensive Facebook status that read, “Black bitches love calling themselves mixed. What are you mixed with, gorilla and horse?”
I did not want any parts of my Latin heritage. It has brought me nothing but ridicule and embarrassment from strangers, friends and family members. I feel safer just calling myself black. Not claiming my Latin roots means never having to defend my blackness to people who deny their African ancestry until it’s convenient for them—people like Gina Rodriguez.
A few days ago, a video of the Jane the Virgin actress being interviewed on Swayuniverse made its way to my Twitter timeline. I instantly rolled my eyes as I watched the actress summon all of her acting skills to produce three crocodile tears, in response to her being called “anti-black.” She, of course, denied being anti-black by saying, “if anything, the black community is my community. When I speak about Latino advocacy, people think I’m only talking about people who are my skin color, but little do they know that I’m very aware of what my culture is.” That particular response to being called anti-black was perhaps the most anti-black thing she has said thus far.
If I was the same color as Gina, I could celebrate my Puerto Rican side, and my Puerto Rican relatives and friends would celebrate me.
If I was the same color as Gina, I could celebrate my Puerto Rican side, and my Puerto Rican relatives and friends would celebrate me. I wouldn’t be forced into spaces where I have to prove my Latinx background by speaking Spanish or showing photos of my lighter family members. Furthermore, someone who claims that they are black would never preach “Latino advocacy” on the backs of other black people, especially black women.
Part-time Afro-Latinas like Gina Rodriguez are not well-wishers for the black community. I noticed this when she came under fire for ‘All Lives Matter(ing)’ an interviewer who referred to Yara Shahidi as “goals for many young black women.” Before the interviewer could finish his sentence, Gina interrupted him and said, “So many women!” In other words, she’s not just an inspiration for young black women.
Someone who claims that they are black would never preach “Latino advocacy” on the backs of other black people, especially black women.
Why is Gina allowed to “speak to” young Latina girls, but Yara Shahidi has to speak for “all women” in general?
It doesn’t stop or start there. Back in July, Gina tweeted: “Marvel and DC are killing it in inclusion and women but where are the Latinos?! Asking for a friend…” While I totally agree that Marvel and DC still have ways to go in terms of inclusivity, I think it’s incredibly anti-black to use a victory for black actors and actresses and the black community in general (the Black Panther film) to make that point. Why couldn’t you make this point during the majority white male Avengers: Infinity War? Does the lack of inclusivity only bother you when black actors and actresses are being celebrated?
Gina, the only way to grow is through accountability. No one wants to be called anti-black. However, if that’s what you are, we’re going to call a spade a spade. The biggest insult to someone like me (an Afro-Latino who is denied the right to call himself Afro-Latino) is Latinx people claiming blackness when it’s convenient for them. If you really “look to black culture,” you wouldn’t be so eager to erase the black women in the culture.