Anti-Blackness in the Latinx Community

Anti-Blackness+in+the+Latinx+Community

Fernanda Matias, Editor of Passion

As a light-skinned Latina, I find myself standing in a place of great privilege, not fully understanding the obstacles that Black Latinos have to face. Anti-Blackness, or antagonism towards Black peoples, is yet widespread in our society, especially amongst the Latinx community. This issue has perpetuated internalized discrimination within the community– whiteness often being something that is celebrated in Latino households, while Blackness is looked down upon. This disparity has manifested itself in several ways, most noticeably on the systemic level. Anti-Blackness has unjustly dominated the Latinx community, spreading inequality with it. 

Latinx is an ethnicity– the term encompasses people with origin or descent from Latin America. Because of this, the Latinx community is not comprised of a single race, rather every race, including Black, Asian, White, Indigenous, and mixed Latinos, making it a diverse demographic group. Anti-Blackness, however, has been ingrained in Latin American society since Latin America emancipated from Europe. Latin Americans relied on mestizaje — the interweaving of races and cultures to give birth to a lighter-skinned generation, and it is still a common ideology today, although far less reinforced. This can be detected through the phrase: “mejorar la raza,” or “improve the race,” a phrase used in modern Latino households. This phrase implies that people should marry lighter-skinned people to prevent the birth of darker-skinned children. This toxic mentality continues to plague Latino households centuries after it was first implemented. 

Colorism and systemic racism are easily linked to anti-Blackness. White supremacy, the ideology that white is inherently the superior race, results in the exclusion of other racial/ ethnic groups. White supremacy is directly linked to white privilege, white people being inherently advantageous because of their race, because without the ideology that white is the superior race, white people wouldn’t have advantages over other races. Colorism is discrimination solely based on skin color. Therefore, people belonging to the same race are treated differently as a result of their skin’s proximity to whiteness. Black Latinos suffer greatest from both of these disparities. What differentiates colorism and systemic racism from anti-Blackness is that colorism and systemic racism discriminate against many races, while anti-Blackness strictly targets the Black community, and in this context, the Afro-Latinx community.

From this can be concluded that Afro-Latinos face adversity that most White-Latinos have not even thought about. This includes low representation and systemic racism. 

Colorism is a powerful influencer in determining what roles Latinos play on television, most conspicuously noted on telenovelas. Latinos with Eurocentric features are likely to portray those of higher social status. Afro-Latinos are often assigned characters of lower social status (maids, nannies, criminals, drug dealers, etc.). Incidentally, a qualitative analysis of the 200 top films from 2017-2018 revealed that 24% of all Latinx characters were portrayed as criminals, with 13% of all Latinx speaking characters depicted to be poverty-stricken. 

Anti-Blackness continues to prevail in the media.

The effects of this disparity radiate beyond the big screen. Lack of representation inflicts false interpretations of the Latinx community, and perpetuates a single story of Latinos, leading to harmful, false stereotypes.  

Afro-Latinos are “first seen as Black to white America,” claims Jasmine Haywood, an Afro-Latina who has conducted research in anti-Black Latino racism. This quote suggests that Afro-Latinos face the same amount of racism that a non-Latino Black person would face, as Blackness is the first, and possibly only, aspect of the person’s identity perceived by other people. Therefore, the amount of racism Afro-Latinos face is equivalent to that of Black people with no Latino origin. In short, Latinidad does not mitigate the amount of racism an Afro-Latinx individual encounters. 

Therefore, systemic racism towards Black peoples, such as maternal health disparities, food insecurity, education dereliction, criminal justice disparities, and more, are all encountered by the Afro-Latinx community.

As a white Latina, a person of color, I am not able to fully understand the adversity that my Black Latinx counterparts face. As a result of the constant perpetuation of a white-supremic ideology, deconstructing and unlearning anti-Blackness will not be an easy feat. However, by amplifying Afro-Latinx voices and raising awareness and education towards spreading equality within the Latinx community, change will be inevitable.