5 ways to stop erasing black Latinxs

Latin America is full of black people! It’s true!

Photographer Doug Segars
5 ways to stop erasing black Latinxs Havana, Cuba, 2017.  
Stop describing Latinx as a race

Within Latin American countries, there are white, black, indigenous, and Asian people. Racial oppression exists in all countries, including countries in Latin America. In order to avoid erasing black Latinxs it’s important to specify the race/background of the Latinx(s) you are discussing.

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For example, when Trayvon Martin was unjustly killed by George Zimmerman, many people called attention to the fact that Zimmerman is Latino without mentioning his race. Zimmerman is mestizo (a mix of Spanish European and indigenous), and leaving out this important context only serves to erase black Latinxs who face similar violence and oppression across the diaspora.

Research the diversity of racial identities in countries outside of the U.S.

The language used in the U.S. to identify with African lineage does not always translate in other regions. Blackness is defined differently in the U.S. than, let’s say, Brazil or the Dominican Republic. In some Latin American countries, people of African descent may not identify as “black,” but they do identify with their African lineage.

For example, a Dominican person of African descent might say they are not “black,” but what they mean is that they are not African American. If you ask them if they are of African descent, though, they will likely say yes. If they say no, it probably has something to do with internalized anti-blackness and the effects of colonization, which is another blog entirely!

“Negrx” (negro, negra), for example, is a term often used among black Latinxs as a term of endearment toward other people of African descent. In some countries, “black” is not the word that defines someone’s racial identity, even if they embrace their African roots.

Dig into the history of the diaspora in Latin America

Black people have been in Latin America this whole time, bruh. During the transatlantic slave trade, more ships landed in South America and the Caribbean than all of North America. Latin American culture would be vastly different (and, quite frankly, boring) without the African influence it has. From music, to dance, to art, and cooking, Latinx culture can thank African descendents for it all.

Acknowledge the erasure of black Latinxs in American media

Both Latin American and U.S. media markets mostly ignore darker Latinxs with nappy hair. Black Latinxs are rarely cast for Latinx roles, because the “stereotypical” Latinx is light, with smooth or wavy hair.

On the topic of Latinx immigration, U.S. media tends to focus on images of light or mestizo Latinxs. Many Latinxs have the experience of being both black and immigrant. Black Latinxs are often left out of the immigration discussion because we don’t fit the mainstream perception of what a Latinx looks like.

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Commit to changing your language

When applicable, identify the race of the person or people you are referring to. It’s not always necessary to specify, but oftentimes, it is. For example, if someone from, let’s say, France, said “Americans love Trump,” that would be false as fuck. Which Americans, bruh? Not the black ones! Apply this to your language when speaking about folks with Latin American heritage and you’ll be more inclusive in no time.

September 29, 2017
5 ways to stop erasing black Latinxs