Watch: Dascha Polanco and Charlamagne Debate Whether Dominicans Are Black, Too

Polanco, who identifies as Dominican and black, had to explain why that identity makes perfect sense.

Actress Dascha Polanco at the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Jan. 30, 2016
Actress Dascha Polanco at the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Jan. 30, 2016 Charley Gallay/Getty Images

There’s been a lot of chatter about why Zoe Saldana—a fair-skinned Latina—is playing Nina Simone, the African-American (and chocolate-complexioned) jazz icon.

Orange Is the New Black’s Dascha Polanco was asked to weigh in on the controversy Friday during an interview on The Breakfast Club radio show in New York City, since she, like Saldana, is Hispanic. Both Polanco and Saldana are Dominican; Saldana is also Puerto Rican. Polanco said that she thinks an African American should have played Simone and agreed with the idea floating around on social media that her OITNB co-star Uzo Aduba would have been a great choice.

Even still, Polanco said that she identifies as a black woman.

“I consider myself an Afro-Latina,” Polanco started out by saying. Radio host Charlamange tha God asked what that was, and Polanco explained that it was a “black Latina.” 

“I consider myself to be a black woman,” Polanco continued. “And I think a lot of Dominicans should, because from what I see, that’s what we are.” 

“But why not be Dominican?” Charlamagne asked. “You said you consider yourself a black woman; why not just be Dominican?”

“Because I’m from the Dominican Republic,” Polanco answered.

Charlamagne had a hard time grasping how a Latina could be black. The simplest explanation is that many Latinos who live in and are from places like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba are descended from the enslaved Africans who were brought to those places during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Those Hispanics are a mixture of the enslaved Africans, the Spanish slavers who colonized them and the indigenous groups who were on those islands before any outside group ever got there.

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