When Dominican-American poet Melania-Luisa Marte began writing a poem about what it means to be Afro-Latinx, a simple Google search led her to realize that Afro-Latinx/a/o was not in some of the most commonly used dictionaries. For her, the blatant disregard for the term itself reaffirmed the feelings of erasure that black people of Latin American descent experience daily.
When searching for variations of Afro-Latinx/a/o in the Merriam-Webster dictionary for example, what users will see instead of a definition is, “The word you’ve entered isn’t in the dictionary.” However, terms like “dad joke” and “jeggings” have been added in recent years. Last year, the gender-neutral term for Latino, “Latinx” was added, but both still disregard the racial makeup of Latin America. Marte decided to petition for the inclusion of “Afro-Latina” in the dictionary in 2018, but it has yet to be added.
While Marte still wants all variations of Afro-Latinx/a/o to be added across all dictionaries, she also acknowledges that much like Latinidad in general, the term itself has also been white-washed.
“I’m kind of disappointed with the way the movement has been co-opted and the way that the representation of Afro-Latinidad has become more whitewashed and centering more white passing women and so now I call myself ‘negra,’” she told The Root.
For her and other black people of Latin American descent who are moving away from using any form of “Latinx/a/o,” as an identifier, “negra” cannot be confused or twisted into anything other than what it means: black.
Still, Marte’s not giving up her fight to get Afro-Latinx added to the dictionary.
“How can we truly have change if we’re not even dealing with the small microaggressions that make us feel invisible?”
Watch Marte break it down in the video above.