Dash Harris, writing at For Harriet, describes her surprise that the media have taken an interest in the story of Jakiyah McCoy, a 7-year-old Afro-Latina beauty-pageant winner who had her title revoked because pageant officials wanted her to prove that she was Latino.
Since when has mainstream media ever cared about Latinos of African descent and how they are treated? This is the same media that publishes stories that label a Latino and an African-American couple as being “inter-racial,” the same media that exclaims “you would have never thought THIS person was Latino” and then displays a myriad of AfroLatinos. The same media that perpetuates the same harmful stereotypes they are now all of a sudden condemning. Besides the fact that “Latino” is an ethnicity and that one can be of any race and mix of races, including African, and be Latino, there are many people who look like African-Americans that are also Latino because 1) the two are not mutually exclusive and 2) Afrodescendants comprise a large portion of Latin America and the Caribbean. Jakiyah is of that diasporic fact …
My life’s work and passion has been about uncovering these stories that marginalized and oppressed groups face and the manifestations of a colonial heritage that inform power dynamics in the region. The Spaniards that colonized, murdered and enslaved indigenous and Africans and subsequently barred access for social mobility from their descendants were always at the top of this social hierarchy, called “casta.” Spanish blood was believed to be pure and superior and ones status was degraded by non-Spaniard blood. These were the Hispanics. The people who were of Spain and “of reason” [gente de razon].
Indigenous blood could be “breeded out,” and the high status of whiteness could be claimed by procreating with Europeans; African blood was unredeemable. This is illustrated in the terminology we use today, mestizo, literally means half-caste. These were people “without reason.” [gente sin razon] This white supremacist model has been normalized in Latin America to the point where many can’t even identify it as such and see nothing wrong with it. It is strongly perpetuated locally and individually friends and family. It is normal to hear and “negro/a is feo/a.” [Black is ugly] It is normal to see straight hair on people who are trying to literally escape their roots. It is normal to see a commercial selling a cream called “white beauty” to the masses. It is normal to have a black grandma in the closet. It is normal for Latin American women to dye their hair blonde aspiring to the beauty of their oppressors. It is normal for the first question upon a baby being born is not if it is healthy, but rather “como salio” is s/he dark or light? …
Read Dash Harris' entire piece at For Harriet.
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