I once went on a date with a Latinx male who upon hearing what I did for work told me he “hid” as South Asian in his work place so that he wouldn’t be assumed to not be qualified. It was wild. It’s also one of the many stories I’ve thought of in the last few days...
As the controversy over #AmericanDirt has brought out THE age old Latinx fight of who gets to claim Latinidad. This is one of our favorite in community fights. It has qualifiers- your ability to speak Spanish, whether you grew up in a multigenerational home, and yes, skin color.
I’ve watched a lot of very hurt feelings in the last few days as a white presenting woman who didn’t claim us in a public interview even five years ago traded on Latinidad for a right to tell this story that by all accounts is a voyeurs perspective on us.
I think this hurt is right and justified. It is galling to me to watch everything from the centerpieces to this woman’s manicure which make “cute” out of symbols that are painful for so many of us. I can’t actually comprehend loving us, belonging to us, and being able to do that.
It has also prompted many people of ALL shades and cultures to send me DM’s and text messages asking me what I thought of the several tweets saying if you are light skinned you don’t get to be Latinx, you are White.
Enough that it encouraged me to talk about how I have processed my Latinx identity. I’m offering this up as a humble perspective and really chaffe at the thought that any one person gets to be the “voice” of a community as broad and diverse as ours.
Latinx identity in the US is complicated. My experience of whether or not a person has the experience of being racialized for being Latinx rests not just on skin color but how you present phenotypically, your class, and really your performance of whiteness.
Now, no matter what, our skin colors and their proximity to whiteness in the US give us mad privilege. Your ability to get heard or be seen as a threat are vastly higher if you are more Indigenous or Black presenting.
Many, many, most of us are mixed race. So what we “are” can be real confusing for folks in a country that loves to categorize. There is also a specific Latinx American identity in the US separate from the identities each of us carry from our home countries.
I am light skinned and have never been confused for white. I’m sure this is for a lot of reasons. But I also think as a light skinned person in the community, I don’t get to tell my indigenous presenting brothers and sisters what to do with their pain, I get to learn from it.
I don’t believe, for instance, that I get to go into their mentions or DM’s and beg them to make room for me in the community because the WORLD makes more room for me than it does for them. I believe it is an abuse of power to do that.
I also, for instance, shouldn’t get to trade on my proximity to whiteness. A lot of the pain you’re hearing is folks who never stood for the community conveniently using both their proximity to whiteness and to Latinidad to gain fruits and benefits.
Meanwhile, harming the community by making us dangerous and exotic. It’s hard to belong to something you look your nose down on and/or have no interest in being intimate with.
I am sure I’m gonna write more about this cause I have a lot I have thought/processed but mostly being racialized in the US is a wild experience. I have been asked for my social security number by police and CBP for no greater sin than existing, told to go back to Mexico...
Called an anchor baby, told I should be raped, asked over and over again by white colleagues my best recommendation for a margarita, asked on many professional occasions if I was catering or housekeeping.
It is perplexing and at times infuriating that some get to skip that experience and still trade on the culture. But the reasons for that strike me both as much more complex than skin color and unavoidable as a result of skin color.
For myself, I maintain that claiming whiteness in the United States is a political choice. It is one where I choose to give up the culture and beauty of my ancestors for whiteness. I would never, will never claim whiteness.
However, I will also always listen to the pain of my people and where I have to watch myself and do work to ensure I’m not using whiteness as a tool to erase the stories of my people in service of my own elevation.
I have watched hella brown folks claim whiteness and hella white folks claim brownness this conversation is not simple.
Once, a Code2040 fellow told me that Latinidad is a solidarity project. That felt right to me. Which leaves me with the ultimate question I have of @jeaninecummins - If you aren’t participating in the solidarity, can you really be in the project?
Rounding back to this thread, I thought this was fascinating:
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