Monday, February 8, 2010
Latinegr@s Project: A Fluid Identity
I am pleased with the responses that we are getting for the Latinegr@s project. I think that it is a good start to something I know I have wanted to do personally. However, I feel that we are the tip of the iceberg here. The posts that we are receiving are amazing indeed but even I begin to struggle a bit on what or whom to highlight.
It is not the lack of trying or the lack of influential people, it is the simple fact that there is so much information and it is very hard to know where to begin. I would hope that the images are long lasting that we never forget those who are considered to be invisible. Many Afro-Latinos are indeed invisible in today's world and that is part of the reason why this project has life. Our identities as Latinos are a fluid one. We can fall into many different racial and ethnic categories and yet still identify as Latino or Hispanic.
As children, in the United States, we are indoctrinated with the belief that there is a black and white binary. While we never fully understand it until we are adults, there is an underlying sense that it is better to have a lighter skin tone. American history often demonstrates the superiority of one racial group over another within the white and black context. What is not taught in school, but is often learned, is the inequality within people of color. African Americans face this issue when dealing with different shades of black and the distinction of bi-racial and multi-racial categories. Many African American scholars point to the creation of such categories as “not wanting to be white”. However, this kind of problem goes unsaid within the Latino culture.
Latinos face a very real crisis of identity in the United States of America. The Black and White Binary paradigm in this country places everyone based on skin color into those two categories. Because this paradigm is indoctrinated into all of us, we are forced to describe people of all racial groups within the terms of black and white. This widespread thinking almost puts Latinos on the outside of that binary. This unnatural marginalization of people of color outside of the paradigm forces many to choose what part of the binary they fall into. More often than not the, choice is made for them.
Latinos can be described as a “hybrid category” within the black and white binary, specifically because white and black simply do not apply. Much like my family, Latinos represent every shade of skin color possible. Having another category would assume that were a third race and thus a paradigm shift. However, a large segment of Latinos would rather consider themselves to be white and completely deny their African heritage.
The idea of Latinos thinking of themselves to be anything less than white would mean they are closer to the oppression their ancestors felt. Simply put the darker the Latino the closer to Africa they are. The question is why is the black side of the binary so hard for Latinos to deal with? The answer lies with the Spanish colonization of the Caribbean and Latin America. The hierarchy of the dominant culture was quickly established that placed white Europeans at the top with African slaves at the very bottom and in the middle was the indigenous people. The ruling class was made up of white Europeans from Spain.
The media plays a huge role in Latino identity. The Latino Identity is typically defined as a light skinned, dark haired individual that is often made to look exotic. Afro-Latinos are rarely seen in areas of television media with the exception of sports. Despite what the media may consider to be Latino, the darker skinned people still remain fairly invisible. Print media, more importantly, magazines have the same issues.
I know I just got real educational right now, but there is a reason why I do have the slave trade map at the top. More often then not we tend to forget our history or just simply avoid it all together. That is why this project is so important to me. We should never think that we are all not connected because according to history we are.