White-Passing Latinxs & The “Brown Girl” Phenomenon

Now that I’m a mom, I’ve noticed (even more than usual) how obsessed people are with putting everyone into boxes. Whether they are boxes of gender, race, class, or education — people here in good ol’ ‘Merikkka REALLY want everyone to fit into them.

This is super applicable when it comes to race and skin color, maybe more than anything else. My son is CLEARLY my son. We have pretty much the same face, but he’s lighter skinned than me. I’d say if we were using Crayola colors to describe skin tone, mine would be like burnt sienna and his would be like caramel.

People have asked me if I’m his nanny when I’ve taken him to the park. No, I didn’t punch them in the face, I just gently said, “No, he’s my son. We have the same face.” And let them wallow in their discomfort as I refuse to walk away and continue to push him on the swings like “What? Am I making you uncomfortable by taking up space now that you said something super stupid?”

So it REALLY bugs me when people say they are color-blind. Because it’s:

A) Not fucking true

B) Another way to erase the gorgeous multitude of skin tones that make us diverse

C) Is a coded way to tell a POC, “You don’t matter to me”

I want you to notice my color. It’s beautiful. My ancestors have passed down my brown skin through generations. I’m a beautiful brown woman.

This is also why it pisses me off when white-passing Latinxs try to claim “brown” as an identity because, well, NOPE. Have you ever been stopped by the cops because of the color of your skin? Have you ever been denied service in establishments across Latin America because of the color of your skin? Has your suegra ever been asked why she would let her son date you because of the color of your skin?

I DIDN’T THINK SO.

There is a way to acknowledge the differences between our skin tones with love and understanding without fetishizing it. Yes, I know it’s pretty hot to be a “Brown Girl” right now. We can probably thank the wonderful, beautiful, and talented Prisca Mojica Rodriguez for that (luh ya girl). But that doesn’t mean that you just get to jump on the bandwagon to commercialize our identity and try to make money off of it.

It’s another insidious form of cultural appropriation in a way. You get to try on this identity for social media, or for your blog, or podcast, or whatever it is you’re schilling that day, and then at the end of the day, you get to take it right back off. Maybe you were even one of those Latinxs who grew up checking “white” as your race your whole life. So, no, now that we are “trendy” you do not get to hop on the bandwagon of being a brown girl. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears have gone into fighting for our own identities. For making spaces for ourselves. For forcing our ways into places where you could just sashay right through the door.

So please, take all the seats.

We need to figure out ways to acknowledge and uphold our multiple and various identities without commodifying them or using them to label people on a spectrum of good to bad, or worthy to unworthy. Yeah, it’s annoying that folks want to be able to put everyone into boxes, but in recognizing that tendency in our society, we can begin to address ways to dismantle it, without losing ourselves and all the rich complexity of our identities at the same time.

Claiming ones that do not belong to us just because they are trendy is not the way to go about it. So, unless you have lived the struggle of a brown girl, then don’t call yourself one. Be an ally, be a sister, be a friend, be an amplifier, just don’t try to be something that you’re not.

 

 

Racism IS Business As Usual for the United States

I never had any delusions about our country being “post-racial” after Obama’s election. All you had to do was listen to a Republican tying themselves in knots to try to explain why they opposed him at every turn without calling him a “ni**er” to know that racism is alive and well.

I’ve been shaking my head at how many folks out there are so pissed at the millennials who sat out this last election because they just weren’t excited about Hillary Clinton with cries of “entitlement” and “laziness.” But here is the thing. Nothing screams entitlement more than thinking that you deserve to an entire country to yourselves because you happen to have less melanin than the average human. I mean, what the actual fuck?

So, yeah: America is and has always been racist as hell. And let me double down on this fact: TRUMP WON BECAUSE RACIST WHITE PEOPLE VOTED FOR ANOTHER RACIST WHITE PERSON TO BE PRESIDENT. STOP APOLOGIZING FOR THEM.

If you voted for Trump you ARE a racist. Learn it. Love it. Live it. Maybe you don’t even know you’re a racist. But you are. Self-awareness and knowledge is not a prerequisite for being a racist.  Yet all these supposedly left-leaning politicians in Bernie Sanders’ corner want to be progressive while refusing to label the Trump movement for what is really is: A nativist, white supremacist, nationalist frenzy.

And if you have children, you should be terrified. I was so happy that my son was born during Obama’s tenure as president. I made me think of all the kids under the age of 8 who just thought it was normal that a Black man held the highest position of power in our country. But, it turns out that so many wypipo, rich or poor, urban or rural, felt that this was so completely out of the “natural order of things” that they gave their vote to a reality star clown in order to desperately hang on to the position of power and privilege they have held on to, well, since forever. That the patriarchal powers-that-be are willing to sell their souls to the highest bidders just to protect that power is actually pretty normal. I don’t, in retrospect, understand why I was so shocked I guess.

I’ll tell you what’s not normal: It’s not normal to think that climate change isn’t real. It’s not normal to demand to see the president’s birth certificate, but then be 100% okay with a presidential candidate who refuses to share his tax returns. It’s not normal to support a man who wants to ban Syrian refugees, and then bombs the shit out of their country to “protect” them. It’s not normal to refuse a woman the right to end an unwanted pregnancy under any circumstance because she is “killing a baby” while simultaneously rejecting child refugees from Syria, where babies are being bombed and murdered every day.

It’s not normal to say we live in a post-racial America, and try to deny the fact that the folks who voted for Trump are racists. Stop apologizing for them. Stop politicizing the very real hatred and danger people of color have felt tangibly in this country, day in and day out. This is the very definition of staying woke. We’re woke to that danger, to that level of threat and menace in our day to day lives. For those of y’all who are just so shocked by the uptick in hate crimes, in the fact that children are being bullied and taunted in school for the color of the skin or they family’s religious beliefs, recognize how fucking steeped in privilege you really are that you were able to believe this wasn’t happening before this god-awful election.

We should all be so lucky. Now that we all see what’s REALLY good though, how are we going to create a new normal for our children here in America?

My Son is an Obama Baby

And I will never ever let him forget it. One of the things that made me happiest about the world I brought him in to was the fact that at least for the first two years of his life, he would only know a Black president. A Black president is the norm for him. He would never understand why I cried like a baby the night Barack Obama was elected, or the absolute joy that would fill my heart when we received their annual holiday card: A picture perfect reflection of a gorgeous, proud, Black family.

He would never understand how rare it used to be to see strong, Black feminism uplifted and praised as it has been while Michelle Obama has been FLOTUS. It would just be normal. I will never, ever let him forget that President Barack Obama was in power when he was born. President Obama’s tenure is over, but in his wake he has left behind a lasting legacy for our Black and Brown boys, no matter how much of his political accomplishments get overturned or undone. He has shown by example that we ALL have the right to dream bigger than anyone might think possible. That our young women and men of color really can do ANYTHING. And that people, when inspired by love, unity and intelligence, can come together to make the world a better place.

I’m not ignorant.I know my son will likely have to deal with racism in his life. I don’t live with blinders on and I plan on talking to him openly and honestly about the history of colonization, oppresion and violence that this country has been built upon. But for a fleeting moment, his president was Black and that can never be taken away from him.

My son is only two years old, but I know I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do over the next few years about why we allowed all the progress of the last eight years to be torn down and thrown away by a hateful bigot. This is my chance to teach him about how good does not always beget good and evil does not always beget evil. Life is a pendulum, always striving to find a balance between darkness and light. Without one, the other can not exist. Still, as humans, we must always push towards the light, towards good and towards love.