It was a typical evening on Twitter, and just as I was preparing to head to bed, I glanced at my timeline for the last time that night, or so I thought.
A popular Afro-Latina-run account shared a recent mitú article, “The Natural Hair Movement Is For Black And Afro-Latina Women Only. Here’s Why,” and several self-identified Afro-Latinas were re-tweeting and discussing the problematic headline.
“Not again,” I thought. Naturally, I went in on Twitter.
— Janel Martinez (@janelmwrites) November 16, 2017
Inspired by a HipLatina piece, the author explores the politics of black hair, its significance to black girl and womanhood and why it’s not a space for white women (Here for it!). However the headline, which has since been edited, and the article made a major offense separating black and Afro-Latina.
I’m not here to police anyone’s identity as many Afro-Latinas understand what that feels like and it’s not something I’ll ever do to others. But I, like many other women I follow on Twitter, found the distinction insulting and an intentional erasing of blackness from Afro-Latinidad. That wasn’t the intent as mentioned in the editor’s note (added at the bottom), however, Latinx media is known to portray Latinidad in a singular lens.
Because of this, some aren’t surprised that the headline was run by this outlet, but what’s even less shocking is the slow erasure of blackness from identity labels like Afro-Latino/a/x.
When I first started documenting my journey as an Afro-Latina, a term I’m using far less, through my website Ain’t I Latina? in 2013, it wasn’t dique trendy to do so.
What led me to document the Afro-Latina experience was my passion for storytelling and not seeing my narrative or that of other Afro-Latinas in media.
afrolatina = black latina = black = africanness. & yes, coz colorism is really really real, representation of darker sistuhs is CRITICAL. https://t.co/SD7vSqP2wg
— Marjua Estevez (@_MsEstevez) October 17, 2017
yes #afrolatina is absolutely one that was founded 2 highlight, celebrate bring black latinas to the forefront in a way they have never been
— Alicia Anabel Santos (@DiosaDominicana) October 18, 2017
I was that kid glued to the TV watching ’90s sitcoms like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Living Single,” “The Parent ‘Hood” and “Sister, Sister,” to name a few, and flipping through Jet, EBONY, Essence and later Latina in search of my entire identity.
I couldn’t find that. And after graduating with a journalism degree and working in the industry for a few years, I still didn’t see our stories being reported, shows with an Afro-Latinx lead character or our faces on the cover of magazines. (Jeimy Osorio, who played young Celia Cruz in the telenovela “Celia,” became the first Afro-Latina cover girl for popular Spanish-language women’s magazine Vanidades in 2015. That’s 80-plus years after its founding).
We still have a long way to go, but there’s been an uptick in visibility of Afro-Latinxs within Spanish and English-language media, which is directly connected to the Afro-Latinxs who’ve carved out spaces on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as their respective blogs and websites.
Platforms like Es Mi Cultura, Boriqua Chicks, #IAMENOUGH, Proyecto AfroLatin@ and @TheAfroLatinDiaspora, and change agents like artist and activist Zahira Kelly, entertainer Amara La Negra, Dash Harris of Afro-Latino Travel and Carmen Mojica, author of Hija De Mi Madre, have all showcased and embraced black identity within Latin America. The common thread: centering black identity within Latinidad.
The term Afro-Latinx (using the “x” because it’s gender neutral and inclusive) refers to a person of African descent in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, as well as those of African descent in the U.S. whose origins are in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that Latino/a/x is not a race, but an ethnicity, which means Latinxs can be white, black, Asian or indigenous.
Ethnicity and race are often used interchangeably, creating some confusion. But if you identify as Afro-anything you are saying you’re black. It’s not separate from you, not a term used for African Americans only; no, you’re embracing black identity.
Afro-latino is not about being Black and Latino, Afro-Latina means to be a Black Latina/Latino hence why the term Afro-latino/a.
— Rosa A. Clemente (@rosaclemente) February 26, 2015
There have been countless conversations on Twitter alone in which Afro-Latinxs have had to address anti-blackness from those within our community.
Yes, identity is complex and we’re not monolithic. However, the experience is key to one’s identity.
Why would Afro-Latinxs get upset over a headline? Well, it’s more than the headline. Many of us have had to battle family members, our community, white supremacy and Euro-centric beauty standards simply to embrace our entire selves.
Editor’s Note: The original headline of the story separated black and Afro-Latina, creating the perception that they are two separate people. The intention was to honor what the author wrote, make clear an understanding of the different experiences of black women in American and Latin America, and to be inclusive of different terms black Latinx women use to self-identify. However, it’s come to our attention that the headline implied a stripping of blackness from Afro-Latina identity. That’s something we would never want to do, and we see the problematic nature of it. We deeply apologize for that. The distinction still appears in some parts of the original piece to honor the author’s words.