“Puerto Ricans speak ghetto Spanish.” “Ella tiene pelo malo.” “Cover yourself up. There are a lot of Mexicans in that area.”
Let’s be real: White folks aren’t the only ones engaging in anti-Latino conversations. Oftentimes, we, too, partake in (or overhear our abuelita talking to Doña Julia about) some really problematic ish. This, in no way(!), absolves white people of their racism, but it does mean that we have some internalized oppression issues that we need to work out.
Don’t believe us? Just check out a few of these common convos taking place right now in a barrio near you.
1. Pelo Malo/Pelo Bueno If you’re from the Caribbean, you definitely know what we’re talking about here. Often in Latino families, coarse hair is seen as something that's "bad," something that needs to be fixed and controlled. Meanwhile, hair that is long, thin, glossy and ready for a page in an Herbal Essences ad is good. But, as Carolina Contreras of Mizz Rizos would say, what kind of crime (or benevolent gesture) does one’s hair commit to deserve such labels? Why is it that hair textures connected to our African roots are seen as both inferior and dangerous? And what do these everyday phrases say about our own deep-rooted anti-blackness?
2. Rubia vs. India vs. Negra Similarly, light-skinned Latinas are discussed as rubia bellas, while Indigenous and African traits are categorized as homely or grotesque. Think about it (and don't start naming Zoe Saldana and Joan Smalls -- you know they're exceptions to how we, as a culture, discuss Latinas of a darker hue).
3. Black and brown Latino men are pigs. Has your mami ever told you to “cover up” or be “extra careful” when walking near Afro-Dominicans or brown Central Americans? Ever wonder why she’s less concerned about your safety when the light-skinned Argentine is the one cat-calling?
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