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Too Latina to Be Black, Too Black to Be Latina

Avatar • Oct 12, 2015

By Aleichia Williams for The Huffington Post

Aleichia Williams

Aleichia Williams

I can remember the first time I had a ‘race crisis.’

I was probably twelve or thirteen and I had just moved to the quiet state of North Carolina from my home state and city of New York. North Carolina was a lot different than New York. For one, there wasn’t an enormous variety of culture and people. I didn’t have class with any Russians. My professors weren’t Puerto Rican and there wasn’t a whole lot of mixing between kids of one race with kids of another. In fact, at my middle school you had three groups you could classify as; black, “Mexican”, or white.

Unaware of this fact I walked into my second class on my first day of school and decided to sit next to a group of friendly looking Hispanic girls. As soon as I sat down the table was quiet. Then one girl snickered to another in Spanish “Why is she sitting here? I don’t want her to sit here.” Her friend, who had been in my previous class and had heard my class introduction, blushed and replied to her friend in English “She speaks Spanish.”

That was the first time I could remember being aware of my skin color and the overwhelming implications it held. This was also my first ‘race crisis’.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. How could you grow up unaware that you were black? This isn’t hard to answer. Growing up in an environment where it was normal to be colored and walk into a store and be spoken to in Spanish did not prepare me for how people in other places perceived my skin. My mom spoke Spanish. My grandmother spoke Spanish. Our family friends spoke Spanish. From the music we listened to, to the church we went to, to the the food we ate, everything about me surrounded a Latin-american culture. This was a culture that I knew and belonged to but was excluded from it entirely when I left the melting pot that is New York City.

My crisis continued for years. When the violence broke out in middle school between the African-american gangs and the Hispanic gangs and the students spoke among themselves on who was best I could remember screaming “I don’t know who to side with!” When I got into high school and a class mate told me “You’re the most Mexican black girl I’ve ever met!” I could remember thinking ‘Is that a compliment because my family is from Honduras?’

Even now as an adult I find people are constantly trying to restrict me into a specific mold and identity. My home language is Spanish so this must mean I eat tacos. I have kinky hair so this must mean I bang to Meek Mill. For many, I am too black to be Latin and too Latin to be black.

However, that’s not how I see things. I currently live in Texas and my identity is unique because you don’t have many dark skinned girls singing along to bachata around here. I’ve learned though, that just because I don’t fit into one specific mold or the other doesn’t mean I’m any less of who I am.

I’m learning to embrace every aspect of my identity and not let small minds put me in a box that just doesn’t fit. I’m Latina. I’m black. Also, I’m human. No one can take that from me.

Follow Aleichia Williams on Twitter: www.twitter.com/aleichia and Instagram: https://instagram.com/beautystandardssuck/

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Jo
Jo
5 years ago

Wonderful Article!

mds29
mds29
5 years ago

I can relate to this article. My parents are from Honduras too. I never felt like I had to make a choice between being Black and Latina. It’s just who I am…continue to be you and embrace it. Black people are every where and multilingual!

DiggyNaps
DiggyNaps
5 years ago

That’s one of my fears when considering moving out of NY. My daughter is half black and half Puerto Rican. I don’t want her to have the same crisis. I want her to have better quality life (moving elsewhere), but don’t want her to lose out on the social acceptance that comes with living in a culturally diverse city. At 1 yr old, I already see how important a social life is to her.

Black girl de la Rio
Black girl de la Rio
5 years ago

Not trying to deny this woman’s experience but Afro-Latinos are more accepted by Black American folks than non-Black American Latinos. Like, we defintely consider Afto-Latino folks to be Black & thus fam (even when they don’t claim Black lol). Black Americans have our prejudices (like any other group b/c we are flawed human beings like any other group!) but we don’t deny our people their Blackness. If anything, Black folks of the diaspora make it a point to distance themselves from African-Americans.

Alexious Johnson
Alexious Johnson
5 years ago

Bachata is strictly Dominican.…. But beyond that I concur.…well actually your crisis was one of ethnicity not race, but I understand…

prieta
prieta
5 years ago

As a dark skin Puerto Rican, I can relate. I have never felt any conflict, because at home my color only made me feel more beautiful!!! My light skin grandmother always called me negra…a term of endearment. Celebrate who are and educate people when they question you. many people are just ignorant. In high school, I had to educate my guidance counselor on my being Puerto Rican. She wanted me to apply for a scholarship for African Americans and she assumed by my english last name and dark skin that I was African American. I had to explain that I… Read more »

Kari
Kari
5 years ago
Reply to  prieta

A mi me gusta su nombre, “prieta”. 🙂

alt-K
alt-K
5 years ago

Thank you for sharing! This was very insightful, and may help me to understand my own child a bit better 🙂

Leigh Burns
Leigh Burns
5 years ago

many of us are falling into this category not necessarily mixed (by the current definition) but the fusion of cultures (white, black, native american, and mexican for me–especially when i speak spanish well, and i now part time reside in italy until next year when i leave the states for good ((again for the 3 and last time!!! yay))) has people wondering who we are–and sometimes us ourselves wondering where we belong—

Tiffany Frederick
Tiffany Frederick
5 years ago

This article is so touching to me on so many levels. I just feel like I’m reading it 5 years too late. I am also an Afro Latina. My dad is from Panama and my mom is from Honduras, which is where I grew up. When I graduated high school and came to New Orleans for college, I felt like everyone I met was either expecting me to act black or act Latina, but never both. When I didn’t fit either of their expectations, they called me a “white girl.” “You don’t even talk black.” “You’re the whitest black girl… Read more »

Sheabuttaface
4 years ago

Good for you. It’s never too late to have these realizations. I have a similar story, and have found that I feel most at home with like-minded individuals, regardless of race/ethnicity/whatever, who accept me for the individual that I am.

I’ve learned after many many mannnny years in the U.S. that it is OK to ignore the ignorant, and to not explain myself to anyone determined to misunderstand me.

Kari
Kari
5 years ago

Thank you for this article! I often think of mi amiga, mi otra hermana, who is Afro-Latina (Borricua), and I naively think that she is the only person that experiences issues such as this because she is the only person that I speak with about these things. !Otra vez, muchas gracias!

Lauralei99
Lauralei99
5 years ago

Funny”. White Latinos are never questioned, even though like the current pope, they may have no Latino genes or blood. Only we get questioned.

Myllee
Myllee
5 years ago
Reply to  Lauralei99

What is Latino genes lol?

LookieLookie
LookieLookie
5 years ago
Reply to  Lauralei99

I’m a white Latina and me and every white Latina I know gets questioned (not so much when I lived in south Florida, almost constantly in Atlanta). I found most Americans I’ve come into contact with generally have one very specific look they associate with Latina, anything outside of that gets questioned.

Lauralei99
Lauralei99
5 years ago
Reply to  LookieLookie

Okay. Thanks for sharing.

Me
Me
5 years ago

She should embrace both fully. It always grates me to hear “black” being spoken of as if it’s one dimensional. She’s a black Honduran. She belongs at both tables just as black women are both black AND women at the same time, not one at a time.

Yabbyrella
Yabbyrella
5 years ago
Reply to  Me

I couldn’t agree more. Race and ethnicity are two different things. If white people from Ireland are the same race as white people from America…then why can’t people understand the same applies to black people?

Me
Me
5 years ago
Reply to  Yabbyrella

Exactly!

Leo Kayura
Leo Kayura
5 years ago
Reply to  Yabbyrella

Interesting choice considering the history between your 2 examples ;). I entirely agree. Exept that as far as I am biologically concerned, the only race is human, the rest is ethnicity, and skin color is irrelevant, or it would mean that albinos, people with vitiligo, and people with all type of shades doesn’t “deserve” their ethnicity. My opinion =)

mds29
mds29
5 years ago
Reply to  Me

Amen Me!

Guest
Guest
5 years ago

Yes, African Americans and African/black Latinos are both black! We were just colonized by a different white culture. US that speak English were tak Now over by the British/Irish, the black Latinos by the Europeans from Spain. Same goes for so called Puerto Ricans, originally called boricua. Mexicans as well, conquered by Europeans from Spain. Blacks in Brazil? Conquered by the Portuguese, speak Portuguese. Blacks in Haiti? Conquered by the French, speak French. Now let me ask this… What was our culture/language BEFORE the European (oppressor’s) influence????

Michele Antoinette
Michele Antoinette
5 years ago

Story of my life

Denise
Denise
5 years ago

Knowing who you are is so important. I have found that as I discover and learn the history of my enslaved African American ancestors, that I can’t find any other way to feel about them, but honored. Being of African descent is who I am, and being American is what my enslaved ancestors learned to be. Language in my case, only defines a very small part of who I am, but the love and struggle of the people who came before me is how I define me as a human being. I love the skin I’m in, and I feel… Read more »

Darla Jones
Darla Jones
5 years ago
Reply to  Denise

Great comment Denise. You elegantly stated, what I intended to say. Just Beautiful!

Denise
Denise
5 years ago
Reply to  Darla Jones

Thank you!

Ava Monroe
Ava Monroe
5 years ago

Fool you are neither, and it is about time you wake up and realize that. You are the race of your father, the life is in the sperm, the egg just sits there waiting to be fertilized enough with the mix with this and the mix with that. We are NOT a byword, like a color, language Continent or Country we are the chosen people of the Most High God, the children of Israel. So please enough already and sign my petition Thank you, http://wh.gov/iPPte

Raïssa
Raïssa
5 years ago
Reply to  Ava Monroe

You don’t know much about biology, do you. “The life is in the sperm”, ugh, read a book please because you sound very ignorant.

Ava Monroe
Ava Monroe
4 years ago
Reply to  Raïssa

Neither do you. Your comment is ignorant it explains nothing about the matter which proves you know nothing

izzy
izzy
5 years ago

I very much understand where you are coming from. Being both black and Brazilian I had a very hard time identifying myself, even till today. People like to tell me that no I can’t be black because I’m Brazilian and then people also like to let me that I can’t be Brazilian because I’m black. People just need to start to learn that black comes in all sorts of cultures, especially in latin countries.

Lilly
Lilly
5 years ago

thank you for sharing your story.
as an afropean girl I totally relate.… Hopefully one day the world will understand… Hang in there girl.

Tracienatural
Tracienatural
5 years ago

Very nice article. I can truly relate. One of my very good friends growing up was from Honduras, from the black Garifuna people. Of course, I grew up in NYC, and my family is from Jamaica, so there was only acceptance between us. In fact, I learned most of my Spanish (which has faded quite a bit) from her and her family. She was and is just as black as me or anyone else; her native tongue is irrelevant. An interesting tidbit: her family actually retained an African language and her parents and older relatives would speak it (Tigre, I… Read more »

Sabrina black
Sabrina black
5 years ago

I like what I am and where I descended from. I come from a lineage of greatness. When reading and hearing my history, I can’t feel no deep seated hatred or negligence but honor. I am proud and humbled of all of the creations and contributions my ancestors have made. When I think if slavery, I hit the floor and I’ve read some terrifying stories they don’t teach you in grade school. When I read about Jim Brown and Mary Turner, I hit the floor so hard, I became furious in a matter if minutes. We’ve been hated, mocked, humiliated,… Read more »

Cosita
Cosita
5 years ago

in another article when myself and a few others mentioned how people will often assume if you are black that you don’t speak Spanish and talk $h#t about you in front of you, a few posters got all bent out of shape as if it’s not true. Yet here is another article with someone having the exact same experience. Your skin color doesn’t determine what language you speak. There are black people who speak all kinds of languages. I have a friend from Mozambique who speaks five languages.

Isabelle
Isabelle
5 years ago
Reply to  Cosita

Thank you! This is why I hate all these stereotypes. People make up ideas in their head that have nothing to do with reality. Then they get upset when they find out their image doesn’t match the real world. Like the idea of a black man as POTUS.

Cassa Blanca
Cassa Blanca
5 years ago

Interesting story. However Race, nationality, ethnicity are not the same

Cassa Blanca
Cassa Blanca
5 years ago

Why are people stating the country that their parents are from like it is a race??? This is just tragic mullato remixed. I say this as a person with a white parent.

Leo Kayura
Leo Kayura
5 years ago

Thank you for that insightful article ! To me, it is due to the constant mixing up of ethnicity, skin colour and race in America, like the latter meant anything other than human biology. Of course, if you start acknowledging that humanity as more than one race, and that they are defined by their skin or morphology, that race and ethnicity are the same thing, and on top that those biological traits (race & melanin level) define attitude & character, it become incomprehensible to muster how somebody can be two “race” or more, and how could your skin color/melanin level… Read more »

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