XOTV WEEKLY: Afro-Latina, Period.

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Everything XOTV

Photo by Sofia Mendoza
It’s difficult to find the words to begin this because only my words can look into the eyes of who is reading. Only my words can affect you, not my appearance, nor my voice, even though you might be guessing what it may sound like. Over the past few weeks, everyone in this country has seen a shift in the air. Right now, there have been over two months of not only a pandemic but more than one tragedy that has changed our focus from “safety” and “precaution” to safety by any means necessary. This isn’t a piece that you will get the angry millennial or Gen Z who wants to regurgitate their “leftist” views and simply bring awareness to racial injustice, this is a letter for you as a person.
I am writing as a Latina, not just any Latina but specifically an Afro-Latina who has embraced the fact that history, although painful and inhumane, brought together several cultures, colors, and individuals to create what I look like and represent. I am not just a “light-skinned” Hispanic as our generation loves to label, I am an Afro-Latina. I don’t have features that portray a singular culture, I have a mixture that blossomed into a whole race. No one can look at me and say, “you are not black” just because they can say, “you are not African-American.”
The reason why I believe that it is impossible to say this is because the word Black encompasses not just a movement, but one of the most underappreciated masses of people that do not just come in one color but in many. Black does not just come in one look; it comes in many. The term Black is something that in the past month, I had to reflect on to find the strength to speak up on what is important right now for all of us who are affected by the terrible murders that occurred not just to Ahmaud Arberry, but George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain being one of the last out of many names I chanted and cried for.
Each of these murders committed by police officers, have and should have caused this country to grieve and rise to fight back. We chanted, we marched, we spoke up, we made signs, we donated, we mourned and we stood in solidarity. However, not everyone I know showed that respect. I saw many Latinos on social media not just staying silent but refusing to accept the fact that they are no different in the eyes of white terrorists in our country who have continued to take the lives of people that resemble us as well.
I felt angry. I felt disappointed. I thought of the words “Patria and Libertad” and even posted about that phrase to explain what it should mean for all of us “Hispanos” at this time. The colorism and denial of oneself are very evident in the Latin community and I needed to bring awareness to this by explaining a phrase that many people love to rep up and down the streets but when its time to kneel or put their fists up in solidarity for these names and the names before them, there are crickets.
Patria and Libertad, or “Home and Liberty” as translated in English, is not just something us Latinos should yell out when it’s about “our own” because it is self-explanatory. Where there is a home, where there is unity, there should also be liberty. There should be freedom above anything.
One thing I saw was that in this time more than ever that phrase should have been shown proudly by all Latinos when a black man has a knee on his neck and is murdered on the scene by a police officer who vowed to serve and protect. George Floyd could have been any of us and he resembled people that I am related to. Similar features and all. How could I deny my own? How could I not mourn his life which mattered just as much as my own?
Is it because his skin is too dark? Is it because you believed he “looked” for it because he appeared to be one of those “thugs” who run trouble in your neighborhood? No.
Many Latinos who could not stand for BLACK LIVES MATTER during this time, did not stand up because they are in denial of who they are and where they truly come from. The only difference historically between George Floyd and myself is probably who colonized our ancestors and where they were taken. The territories by which my roots come from are no less BLACK or no less built up by slavery and oppression than African Americans who share this land with me. We are fighting for the same thing. We are all fighting for Black people to not only be heard, to not only have reform but for the true history to be told and respect of that history be given without the use of white power trying to erase or disguise it.
If, as a Latino, this does not move you then you do not know what it is to be a true Latino.
My father is Cuban, my mother is Dominican. I am Black. I am an Afro-Latina. My roots come from Africa and my culture was birthed and given to me by colonization, separation, torture, and the obtaining of territory that did not belong to the Europeans. My ancestors were probably on the same ship as the names murdered by the policeman in this country. No one can deny who they are unless they do not love themselves or others.
This is the issue with the colorist, racist, and prejudiced ideals many Latinos continue to convince themselves of. Even non-Latinos create this division and its disheartening. I have seen racism being given to both sides, and this is a problem. The reason why is because when I was there marching for George Floyd, I did not feel any different from him. I felt like I was marching for one of my own. A black man, a dark-skinned person who was a victim of hatred produced by white terrorism in our country.
If someone who is not Latino is reading this, would you march for me? Would you say my name or post me with the hashtag BLACKLIVESMATTER next to it? Or am I not black enough to be marched for?
If you are a Latino reading this, make sure you are not someone who expects to have their legal rights fought for and their hard work in this country appreciated if you can’t do the same for someone who is just like you.
Say their names and understand that could have been you. You are not any better because your skin is lighter, and your curls are looser. You are not any better because you believed all your life that Black does not define you. After all, it sure does. It is a part of who you are just like racism is a part of who they are. They, meaning our leaders and “protectors.”
Say their names.

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About the Author

Susej Mendoza
Susej Mendoza is a 21-year-old, Afro-Latinx person from Bronx, NY. They use they/them pronouns and their passion is to educate the world on real issues related to race, economy, politics, and religion. Their writing is a component of that passion and their goal is to share that with the world while making people dig deep into who they are. 

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