Original Post here: Why it was so hard to hear/see Latinos criticize protesters in Ferguson.
I won’t apologize for my anger in this post or at any other time. For too long, white people feel deeply troubled and uncomfortable by the anger of people of color. This fear can lead to our murder. That’s because our anger poses a threat to a sense of comfort, security and deep seated insecure and unfounded beliefs. It’s also because people of color have been historically considered to be dangerous, so an angry colored person is going to make a lot of people out there uncomfortable. I’m ok with your discomfort.
To anyone that ever comes in contact with me and has a problem with my anger, I say that is your problem. I have come to accept my anger as a natural, justified, and appropriate reaction to the social injustices and daily aggressions normally experienced by being a person of color in this country and world. I would challenge anyone who fits this description to ask yourself why you have become so desensitized that you are ok to accept the avoidable and evitable pain and suffering in the world. I would ask how inhumane you have had to become or insensitive to empathize with those around you who are wronged every day. I would challenge you to examine whether you are using your time in this life towards making this world a better place so that others may live. Wear the suit if it fits you and proceed to kindly fuck off of my page because I’m not (and won’t be) in the mood. Furthermore, this post is not for you (shockingly enough). I am here to address my Latino brothers and sisters today. I am here in part to show you how I have learned to use my anger as fuel towards the efforts of creating and initiating change towards that which is unfair.
I hold anger in my chest that stems from centuries of injustice that is unequivocally color-coded. As a child, learning from my father (because I wasn’t taught in public schools) about Mexican history and the oppression of Indigenous people by Europeans, I felt deeply connected to the struggle of my forefathers and mothers who carried the same blood that runs through my veins and wore the same bronze skin. After the years of witnessing my family and community struggle to adjust to systems that we were continually reminded, were not created for us, it was easier to understand how deep oppression and injustice is seeped into our psyches. Thus, I have dedicated my life towards understanding social injustice with a determination to contribute to the force that must restore the inherent dignity and worth of every human being in the planet. It was through this journey of seeking to understand the circumstances of myself and my people that I learned what it meant to be mentally colonized. Coming to the awareness of how much we are a part of systems that are set up to destroy ourselves and others was extremely uncomfortable and painful.
As Mexicans, my family and I had internalized the idea that the whiter the shade of my skin color, the more beautiful and desirable we are. This is what is referred to as an Anglo/white standard of beauty. My family and I were unaware that during the 1700s, the Spaniards established a caste system in Mexico in which Spaniards were at the top and Black people were at the bottom. The lighter the tone of your skin, the higher in the hierarchy the Spaniards placed you.
As I watched the beautiful women in novelas growing up, I had no idea why the maids were Indigenous looking and spoke like the social class I was a part of while the protagonists were light-skinned, rich and with European names. Although most of the people that watched the novelas were more like the maids and their families, no one ever dare protest or refuse to watch the clearly classist and racist productions. The names of telenovela stars were still the most popular names of newly born babies among Mexicans.
Like most Mexican families, our understanding of Mexican history omitted one of the three races that led to the creation of our ethnic heritage: The African. My family had never read Octavio Paz. My family, like most, would refuse to accept that at one point, Mexico was the prime recipient of African slaves. What happened to these Africans over the history of time? We consummated and became one. It is asinine to ignore the physical characteristics of Africans among us. We are them. They are us.
And yet we come to this country and somehow forget where we came from. We forget we seek economic, political and social refuge from a homeland that has been deeply damaged by American and European colonizers that destroyed the sustainable lifestyle and wealth of culture and traditions of our Indigenous ancestors. We have been and continue to be raped, tortured, murdered and enslaved. We come to this country to continue being in the position in which we are exploited and expected to surrender and accept domination. We come here and experience similar suffering to that of those of other non-white people from different parts of the world seeking similar riches. Yet instead of empathizing with each other and uniting against common subjugation and success, we accept an illusion that we can hyper ascend.
I’ll pause a minute to explain this term, that I don’t know exists yet. Hypodescent is what people do when they categorize someone of a mixed heritage with the inferior status in society. For example, when people have a black and a white parent, it has worked to white’s advantage to consider that person’s race to be black, ultimately downplaying the 50% of their whiteness. Their blackness cancels out their whiteness because of the white idea of racial purity. These people’s white half has been contaminated and discounted by their black half. Hypodescent is what has happened over the years when whites have been confronted with the dilemma of categorizing Latin Americans into a race. We can’t be permitted into the good ol’ boys club because our European ancestry is contaminated by the Indigenous component of our racial composition. Besides, we’re too foreign and exotic (that’s why it took Congress 30 years to incorporate New Mexico as a state, because Hispanics wouldn’t be easily assimilated). We can’t be considered Native American because that would mean the government would have to invest resources in our communities.
Hyper ascent then, is the idea (because it’s not a reality) that whites have used to keep us on their side when they need us and temporarily grant us the illusion that we are less like blacks and other minorities and more like them because the shade of our skin bears a closer resemblance. It is with this blinder that Mexicans and other Latinos use when pointing the finger at the conditions of Blacks. Instead of associating with our brown sisters and brothers, we choose to associate with the oppressors who could give a shit less about us! We’re willing to do anything to distance ourselves from the lower rungs of society to which we realistically belong. We ignore our common ground and desperately seek to side with the same people who refuse to support legislation that supports justice and the needs of our families and communities.
It is disturbing, alarming and disgusting to witness the reaction of my Latino brothers and sisters who are perpetrating the same shit that ignorant, privileged white people are regurgitating about what is happening in Ferguson. For ironic and moronic reasons, we somehow believe that black people are responsible for their conditions, for their victimization, and that we are so far removed from the struggle of blacks.
During a discussion about Ferguson at the high school I work, the Latino kids were widely checked out. A couple said that this didn’t affect them. They too have drank the punch and still believe that when a cop approaches them, they’ll come to ask them about their wellbeing and protect and serve them. In a way, how great that they have been sheltered from this harsh reality for this long. On another note, their fall off this cloud will be that much harsher when they learn the truth.
A few months ago, I watched a young Latino boy at a mall beaten by a big, adult, white security guard and later to be surrounded by a crew of white police officers. He had receipts for all the merchandise he had. They ignore that Latinos and Blacks are disproportionately incarcerated at similar rates despite committing crimes at the same rates as whites. They ignore the endless stories of microagressions, exploitation, and discrimination that our parents have endured at the hands of whites to give us a better life.
My reaction is less about these kids in our program and a greater reflection about the irony in the beliefs held by those in our community about where we stand in relation to these issues. Oppressors use the “divide and conquer” strategy to engrain in those who are oppressed that we minorities are inferior, inherently bad, and should fight against each other. Growing up, I learned that Puerto Ricans were inferior to us. I learned that we were better than blacks. I learned to hate my own kind and criticize the “nacos”, “paisas” and “cholos” as if I belonged to some sort of protected class that was immune to the inferiority through which our white counterparts see us. “Naco” or not, educated or not, my skin is brown and outsiders can’t tell the difference.
What would whiteness in this country be if all people of color united to pursue social justice on our behalf? That can’t happen because there would be some serious backlash and greater threats to the current power structure. So it is convenient to keep minorities unaware of these issues of which I am speaking. All of this history and knowledge that I learned has come at a significant price to myself and my family. I had to overcome great adversity and become burdened with overwhelming debt to learn to liberate myself. And I can’t liberate myself if you don’t come with me. Many times, I almost didn’t make it. I had to leave my family and the warmth of the Mexican neighborhoods I was raised in to learn about our struggle because we sure as hell weren’t talking about it.
It is due to these sacrifices that I refuse to allow any colored people that come into my life to think that we are less like blacks and more like oppressors. I can’t bear to hear any of us talk like that. If I’m in your life, ignorance is not an excuse. I am available to you all because I have dedicated my life to pursuing social justice in hopes that I could change the life of a kid like you once were. I have spent countless years of my life reading a ridiculous amount about who, what, when, where and why. To see my family speaking against Mike Brown or Trayvon Martin is deeply insulting to myself and yourself too. It’s one thing to navigate systems and space on a daily basis that weren’t made for me; to hear ignorant comments by well-meaning and ignorant whites; to bear the brunt of people’s near-sightedness, privilege, and insecurities. It is a whole different kind of pain, hipocrisy, and outrage to see that my own blood and creed accept and propagate this ignorance. Wake the fuck up brothers and sisters.
Look at yourself in the mirror and repeat after me, “You are not white. You have never been and will never be.” The money you are now lucky to make here cannot change permanently change the color of your eyes, the color of your hair, and skin. You can’t buy yourself a new set of ancestors. You may have been born here, but you can’t buy green cards for the rest of your family in Mexico who is most likely in danger, poverty, or both. So wake the fuck up and respect and empathize with the pain of our Black brothers and sisters. They are our neighbors, our allies, and they understand us and our struggles a whole of a lot better than the white assholes and institutions that you defend when you speak against Mike Brown. Despite our parents’ sacrifices and efforts to leave a legacy through us, you may fail to teach your kids Spanish, you may have rejected our culture to embrace one that’s not yours in order to be cool, and you may never go to Mexico for the rest of your life. But for goodness fucking sake, you won’t be doing anything to change where we or our children stand in this country. You cannot ignore where we came from! Nobody that has a clear sense of direction of where they’re going can deny the importance of their past and how that has influence who they are and who they need to be.
I realize that by unleashing all of my anger on you all, I am also participating in hating on ourselves and blaming the victim. I realize that the root cause of our condition is not ourselves. I understand the systemic forces and history of colonization inflicted on us that have led us to buy into this shit. We are victims in this situation but we can become survivors. We also have a role in our empowerment and decolonization.
You see, the things we say, the lives we live, the beliefs we hold, they all come from some place in our past that at some point fulfilled a function. We have been brainwashed my the media owned by white people and by our own families who have been bamboozled themselves. I need you to know today that we don’t have to continue holding on to ideas that don’t really serve us. I want to talk to you a little bit about who we have always been and who we will be because that will determine the stances we make, the political and collective actions we take, what we choose to support, what we talk about, and what we teach our children. As a Mexican woman raised in the U.S., I know well enough that it’s easy to forget.
We did not originate from a people that believe that victims have brought human rights abuses against themselves. We come from a culture that is overly familiar with victimization and has been powerless to avoid what has been done to us. That is why we are in this country. That is why our countries of origin are destitute and in Mexico’s case, even failing. Our families have sacrificed their lives to exchange our problems for a different set. We still have problems. Where we are from, our people do not believe that the government and its institutions are interested in the welfare of the populace. Ayotzinapa and 43 Students, enough said.
To focus on the few people that are committing irrational acts in relation to the thousands that are protesting peacefully around the country is to continue to help spread this story that the victims who are seeking to change their circumstances and expressing rage at their condition are responsible for their own treatment. That’s exactly what the media in Mexico is doing, focusing on the less important acts of violence to sensationalize what’s happening, they’re not focused on the peaceful protests all around. No te dejes llevar by the little distractions that take away from the big picture and the important conversation. A white man shot an unarmed teenager. Don’t focus on what happened before, don’t try to debase Michael Brown’s character to justify his murder. The media doesn’t talk about how bullies across schools where there are shootings brought them upon themselves. None of us are questioning the character of the 43.
This country has a history of letting police and white people in general commit crimes against people of color without any consequence. Ayotzinapa isn’t new. Ferguson and Trayvon aren’t new. They’re also not deviations from the norm. These events are part of a greater and longer story that keeps the same characters in the same positions doing the same shit year after year. Remember that whites justify torture, death, and inhumane acts towards us because we broke the law by entering this country illegally.
When people talk about race and Ferguson and or Trayvon and other issues affecting people of color, white people will do everything possible to try and convince themselves that this has nothing to do with race. They will further seek to minimize their role in oppressing people of color by debasing the character of those people affected, they’ll show you instances of “reverse racism” (that doesn’t exist, don’t you dare for a minute…), and give examples about how racism doesn’t exist, or try to convince you that they’re not racist (even though their ideas and actions clearly are). Don’t participate in this shit. Stand up for us.
It’s hard because we want to be liked by white people. They are our friends and their feelings are easily hurt around these conversations. I’m not saying all white people are bad. I’m saying that white people and us, are products of a racist society, fundamentally established and set up on ideas that are oppressive and we need to learn what these are to refuse our participation in supporting it. Some white people have a harder time understanding these things because that would mean they feel bad or guilty. We cannot enable their accountability and role in this complicated social scheme. We need to actively and aggressively speak up about what is happening to us.
We know extremely well that the media is corrupt and owned by people who are interested in making money, not our education or awareness, that the government is mostly interested in self-preserving, that we need to unite to overthrow the status quo and that forgetting our culture is leading towards our eradication. We are a people that were born out of revolution. The Escuela Normal Rural “Vasco de Quiroga”, in the small, rural, and Indigenous town my father is from had a quote painted on its walls for several years, “It is better to die on your feet than to live a life on your knees.” The words are from Emiliano Zapata, a Mexican revolutionary that fought for native people to regain their land and liberty and to reject European and U.S. cultural imperialism and their appropriation of national resources. That is who we are. Hermanos, wake the fuck up and remember who we are. No la chinguen. Ya me cansé.
If your concerns about violence are limited to property damage and looting, and you have never shed two tears for the history of institutional violence, murder,colonialism, segregation, lynching, genocide and police brutality against peoples of color, your words mean nothing; they mean less than nothing. Your outrage, in such a case is grotesque, an inversion of morality so putrescent as to call into question your capacity for real feeling at all. So long as violence from below is condemned while violence from above is ignored, you can bet that the former will continue–and however unfortunate that may be, it is surely predictable. If you’d like the former to cease, put an end to the latter, and then I promise you, it will.
It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.