Coming Out As Black, When You Were Hispanic

Posted in Articles, Audio, Autobiography, Interviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2013-06-07 04:56Z by Steven

Coming Out As Black, When You Were Hispanic

Tell Me More
National Public Radio

Celeste Headlee, Guest Host

High school senior Elaine Vilorio wrote that she started seriously contemplating her blackness when she stopped straightening her hair.
Elaine Vilorio

Teen Elaine Vilorio spent years trying to make sense of her racial identity. She describes herself as Hispanic, but other people see her as black. Vilorio speaks to guest host Celeste Headlee about her recent HuffPost Teen blog, ‘Coming Out As Black.’

This is Tell Me More from NPR News. I’m Celeste Headlee. Michel Martin is away. Coming up, a celebrity chef shares some tasty summertime recipes and juicy stories about his clients. But first, we’ll turn to the issue of race and identity. The question of, what am I, is one that a lot of teens ask themselves and the answer can be quite complicated for multiracial kids.

It’s something that Elaine Vilorio has thought a lot about. She’s a high school senior, originally from the Dominican Republic. Over the course of her life, people assumed she was black and that bothered her. But two years ago, after she stopped chemically straightening her hair, the change in her appearance made her rethink her roots. She wrote about that in a Huffington Post piece titled “Coming Out as Black,” and Elaine Vilorio is now here to tell us more. Welcome to the program, first of all.

ELAINE VILORIO: Thank you, I’m happy to be here.

HEADLEE: First of all, let me ask you, why did you phrase it that way, coming out as black?

VILORIO: Well, people have always asked me, you know, like you said, you know, if I was black consistently, and I’ve always denied that. So I thought that was a very fitting way, a very dramatic way to say that I finally have admitted, you know, this Afro identity, so to speak, when it’s always been there. Coming out, I finally can say it out loud, and I can finally explain to people, yes, I have African roots in me and that’s okay.

HEADLEE: Well, when you talk about racial identity, it’s something you’ve written about quite a bit as well.


HEADLEE: What is racial identity for you? Is it about the way you see yourself or how others see you?

VILORIO: I mean, it’s a combination of both. I think people perceive me and they separate Afro-descendancy from, you know, the Hispanic identity. Hispanic identity doesn’t really take into account that African racial root. You know, I see myself as a predominantly black Hispanic. And then other people, you know, they just see a mixed person, just mixed. Blackness isn’t really, you know, acknowledged…

Read the transcript here.  Listen to the interview here.  Download the interview here.

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Coming Out As Black

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2013-06-07 03:00Z by Steven

Coming Out As Black

The Blog
The Huffington Post

Elaine Vilorio, High School Senior
Northern New Jersey

I’m Black. After many years in the closet, after many years of breathing that stale air of self-denial, I can finally say this.

Growing up, I dreaded the question “What are you?” I always proudly answered that I was Hispanic. In fact, I made it a point to emphasize my Hispanicity simply because I knew what was coming next. “I’m Hispanic; I speak Spanish; my parents come from Dominican Republic. I’m Hispanic. And, just to clarify, I’m Hispanic.” To this, the other person confessed: “Oh… I thought you were Black. You definitely look Black.” The problem was I perceived the identification of “Hispanic” outside the realm of Blackness; but then, I wasn’t the only one. Take note that the other person in my scenario thought the same thing. Right after my declaration of Hispanicity, he/she stripped away the “Black” label with the phrases “I thought” and “You definitely look.”

The conventional definition of “Black” completely leaves out Hispanics, and this is because the latter is ashamed of African ancestry. As a result of this shame, American society has excused Latinos from identifying themselves as Black or African American. I recently read Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s Black in Latin America, and I’m amazed at what I learned. Eleven million Africans survived the Middle Passage and came to the Western Hemisphere. Out of this almost unfathomable number, only 450,000 Africans came to the United States. Gates expresses the significance of these numbers nicely: “The ‘real’ African American experience…unfolded in places south… of Texas, south of California, in the Caribbean islands and throughout Latin America.” [1] Why, then, has the stereotypical Hispanic comprised mostly European and Indigenous features? Where did the Black go? It was buried under unofficial segregation, under whitening campaigns of populations and national histories, under racism…

Read the entire article here.

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