Let’s Talk About Race (in Latin@ Communities)

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-24 00:43Z by Steven

Let’s Talk About Race (in Latin@ Communities)

NACLA Report on the Americas
New York, New York

Melissa M. Valle, Ph.D. candidate
Columbia University, New York, New York

While many trivialize race in Latin@ communities as abstract and irrelevant, Afro-Latin@s are still fighting a definitive racial hierarchy.

They say that the Devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world he didn’t exist. While I’m not a religious person, I find something alarming about the notion that a sinister force is exacting its will on humanity while successfully going undetected, and therefore uncontested. Racism in Latin America has a similar invisible, but insidious, sort of quality.

Bring up racism amongst those from Latin America and you’ll often get an exasperated groan, followed by something about how class is the predominate stratifying principle in Latin America, and a plea to stop applying your U.S.-based take on race to those in Latin America and the Caribbean. They may even throw in a “we’re all mixed” or “what is race?” rejoinder for good measure.

They will likely bring up the fluidity of racial boundaries as a way of suggesting that the struggles around this form of discrimination have their own set of particularities when in a different setting like Latin America, and that these particularities absolve them from dealing with contradictory experiences of Afro-Latin@s that reveal a peculiarly hidden racism.

Fortunately, there are now numerous organizations and scholars carrying out the tireless work of bringing to light, documenting, and challenging the cumulative effects of centuries of oppression that continue to negatively impact the lives of millions of Afro-Latin@s. Recognizing the need for a critical analysis of the social reality of African-descended people from Latin America, local activists and scholars led by Juan Flores and Miriam Jiménez Román founded the afrolatin@ forum in New York in 2007. It was a moving experience to serve on the executive board of the forum in New York City in 2011 and help coordinate its first conference, “Afro-Latin@s Now!: Strategies for Visibility and Action.” The afrolatin@ forum is committed to advancing an understanding of the afrolatin@ experience in the United States and abroad. But on a personal level it has also heightened an understanding of racial marginalization and resistance for me and many of my co-organizers. Working with this collective, I feel my own identity as an Afro-Latina and scholar-activist has been affirmed.

This October’s second afrolatin@ forum conference, “Afro-Latin@s Now: Race Counts!” will provide a space to examine the structural and ideological barriers to full Afro-Latin@ representation and discuss opportunities for positive social change. The event will focus specifically on how race structures the life chances of Latin@s of African descent and how it is therefore critical that our experiences be shared and our numbers be counted in the census…

Read the entire article here.

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