By Ludmila Leiva|Jun. 21, 2017
Latinx Colorism is Literally Killing Muslims and Black People
Recently, Puerto Rican drag queen and makeup enthusiast Jason/April Carrión came under fire after what was intended to be a makeup exploration of Boricua culture. The series, Carrión explained on the Instagram post, sought out to use coffee grounds to demonstrate the varying skin shades between Boricuas of Spanish, Taino, and African ancestry. But it ended up sending a much different message.
Despite intentions to celebrate the “richness and diversity in [Boricua] culture,” Carrión participated in blackface—or the painting one’s face a darker or black pigment—which is never, ever okay. By now, most people [should] know that blackface is a tool historically rooted in oppression and dehumanization, but there are still many people, including Latinxs like Carrión, who continue to slip up. And, though it may seem harmless, these types of actions are indicative of a more insidious problem in the Latinx community.
Though the Latinx community is colorful and diverse; we are not a monolith. Yes, all Latinxs are minorities, but because we are made up of many racial, cultural, and ethnic identities we all experience differing degrees of discrimination; not all of us are oppressed in the same way. But, too often, instead of creating community solidarity, our differences often serve to further divide us and sustain colorism, or the idea and practice that gives lighter-skinned people more privilege and fairer treatment.
The many manifestations of colorism in our communities—most recently epitomized by the recent murders of Nabra Hassanen and Philando Castile at the hands of Latinxs—are evidence that the Latinx community still has a lot more work to do when it comes to countering xenophobia and anti-blackness.
Because whiteness is placed on a pedestal across communities and cultures, it should come as no surprise that those who can get closest to this ideal are met with more privileges. This doesn’t invalidate struggles of light-skinned people of color, it only means that those of us who hold more privilege also bear a responsibility to be better allies to the rest of our community. One great way to start doing this is by speaking out when we see other Latinxs slipping up, even if it’s something seemingly harmless.
Minor offenses can evolve into cultures of resentment and deeply rooted hate that can lead to violence and, sometimes, even death, as we have recently seen in the news. For this reason, Latinxs need to get better at calling out these ‘minor’ actions and behaviors whenever they happen. After all, even the smallest comments can help to uphold white supremacy.
Whether it’s a makeup artist aiming to highlight cultural diversity, a tía saying something insensitive about a Dominican neighbor, or a Chicano friend slipping the n-word one too many times, calling out anti-blackness or islamophobia in our community is our responsibility. So let’s get to work.