Amara La Negra Responds to Calls to Stop Identifying as Afro-Latina

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[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] In “Jesse Lee Peterson Urging Amara La Negra to Stop Identifying as Afro-Latina Touches on a Major Issue,” Johanna Ferreira (Hip Latina) writes about the implicit and explicit problems in denying Dominican actor Diana de los Santos / Amara La Negra’s African roots. Ferreira writes:

If you’re familiar with Amara La Negra, you know that the Love & Hip Hop: Miami star is beyond proud of her Afro-Latina heritage and has used her platform to help shine a light on the Afro-Latinx community, which is often ignored in mainstream media. In fact, she recently made an appearance on Jesse Lee Peterson’s show, The Fallen State, to discuss her Afro-Latina pride and why it’s so important. But things quickly took an awkward turn and Amara was not having it.

Everything about this interview was uncomfortable, from Peterson claiming it took forever to learn how to pronounce her name to the questions he had surrounding Amara’s Black identity. “I know a lot of people are concerned for whatever reason about if you’re Black or not because you call yourself Afro-Latina,” he said.

Amara responded saying: “I’ve been told that you know I do Blackface and that this is really not my skin color. I actually take melanin shots and I also spray tan to get this shade of Black because I’m really not Black. You know my features don’t match my skin color,” she said sarcastically. “It’s so weird that some Black people believe that,” Peterson added. “You just said that as a joke but some people actually believe that.”

It’s wild to me that the idea of someone being BOTH Black and Latina is so mind-boggling to some folks that they really can’t actually believe that Amara is really Black and that this is really her skin color. How are we still having this conversation in 2019?

“I’ve actually had to go on interviews where they’ve asked to touch my skin to see if it comes off,” she said. “I’ve done it but deep down inside I’ve been like this is so pathetic and actually it’s a terrible feeling to know that certain places you go you have to prove yourself constantly. But when I say that I’m an Afro-Latina, it’s not as difficult as people make it seem. It means that I come from African descent but my culture and everything else I’m Latina — I’m Dominican. A lot of people feel that you know Africans were only dropped in America, that there’s not more Black people like me in the rest of the world and there is. So you know it took a second for some people to digest that information.”

Here’s where things got real weird. “You know now that I see you in person, you don’t look like a Black person,” Peterson said. “You look like a dark-skinned Latina or something like that, right?”

Amara at this point looked pretty disturbed and sarcastically responded asking: “Really?”

“Why would you want to call yourself Afro-Latina. Black people are so negative. There’s nothing really good about being an Afro and they pretend to be Afro-Americans when really they are American,” Peterson said.” They wouldn’t even recognize Africa if it drove down the road passed them. It’s such a negative thing. Why would you want to present yourself — if you want to present Latina — why would you want to present yourself with the Afro thing. What’s the purpose?”

Amara checked him real quick by stating the obvious.

“Culturally yes, I am very Dominican. I am very Latina. But you can obviously also tell I am very Black as well… the thing is what exactly does a Latina look like? So if I’m a dark Latina, what does a Latina look like? So what does an African American woman look like? Like me!” she says.

Peterson continues on with his ignorance saying: “There is no such thing as an African American woman, they made that up. They are American, they were born here, but they’re dumb and so they are calling themselves African American.”

The look on Amara’s face when he said that clearly read: “Why did I agree to make an appearance on this show? He wouldn’t let it go and continued to ask Amara why she decides to identify herself as Black. “Why would you, a woman like you, you’re so talented. You don’t even look like them. Why would you want to attach that to your name?” he asked.

Peterson even had the nerve to tell Amara that she would do much better and would be much more successful in her career if she didn’t identify as Afro-Latina. That identifying as Black is essentially hurting her. What’s interesting to me though is that Peterson was essentially trying to encourage Amara — a Black Dominican woman — to deny her Blackness. He was essentially trying to persuade her to deny who she is and try to “pass” because it would make her life a whole lot easier. That is problematic regardless of who says it, but even more troubling coming from a Black American man.

“No no no no, I will always be Afro-Latina and that’s why I’m an activist. I love my melanin. I love my background,” she confidently said. “I love my race and you know I feel that’s even more of the reason why my name is Amara La Negra, which means, the translation in English will be, the Black. I’m very proud of my color and I know I’ve always had to work twice as hard in order to get my work recognized but that’s fine though.”

Here’s the thing, Peterson is clearly ignorant as hell but he highlighted a ton of issues here. For starters, he proved that even in 2019, there are a ton of folks out there — Black people included — that still can’t wrap their heads around the idea that there are Latinxs who are also Black. They still see these identities as mutually exclusive, which is why so many Afro-Latinxs still don’t see themselves seen or represented in mainstream media. Secondly, he also touched on something political as well, the realities of what happens when an Afro-Latinx chooses to identify themselves as Black. In Amara’s case, she identifies as Black because she’s always acknowledged that she is and has always been perceived and treated in society as a Black woman. [. . .]

For full article, see https://hiplatina.com/jesse-lee-peterson-amara-la-negra-interview/

Also see “Watch Amara La Negra’s clapback to a conservative black host who tells her to not identify as Afro-Latina,” by Francis Akhalbey, Face 2 Face Africa, at
https://face2faceafrica.com/article/watch-amara-la-negras-clapback-to-a-conservative-black-host-who-tells-her-to-not-identify-as-afro-latina

See more on Amara La Negra at https://rollingout.com/2018/05/20/amara-la-negra-uses-music-and-dancing-to-make-fans-feel-good/

3 thoughts on “Amara La Negra Responds to Calls to Stop Identifying as Afro-Latina

  1. Interesting but also weird, frankly speaking.
    In my view, ethnic roots are quite irrelevant. I never thought of this topic in detail when I meet somebody.
    There are more important issues to focus on.

    1. Everybody’s life experience is different, I am a Ghanaian American and identify as African American. I was born in Ghana. Before coming to the US issues of race and ethnicity were very peripheral to me. In my experience it sometimes takes being a minority in some way for most of us t o really think about cultural and ethnic roots in a real deep way. I do not know Peterson but he sounded really ignorant to me and totally not suitable for such an interview. I have done a lot of work in Haiti which shares an island with the Dominican Republic and as a Black African in Haiti most people just assumed I was Haitian and would greet me in Haitian Creole. I have also been in the Dominican Republic and could easily fit in there as well.

  2. I lived and worked all over the world.
    And of course, I was always aware of of my different cultural background and sometimes also of my ethnical body features – e.g. in Asia – I guess, it was more important for a very short time because of my young age / puberty.
    But it was never a severe issue to me. I never compared myself to other ethnicities and their standards. I never tried to belong to another group. I am simply fine with who I am (knowing my roots) and therefore do not need to waste time & energy with.
    In my view, all these racial issues are probably identity problems / low self esteem issues.
    And racism is not so much about ethnics and body features (that`s just a visible differentiator and is used for 1st assumptions / prejudices), it is more about social class, education & wealth gap.
    In fact, there are cultures and countries with a quite bad reputation that fuels these prejudices.
    Nowadays, tribalism is on the rise too….blood – in terms of family membership – is much more relevant than having a passport of country.

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