I can’t say I’m surprised, but I’m still disgusted with the number of comments I’ve read across our social media from Latinos screaming that we should be talking about #LatinoLivesMatter instead of Black Lives Matter. I’ve seen comments asking about why we aren’t we talking about the kids that ICE still has in cages… the list goes on. First of all, most Latinx publications have done an incredible job covering the injustices that have occurred in ICE custody and have been perpetrated by CBP agents. We even wrote an entire feature about why so many Latino men join these types of enforcement agencies even though they’re committing atrocities against our own people. We’ve created toolkits on social and countless round-ups of places to donate to support immigrants. But most importantly, supporting the struggle of Black people is NOT abandoning Latinos. I find it incredibly sad that I even have to say that, but it’s a false equivalency that lots of ignorant Latinos are trying to peddle.
Let’s start with the quick reminder that a LOT of Latinos are Black. Yup, for the millionth time, Latino is not a race, and in fact, Latin America received a much larger percentage of the Africans that survived the middle passage during the slave trade than the United States did. In an article for PBS entitled 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro: How Many Slaves Landed in the U.S. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. notes:
BETWEEN 1525 AND 1866, IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE SLAVE TRADE TO THE NEW WORLD, ACCORDING TO THE TRANS-ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE DATABASE, 12.5 MILLION AFRICANS WERE SHIPPED TO THE NEW WORLD. 10.7 MILLION SURVIVED THE DREADED MIDDLE PASSAGE, DISEMBARKING IN NORTH AMERICA, THE CARIBBEAN AND SOUTH AMERICA. AND HOW MANY OF THESE 10.7 MILLION AFRICANS WERE SHIPPED DIRECTLY TO NORTH AMERICA? ONLY ABOUT 388,000. THAT’S RIGHT: A TINY PERCENTAGE.
Yup, the majority of the slaves who survived the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade were delivered to the Caribbean and Latin America. Brazil, the largest country in South America, has more Black people of African descent than in any other country outside of Africa. So don’t try to deny the deep and rich African heritage we have across Latin America.
The anti-blackness that colonization mercilessly beat into our psyche will be hard to overcome but we have to do it. Hiding behind declarations like “Where were ‘they’ when our kids were being locked up in cages” is garbage and we all know it. There is a long history of Black and Brown brothers and sisters supporting each other. Dating all the way back to the collaboration between Olmec and Egyptian civilizations to Dolores Huerta and Coretta Scott King marching, we have stood beside one another since time immemorial. Our first Black president borrowed his signature slogan “Yes We Can” from Huerta, who created the rallying cry for the United Farm Workers, for crying out loud! Lots of Black people showed up to protest kids being locked up in cages and there were countless incidents of Black people being allies for Latinos when we needed it most. Why is there so much resistance to support a movement that so clearly deserves all of our attention and energy like Black Lives Matter does?
The sad truth is that it starts with the anti-Blackness we were taught as the Spanish colonized our lands and it continues on today with the scarcity mentality that there are only a select few resources available and if we fight for equal access for the Black community then there will be none left for Latinos. This resistance to supporting BLM also leaves people like me, a proud AfroLatina, once again out in the cold. Denying support for the Black Lives Matter Movement is telling me I don’t matter.
In the sprint to be white (or at least be anything but Black) a large and significant portion of our history as Latinos is erased. If you don’t believe me, take it from Martin Luther King, whose famous declaration that “No one is free until we all are free,” could not be more pertinent than at a time like this. There is and will be enough to go around if we fight hard enough to build a society truly built on equality and respect for all.
So this is a rallying cry to all Latinos, if you see members of our community making excuses for why they don’t support Black Lives Matters, call them out and tell them exactly why you do.