On Tuesday, Oct. 6, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of Multicultural Life (DML) held a discussion panel over Zoom focused on the relationship between Latinx and Black identities and anti-Blackness in Latinx communities, the first in a series of DML sponsored events.
The panel featured Alex Palacios, member services manager for The Aliveness Project; Marcela Michelle, artistic director of 20% Theater; and Dr. Shantee Rosado ’09, assistant professor of Afro-Latinx studies at Rutgers University.
Before the discussion, attendees were asked to watch Kimberlé Crenshaw’s Ted Talk “The Urgency of Intersectionality,” which highlights the compounded disadvantages faced by people with intersecting identities. Intersectionality was a major theme of the conversation as the panelists discussed their own Black and Latinx identities and the relationship between anti-Blackness and Latinidad.
While much of the conversation around racism in the United States has been confined to categories of Black and white, the speakers hoped to emphasize that anti-Blackness also exists in the Latinx community.
“My research argues that Latinxs are not only capable of propagating anti-Blackness, but that it is foundational to our countries of origin,” Rosado said. “One doesn’t need to be American, white, or white-passing or even a U.S. citizen to advance the goals of U.S. white supremacy.”
The speakers expressed that Latinidad, a term that refers to the attributes shared by Latin American people and their descendants, can fail to capture accurately all the aspects of a person’s identity.
Palacios said that it was important to distinguish from their personal definition of Latinidad and the definition of Latinidad as a whole, which they have experienced as less inclusive.
“My Latinidad includes my melanated skin, it includes my coils and kinks,” Palacios said. “So much of Latinidad [as a whole] tried to take that away from me. It tried to say that this is the standard: you can’t be too light, and you can’t be too dark.”
“The concept of Latinidad for me feels like an attempt at a reconciliation, and I am no longer interested in the reconciliation of my identities,” Michelle said, adding that words like Latinidad “are too big to hold me.”
The discussion also touched on how the Latinx community should interact with the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly in the context of protests across the Twin Cities and the nation this summer. The panelists called for solidarity from non-Black Latinxs with the Black Lives Matter movement and encouraged people to recognize the complexity of anti-Blackness.
Rosado stressed the importance of educating family members about anti-Blackness and said she had experienced resistance when bringing up Black Lives Matter.
“After returning from a Black Lives Matter protest, my mother told me that she didn’t agree with the protest because todas las vidas importan, A.K.A all lives matter,” Rosado said. “I’ve lost many connections with friends and family members for being outspoken about anti-Black racism.”
Michelle echoed Rosado, emphasizing that solidarity for anti-racism should begin at home.
“Where it hurts is in the home,” Michelle said. “Where it hurts is when you’re looking across the table and your family says to you ‘I don’t see that Black Lives Matter.’ That is vital. That solidarity is vital.”
Palacios argued that Black Lives Matter is fundamentally concerned with privilege as well as race, and that issues of privilege affect everyone, no matter their identity.
“Intersectionality, the scope of privilege, those are things that we can all connect to, in one way or another. And when we connect to those things, we are connecting to fundamental principles of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Palacios said.
Palacios suggested that going forward, a common trust placed in community could help unite people in anti-racist work.
“We all know how to build community,” Palacios said. “It’s inside of us. It is time to connect that and foster that culture around you, wherever you are.”
At the end of the discussion, the Director of Diversity Education, Leadership and Inclusion at the DML, Hana Dinku, invited all attendees to continue the conversation on how to practice solidarity with a screening of the film “The First Rainbow Coalition” next Thursday, Oct. 15. The film is the next installment of a series of events co-sponsored by the DML and covers a coalition of movements that banded together across racial and cultural lines to address issues of police brutality and more in 1960s Chicago.