Black Latinos: A double minority

Publié le par hort

http://www.ivpresso articles/ 2009/02/23/ our_opinion/ ed01_02-23- 09.txt

 A double minority

By Maria Elena Salinas
Sunday, February 22, 2009

Black History Month has been observed in the United States since 1926, and this year it has taken on a new meaning as the country celebrates the historic election of the first black president.
What was first known as Negro History Week is used to focus on the people and events that have had a significant impact on the history of our country.

But there is one subgroup in the black community that is not sure if it, too, fits into the observances of the month: black Latinos, the ultimate double minorities. It’s not exactly an identity crisis, but it does say a lot about how people view themselves and what factors into their identity.

Carmen, a black Dominican hairdresser born in Santo Domingo and raised in New York and Miami, says she considers herself Hispanic. “I hate when I have to choose between being black or Hispanic,” she says. “My race is the human race.” She claims her daughters have come home crying after being called “black” in school by Hispanic children.

During the 2000 census, nearly a million blacks who are of Latino origin were counted. Of those Latinos in the United States who identified themselves as black, 28 percent lived in New York City. They come mostly from Caribbean countries — including the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico — where African roots run deep and date back to the 15th century.

According to historians, European invaders in the Caribbean virtually wiped out the indigenous groups that inhabited some of the islands and replaced them with African slaves to supply their labor needs. Therefore, many in the Caribbean have a mixture of indigenous, African, European and, in some cases, Asian influence. It is evident in their food, religion and music, but also in the color of their skin.

According to a 2003 Inter-American Dialogue Race Report, the country with the highest percentage of people of African descent is the Dominican Republic, with 84 percent. It is followed by Cuba, with 62 percent; Brazil, with 45 percent; Colombia, with 26 percent; Panama, with 14 percent; and in Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Peru, less than 10 percent have African roots.

Being a multiethnic, multiracial and multicultural society, data in the United States is, more often than not, gathered in subgroups. So when given the choice to identify themselves as either black or Hispanic, many black Latinos prefer to say “Hispanic.” But that doesn’t make it any easier.

However, it is not only the color of their skin, but also the accent in their voice that puts them in a situation of double discrimination. As Afro-Latinos, they are resented by some blacks who claim they are denying their African heritage. And while black Hispanics are at an advantage over white Hispanics when it comes to education, their economic performance is worse and their unemployment levels are higher.

If there is one thing that unites Latinos — regardless of the color of their skin — it is the language. Angie, who was born in Santo Domingo and raised in Venezuela, married a U.S.-born black man of Dominican descent who did not speak Spanish. She says at first she did not identify with her husband’s family because of the language barrier.

For Carmen, it was somewhat of a relief to see that in her daughters’ school, there was a choice between “ethnic origin” and “race” to identify the children, which allowed them to be both Hispanic and black. Now they can celebrate Black History Month as well as Hispanic Heritage Month.

Publié dans African diaspora

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