Friday, February 23, 2007

Tego Calderon on Black Pride

Check out Tego's article in The New York Post's Tempo magazine!

To view the Tempo version click here.


February 15, 2007 -- Just this morning, I was listening to radio host Luisito Vigeroux talking about a movie project that I am working on which co-stars Mayra Santos Febres and he was saying, "Her? She's starring in it?"
Questioning her Black beauty.

I remember, too, when Celia Cruz died, a newscaster, thinking she was being smart, said Celia Cruz wasn't black, she was Cuban. She was pretty even though she's black.

As if there is something wrong with being black, like the two things can't exist simultaneously and be a majestic thing. There is ignorance and stupidity in Puerto Rico and Latin America when it comes to blackness.

In Puerto Rico, Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" was only shown in one theater and unlike all the other movies shown here, there were no subtitles. It's as if they don't want the masses to learn.

But it's not just here - in Puerto Rico - where I experience racism. When I lived in Miami, I was often treated like a second class Boricua. I felt like I was in the middle - Latino kids did not embrace me and African American kids were confused because here I was a black boy who spoke Spanish. But after a while, I felt more embraced by black Americans - as a brother who happens to speak Spanish - than other Latino kids did.

Because I am well known, sometimes I forget the racist ways of the world. But then I travel to places where no one knows Tego Calderón I am reminded.

For instance, when I travel first class, the stewardess will say, "Sir, this is first class," and ask to see ticket. I take my time, put my bags in the overhead, sit, and gingerly give them my ticket, smiling at them. I try not to get stressed anymore, let them stress themselves.

And the thing is that many white Puerto Ricans and Latinos don't get it. They are immune to the subtle ways in which we are demeaned, disrespected. They have white privilege. And I've heard it said that we are on the defensive about race.

Those things happen and it's not because of color, Tego, but because of how you look, how you walk, what you wear, what credit card you have. Then, they spend a couple of days with me, sort of walk in my shoes, and say "Damn negro, you are right."

When I check into hotels and use my American Express they call the credit card company in front of me saying the machine is broken. This happens a lot in U.S. cities but it's not because there is more racism there, it's because they don't know me. When I'm in Latin America, I am known, so it's different. That is not to say that there is less racism. The reality for blacks in Latin America is severe, in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Honduras ...

Puerto Rican (and Latin American) blacks are confused because we grow up side by side with non-blacks and we are lulled into believing that things are the same. But we are treated differently.

My parents always celebrated our history. My dad always pointed things out to me. He even left the PIP (Pro-Independence Party) because he always said that los negros and our struggle was never acknowledged.

Maelo (Ismael Rivera) and Tite Curet did their part in educating and calling out the issues. Today, I do my part but I attack the subject of racism directly.

It makes me so happy to see Don Omar call himself el negro and La Sister celebrate her blackness. Now it's in fashion to be black and to be from Loiza. And that is awesome, it makes me so happy. Even if they don't give me credit for starting the pride movement, I know what I did to get it out there.

Young black Latinos have to learn their story. We also need to start our own media, and forums and universities. We are treated like second class citizens. They tell blacks in Latin America that we are better off than U.S. blacks or Africans and that we have it better here, but it's a false sense of being. Because here, it's worse.

We are definitely treated like second class citizens and we are not part of the government or institutions. Take for instance, Jamaica - whites control a Black country.

They have raised us to be ashamed of our blackness. It's in the language too. Take the word denigrate - denigrar - which is to be less than a negro.

In Puerto Rico you get used it and don't see it everyday. It takes a visitor to point out that all the dark skin sisters and brothers are in the service industry.

It's hard in Puerto Rico. There was this Spaniard woman in the elevator of the building where I lived who asked me if I lived there. And poor thing - not only is there one black brother living in the penthouse, but also in the other, lives Tito Trinidad. It gets interesting when we both have our tribes over.

Black Latinos are not respected in Latin America and we will have to get it by defending our rights, much like African Americans struggled in the U.S.

It's hard to find information about our people and history but just like kids research the newest Nintendo game or CD they have to take interest in their story. Be hungry for it.

We need to educate people close to us. I do it one person at a time when language is used and I am offended by it. Sometimes you educate with tenderness, as in the case of my wife, who is not black.

She's learned a lot and is offended when she sees injustices. She gets it. Our children are mixed, but they understand that they are black and what that means. My wife has taught her parents, and siblings, and they, in turn, educate the nephews and nieces. That is how everyone learns.

This is not about rejecting whiteness rather; it's about learning to love our blackness - to love ourselves. We have to say basta ya, it's enough, and find a way to love our blackness. They have confused us - and taught us to hate each other - to self-hate and create divisions on shades and features.

Remember that during slavery, they took the light blacks to work the home, and left the dark ones to work the fields. There is a lot residue of self-hatred.

And each of us has to put a grain in the sand to make it into a movement where we get respect, where we can celebrate our blackness without shame.

It will be difficult but not impossible.


Trevis T. said...

Thats what it is Tego. Im an african american form Atlanta. After living in florida during college i picked up spanish mostly by listening to reggaeton. I enjoy all your music and like how you embrace your culture. Of course i experience racism all the time, but its funny when i hear them talk about me in spanish and i reply " Cuando era nino pensava como nino, pero ahora yo soy hombre y guardo las cosas infantilles" grow up!dont judge me cuz my color. Anyway holla at me Tego, lol !

Trevis T. said...

Thats what it is Tego. Im an african american form Atlanta. After living in florida during college i picked up spanish mostly by listening to reggaeton. I enjoy all your music and like how you embrace your culture. Of course i experience racism all the time, but its funny when i hear them talk about me in spanish and i reply " Cuando era nino pensava como nino, pero ahora yo soy hombre y guardo las cosas infantilles" grow up!dont judge me cuz my color. Anyway holla at me Tego, lol !

eric said...

Whoa! Giant big-up for including this whole article. I sometimes skip the post as I have found some of the anti-black race-baiting to be something I don't have to spend too much time with.

But on the other hand, I know that the post flavors nyc in that ugly way and it's good to see what's up. On all of that context, what better place for Tego to speak that truth.

I am black and fluent in Spanish (able to use an accent to be taken for just about whoever speaks it) and, as a result I have found out personally how hard it is to be black and darker skinned in a latin context. For example, in the Dominican Republic, Too many times I would get..."Oye negro que tu hace ahi" or " una fiesta privada." And I wasn't rolling high, but I was on business at hotels, restaurants, night spots.

But once they found out I was American, all of a sudden I'm ok to pass thru???? I can't sweat it, thought, because it made me realize how jacked up brothers over there w/no us passport can get it sometimes. And don't get me wrong, I still didn't take any comfort in being let eat or go where I wanted to, just because I'm American. All that meant was that I was still not human and I had to use some of this backwards worship of Americanness to wash some of that filthy black off me.

No worries, though. This just defines the struggle. The lights are coming on. Let's not appropriate that racism that's put on us - anywhere in the world.

Much obliged. Much peace.


Queen D said...

Talk about black pride, but yet you married a white woman. You are in no position to be pro black, and you do not have to be. You can not be a sellout and problack at the same time.How can one have two states of minds at the same time? You are embracing the same slave mentality that you call white latinos out on!! Nuff with the problack talk if you aren't really committed, your actions would prove it,by marrying a black woman and sharing your love and security with her.You have chosen not to, so be it!! Please just lay off being down with black pride when you truly aren't!!!It makes you look ignorant and weak!!!

Wisdom said...

A black man with a nonblack woman will never fully get the support of the black community. No matter how smart or wise he is, sisters will never support him. Brothers will ofcourse but not the sisters so if a brothers wants to be a leader of blacks especially when it comes to racism, he has to have sister on his arm to get the support of everyone. If he doesn't, he will only have brothers supporting him and thats not enough. Look at Obama, blacks came out in droves to vote for him. If Obama had a white woman on his arm, blacks especially sisters wouldn't have supported him as much. With Michelle on his arm, he got the support of the black community completely. My point is, Tego is absolutely right but sisters are put off as soon as they hear he is with a nonblack woman. In order to get the support of everyone, you have to live what you preach. Thats like an Asian man yelling Japanese pride but has a black woman on his arm, something you will almost never see.

Welmo said...

If the fenotype defines the respect that you earn and the partner that you chose to share your life then all men are fucked cause we are the Ones that kill, steal, and provoke wars. Life if more complex than white and blacks. Categories can't contain life complexities and struggles.

Anonymous said...

so now love knows racial boundaries uh
we probably like obama because he seems to love HER, not black or white. ONE LOVE

Anonymous said...

Just because he fell in love with a white women does not mean he isnt pro-black it just means he wont allow himself to be that ignorant. He shouldnt be forced to marry a women of any color to get the support of anybody n if you cant see that then ur just holding urself back n ur one of the reasons racism still exist. People need to realize were all people no matter where we come from or how dark/light are skin is. I recently visited Loiza n was slightly nervous on how I would be accepted over there because I have blonde hair & blue eyes, I thought I would most liekly be stereo typed as a snob or someone who felt I was better because of the way many blacks still feel about whites however I was treated very nice & had a wonderful time...I wish everybody could have that experience no matter their color or where they go. Drea

Anonymous said...

I have so much respect for you! fir embracing who you are! much love!

Anonymous said...

I am a black woman. I must say it is hard to swallow constantly seeing men pick woman of lighter complexion all of the time. I do know that deep down we are all "brainwashed" to a degree. Men constantly are sent messages that lighter complected women are more beautiful, sweet, and kind. Where as us real brown chicks :) usually get shown as having bad attitudes etc etc. It's hurtful that our features aren't beautiful until they're on someone of lighter complexion. Anyways, I am in no way angry at anyone loving someone of a lighter color or different race. I just wish that Black men latino or not did love us just as much. Soon we will be no more if we continue to turn our backs on each other. I commend Tego for putting this out there, also for his efforts. We can definitely do better as a people spanish speaking or not. I hope you all get my point. I am at work. Stay strong my beautiful brown men :) Respect!

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of the comments. Black women are intentionally marginalized, desexualized, and denigrated. Because the woman propagates future generations of her people, the media ensures from a psychological standpoint that black men do not see us as either potential reproductive partners or as reproductive threats to other women. And so can induce black genocide of a different type by dilution as was done many times in history to "wipe out" blacks with whites.

Anonymous said...

You can talk Pro-black and how proud you are to be Black but if you're talking the talk and NOT!Walking the walk and you up and marry a White woman I'll be saying NEXT! If you're going to be talking the talk but can't walk straight, I don't care to here you're rants because you too have been brainwashed!!!!!!!!!!