Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Latinos vs. Blacks, Fruit vs. Oranges

(Click aquí para la versión en español en El Diario / La Prensa de hoy.)

Latinos are to blacks, as fruit are to oranges. Let me explain.

The deceptively simple but compelling analogy is the product of the agile intellect of novelist Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, named by Time magazine as one of the “25 most influential Hispanics in America.”

(Above: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez)

A week ago, the author wrote to regarding her frustration with the harsh criticism showered upon film producer Debra Martin Chase for working on a project with Valdes-Rodriguez.

(Above: Deborah Martin Chase)

A bit of background: is a website dedicated to “black entertainment”. Martin Chase is an award-winning African American producer who has worked on popular movies such as The Princess Diaries and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The collaboration between Chase and Valdes-Rodriguez is focused on the film adaptation of Valdes-Rodriguez’s best-selling novel The Dirty Girls Social Club.

Valdes-Rodriguez was dismayed at all the criticism directed toward Chase from African Americans who “seem to think she ought to stick to telling only those stories they believe are ‘theirs’." The novelist explains why she is so disturbed by the arguments being made against Chase: “The hostility against Latinos among some blacks who assume Latinos have nothing in common with them is startling, but not altogether surprising, given the way the U.S. media neglects to mention our shared African roots, with nonsensical headlines like ‘Hispanics Outnumber Blacks,’ which is as absurd as ‘Fruit Outnumbers Oranges’.”

I love the ingenious and succinct way in which Valdes-Rodriguez reminds readers that most African descendants in the Americas do not live in the United States and that a huge number of Latinos are black or have African ancestry. The strict separation that many imagine exists between both groups is pure myth, lack of information and even self-denial. (Emphasis on self-denial. A lot of African American misinformation about Latinos stems from Latinos ourselves who refuse to engage honestly with our blackness.)

I’m so glad we have a high-profile writer like Valdes-Rodriguez shedding some light on the subject and giving more of a mainstream voice to what for years have been saying other writers, musicians, educators and activists. Props on the clarity and the wit. And thanks to Black Artemis for forwarding the link.

1 comment:

Elis Fierro said...

In California the Latino population has reached past the 50% mark, making latinos (Largely Mexicans in CA) the new majority. Theoritically, caucasian is still the majority since most mexicans are of mixed spanish and native american ancestry, there's even a small percentage of african mexicans (due to fleeing slaves after the civil war). Therefore it is not to say that latinos are a race in itself but are the indication of people who consider themselves the same and deny that they are different. That is where I hope mankind will end up one day, with the ideology that we are all just humans, who all shed the same kind of tears, who all bleed red blood, who are all born and inevitably die, and ultimately who "do not judge based upon the color of one's skin but the content of one's character".