Just the other day, I received a text message from my dear Auntie that read: “There is a hispanic family movie across the street. Damn.” I knew what that meant; her message read more like: there goes the neighborhood. I opted out of a classic text message war, as we were in the midst of a hurricane and I was across town with no power and a dying cell phone. Before I get flack for not immediately addressing her comments, I’d like to record to show that I have gone to fisticuffs with this woman over Muslims, the LGBTQQI community, East Africans, Tyler Perry, West Indians, South Americans, South Carolinians…whatever. You know that one person that just might hate everyone but loves white Jesus? Well…
I thought I’d exercise a little more control in picking my battles with my dear Auntie; I have, however, noticed a trend lately in southern Black Americans and negative feelings against other people of color who are specifically of another ethnicity. I’ve read that Blacks are supposedly more sympathetic toward immigrants except where jobs are concerned, but on countless occasions, I’ve experienced opinions that directly conflict with this.
When I hear people of color making disparaging remarks about people of (a different) color, I wonder why and how we got to this point. The militant “conscious” folks will go ahead and throw out the imaginary Willie Lynch; and while, not an invalid comparison in point, it is difficult to find a well articuated argument on pigmentocracy. More specifically, I’m looking to find a correlation between Black America’s feelings on immigration (or, specifically, immigrants), and the estbalished color caste system enforced through US history. Does colorism impact our views on immigrants of color, or is it our American conditioning?
I haven’t done any official polls or anything, but I’ll give another specific example that really bothered me: today, I attended an African American Heritage Festival in my home city, and really enjoyed myself. I went to a t-shirt vendor who had all sorts of t-shirts to illustrate all things Black pride, and I noticed a shirt that read: I grew here, you flew here. Now, my city isn’t exactly known for its tourism, nor regionalism. And while I’ve seen the phrase before, I was curious as to why a local Black t-shirt salesperson would have independently created such a shirt with a cut-out of the globe in the background. What, exactly, does this mean in the context of Blacks when a large number of people of color suffer from the same social ailments as other people of color who are of different ethnicities? Furthermore, y’all do realize that the original “Americans” – also people of color – are in a similarly shitty situation, right? Now, by no means am I insinuating that this is one-way from Blacks to other people of color. In fact, I recently overheard a Hispanic woman explaining to another, in a rather passionate political conversation, how some Hispanic men will not deal with a woman who has been with Black men because they perceive one’s property value to have been diminished. Of course, therein lies other fundamental issues not specific to race/ethnicity.
During the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Africans were taken primarily from the entire West coast of Africa and brought to both North and South America; this is easily how Black Americans came to be after hundreds of years. In fact, by the late 1700s, Mexico had the largest concentration of African descendents (slaves) of the Spanish Americas. While Mexico abolished slavery before the US, white supremacy, colorism, and the ideas that follow survived. I’ve found that in my experiences in the South, Black people rarely consider the roots of Spanish-speaking Blacks of South and Central America because they speak Spanish and are, therefore, not Black. Why and how do my brethren and sistren embrace such a division between ourselves and other people of color?
I suppose the that easiest and more highly regarded answer is that we are in a competition of economic, social and political status. Is a really a competition between us when the people in positions of “power” are not people of color? However, a 2007 LA Times article strongly suggests that the real reason for the marginalization of people of color by people of color, specifically in the conflict between Blacks and Latinos, is a result of the long history of recycled stereotypes and prejudices. In fact, colorism is also pervasive among the Latino community worldwide.
In our struggle for true equality, are we only seeking power? And in that power, are we merely only looking to behave as our oppressors once behaved toward us?