Friday, June 10, 2011

Que Vaina or Serious Pet Peeves

This week's QUE VAINA! has to do with a a phrase I hear many people use, including, unfortunately, many Hispanic people -  "she's Black, but she's pretty." 

I myself have been guilty of using this phrase - back when I was an under-educated juvenile.  All that changed in 1986 when I went to the Dominican Republic for the first time with my mother at the age of 19.

Even though my mother was a dark chocolate complected woman I did not use the term Black to describe myself. Ever. Until I went to DR. The trip changed my sense of self, my world view, it changed all of the beliefs I had of my own image. When I came back I started calling myself a Black person. I stopped relaxing my hair.  I pledged AKA* (a very progressive chapter with less conservative views than most AKA's.) I wore a button that said "Happy to be Nappy" and another one that said "I'm Black and I'm Proud." 

Much to my surprise, and frustration, most of the Hispanic people I knew corrected me; they contradicted me when I declared what I now knew I was.  "Tu no eres negra, tu eres triguena" or "Ay mi'ja no digas eso! Tu eres muy linda! Tu no eres negra."**  Sometimes I fell into this trap of ignorance myself and thought of the differences between my look and the look of all my African-American, West Indian and African friends. Yet the more I studied and read about the reach of African slavery in Latin America, the more my conviction grew that my view was the more accurate one.

Of course I know all Latinos are not black, and most Latinos don't have any African ancestry.  But for those of us who are, we have to start loving our blackness.  It is something to be celebrated not put down.  We are beautiful people because of our heritage not in spite of it.  


*AKA - Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first collegiate sorority founded by African-American Women in the United States

**"Tu no eres negra, tu eres triguena" :: "You're not black, you are triguena" (a term often attributed to the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic meaning a different race altogether, not black, but perhaps a mixture of a few races.)

"Ay mi'ja no digas eso! Tu eres muy linda! Tu no eres negra." :: "Dear don't say that about yourself. You are so pretty.  You're not black!"

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