The assumption that being black and Latino is not possible isn’t only false — it can have harmful consequences on a person’s sense of identity, as revealed by one woman in a recent video that’s going viral.
Those consequences are explored in the latest installment of the #DefineBlack video series, which is an ongoing project whose aim is to redefine blackness and challenge stereotypes within the black community by filming candid, free-form discussions amongst everyday young black people.
In the video above, posted to the #DefineBlack Facebook page on Monday, Afro Latina Angeley Crawford candidly shares her experiences growing up as a black woman of Costa Rican descent in the predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood of Bushwick in Brooklyn, New York.
According to Crawford, getting her hair done at the local Puerto Rican beauty salon was always a painful ordeal because many of the stylists assumed she was not Latina. “If you don’t know that I speak Spanish, then you were likely to say a lot of things as you blow out my hair [at the salon],” Crawford explained. “And I heard many things. Many comments on the color of my skin, on my weight. I would come home and… my mother would tell me to defend myself. But how do you defend yourself against an entire salon that is saying you’re not beautiful? That you have pelo malo (bad hair)?”
The experiences Crawford struggled with, from colorism to exclusion, echoed the prejudices so many Afro Latinas may feel who, often times, felt alienated for not being “Latina” enough, or “black” enough.
Towards the end of the clip, Crawford admits that feeling as though she didn’t belong made her cling more to her black heritage. “I just didn’t fit anywhere in the context of a Puerto Rican/Dominican neighborhood. At that moment, I made the conscious decision to say, ‘Well, I’m just not going to be Latina anymore,'” she said.
“A whole section of my identity was cut off for the next decade.”
Not all Latinos are the same, as projects like #DefineBlack and #LatinosBreakTheMold are proving. Latinos come in many different races, and from many different parts of the world. It’s that diversity that makes the Latino identity so dynamic. Assuming that someone isn’t Latino simply because they don’t look “traditionally” Latino is problematic. That’s why stories like Crawford’s remind us why the Afro Latino experience needs to be more represented in the media and in larger conversations about what it means to be Latino. Ignoring these stories means ignoring a part of someone’s identity.