“Mejorando la rasa” is a phrase frequently used in the Latino community. It means to improve the race, and many within the Latin community, especially in the Dominican culture, it is used to encourage other Latinos to make the race more white, to make sure your children assimilate to whiteness, whether it be straighter hair or lighter skin. Like other communities of color, darker skin is the Latin community makes someone undesirable and is often associated with being dirty, poor and always less than. It doesn’t help that in most Latin countries, Latinos with more euro-centric features are more prevalent in telenovelas, news outlets, and the overall media. As social media grows, this has been frequently documented and discussed amongst members of the Latino community. This, deep down, is the most significant reason why some Latin communities are at war with each other; colorism. I vividly remember in college, a friend of mine (a proud Mexican American from Texas), openly discussed with the class the reason why Mexicans and Puerto Ricans can’t get along, and the reason is due the arrogance most Puerto Ricans carry with themselves because “they are lighter and they benefit from light skin privilege”, as she puts it.
Although this issue of colorism and anti-blackness has been going on in the Latin community for years, it is only now due to social media, that younger generation of Latinos are confronting the prejudice they have learned and embraced the different shades within their community. Still, many in the Latino community has a strong disdain for those darker than them and those of African descent (which is ironic because of most of derive from African slaves). Even in 2018, we had to start our year off discussing the anti-blackness promoted in the community and how racially insensitive some Latinos can be.
During the season premiere of Love & Hip-Hop: Miami, the world was introduced to a Dominican hip-hop artist Amara La Negra. Proud of her curly hair and dark skin, Le Negra during the first episode walks out on a meeting with Young Hollywood, a Puerto Rican producer, after he treated her blackness with the utmost disrespect (as you can witness above). First, Young Hollywood told her in order to be success, Le Negra would have to be a “bit more Beyonce and a little less Macy Gray”. If that wasn’t insensitive already, Hollywood declared that she couldn’t be elegant with an afro, asked if she was claiming to be a Afro-Latina because she has an afro, called her “Nutella queen”, and then called her psychotic for getting offended by his comments. What honestly made give Young Hollywood major side-eye was when he jokingly threw up the black power fist. Seriously? I wonder if Young Hollywood knows and understands that the people who threw their fist in the air were marching during the civil rights movement, were Black Panthers, and marched chanting “black lives matter”? Does he realize the people throwing up the fist are Black people, the one who created the music genre he works in? Honestly after that gesture I don’t think Young Hollywood deserves a space in hip-hop.
It’s insensitive, it’s exhausting, and it’s time for a change. It’s more than Young Hollywood and his dismissal of Amara Le Negra’s blackness. It’s the reason why people are so critical about Cardi B’s consistent use of the n-word. It’s the reason why black people are hesitant about Latinos coming in and occupying Hip-Hop and other spaces created for black people.
In a new year, I expect change and growth from everyone in every community. I’m happy that people took to social media to defend Amara Le Negra, but I hope in 2018, it doesn’t take a celebrity for people learn and understand how problematic it is to be anti-black, or how much prejudice and colorism come along with that. People of color come in a variety of shades, and it’s time that we acknowledge them. I believe that in order to fight racial injustice in America and across the world, we must be unified and that includes checking and discussing other prejudice and discrimination within communities of colors as well as the cultural exchanges people of color. We can’t move as a nation if you don’t acknowledge and resolve issues between other communities. I remember when a friend asked me, “will you stand with us in times of injustice?”, of course, I said yes. Now I ask the Latino community, will you stand with us in times of injustice? Will you stand against the colorism and anti-blackness within your family, friends, and community