“Many Latinos are Black, and we cannot continue to deny our Blackness.” For actress Julissa Calderon, that’s a key fact that needs to be made central in all discussions of the Black Lives Matter movement’s intersection with the Latinx community. Allyship from Latinos needs to come from the acknowledgment that many Dominicans, Mexicans, Colombians, Brazilians (the list goes on and on) are Black. The Gentefied star wrote an impassioned op-ed for Oprah Magazine tackling her own journey towards embracing her Black identity and her hopes about what the Latinx community can do to uplift the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Getting more Latinos to understand how pressing it is that we unify with and support the Black American community right now—and why—is not as easy as it sounds,” she writes. “The internalized racism in our cultures goes way, way back. Growing up in Carol City—a mostly Black neighborhood in Miami, Florida—I can remember my father standing at the door, peering out at the Black kids while saying things like ‘Look at all these monkeys.’”
Looking back at those moments and the way she for so long compartmentalized her own identity (“But you’re not Black, because you speak Spanish,” she remembers being told), the op-ed is a firsthand account of the racism and colorism that still prevails in many Latino households — and in the mass media that centers on Latinos.
Calderon hopes sharing her own experience (including talk of her own past mishaps and learning process) can embolden others to have frank conversation with family members. “I also don’t think shoving things down people’s throats or screaming at them is going to help anybody” she writes. “Even me: My thoughts now are not what my thoughts were 10 years ago. If you had screamed at me ‘You’re Black!’ back then, I might not have gotten it. These conversations can’t happen without love, empathy, and understanding.”
Be sure to read the entire piece over at Oprah Magazine, which later went on to publish a Spanish language version (a first for the magazine) to better serve its intended audience.