Us Latinos have our own version of “the talk.” You know the one. The unfortunate conversation every Black parent has to have with their child. The talk about the way the world around perceives you. The disadvantages. And worst of all, the fears and caution to be used with those around – including police and others meant to serve and protect. The talk that tells you the truth about the fine print under “serve and protect,” where you learn about the exclusions to that rule and the unfortunate fact that you do not qualify as one of the privileged.
We (Hispanics, Latinx, Immigrants – or suspected immigrants) have a very similar talk. A talk that tells the same tale as old as time. A talk that explains the same fine print, the same exclusions, and the same caution. Our talk, though, is slightly different in a couple of different ways. Colorism, Accents, and ICE.
Colorism plays a huge role in how well you will be served and protected. We have the unfortunately fortunate advantage of being able to “pass” if we are light enough. Light skin in the Black community has its own connotations and in the Hispanic community it does as well. The lighter you are, the more likely you will blend in. I am very light skinned and despite being from Mexico, I easily pass as a born and raised American who could probably even be part white.
Color is a conversation that comes into play in every Hispanic household. We also have internal struggles with colorism as a community – like many other communities. As a Mexican, I can tell you we come in many colors across the spectrum of brown. Then when you mix in Afro-Latinos and other Latin American countries and cultures, we are all the colors of the rainbow.
Light skin helps you but only barring an accent. Growing up, I never understood why it was so important to my parents that we learn to speak without an accent and were encouraged to “blend in.” An accent means you are an immigrant, and to many in America it means you are either stealing their jobs, smuggling drugs, or at the very least, in the country illegally. So even if you pass the Pantone color test (Google Pantone if you don’t know what they reference is), once you talk you are back in the danger zone.
So we have a talk. Much like other non-white peoples. About what to expect and why we have to expect being treated as less than.
But the truth is, there is no Latino Lives Matter march, but that does not mean that they don’t treat us just as poorly. It does not mean that our lives matter to them. Or that we are deemed as equal. We are still called illegal, wetbacks, drug smugglers, rapists. We are still accused of stealing jobs, being criminals, or at best assumed to be the cleaning staff or yard workers.
The truth is, the life of a child does not matter. Not if it’s brown. The shootings in Texas and actions (or more like inactions) of the police make that clear. The faces of those poor murdered babies. Mostly Hispanic. This anti-abortion bullshit is purely about control and if you didn’t see that before, see it now. As men sworn to serve and protect stood by waiting, listening, standing idle by in their armor and with their weapons waiting as children were murdered. Fighting the frightened parents desperate to save their babies.
Make no mistake, those police who stood by and let this happen, are accessories to murder. But let’s not pretend this is new. Our children and families are picked up by ICE guilty until proven innocent. Meanwhile detained in cages no better than an animal in a kennel. Separated, deported, abused, raped. This has been going on. Even if we don’t take it to the extreme – those jobs we “steal”? Immigrants overworked and underpaid in ungodly conditions so you can enjoy your decent priced produce curtesy of our willingness to work in fields for pennies on the dollar, just so you can look down on us for it.
I’m tired. And sad. And scared for my daughter who thankfully isn’t old enough to go to school yet. I feel guilty for being light enough to “pass.” And lonely in that guilt and colorism.
I’m so very sorry for the loss of the lives in Texas. I am grieving and angry and helpless. I am so sorry we are failing as a people. These children deserved so much better than this.
In more bad news, I am still paying the price for being rear-ended by a big rig. My insurance has screwed up my claim and my rental car company screwed up my account and now I am out over $1k for a mistake I didn’t make. Money I do not have. Money I should be spending on my child, my home, my health.
I haven’t been able to afford my migraine medicine so I have learned to live in pain struggling through the brain fog. Good practice for Alzheimer’s I suppose. This week was filled with forgetfulness, lack of sleep, food poisoning, and being essentially screwed out of $1k +.
The only good news to report, Peanut is doing great. Getting smarter and sassier and more patient. It may be the only good news but fuck if it isn’t the best news I could have. My baby is here and healthy. And thankfully, being as good as you can get for a toddler in her terrible twos.
So we push forward. Riding our trike. Trying to absorb every ounce of joy we can get out of our time in nature and with each other. Which I am aware is more than what many people have in this world. And for what I have, I am grateful.