Students of Color Perspectives: Proving Latinidad

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Hello! My name is Alejandra (Ali) Gatas Johnson and I will be one of your first-year bloggers for Students of Color Perspectives. I blog about what it means to be of mixed heritage (Afro-Venezuelan, American Swedish, and Warao Indian) and what it means to be a student of color in general here at Brown!

On Thursday night there was a republican debate. As usual for my close group of friends we were watching, commenting, and debating throughout the telecast. Usually our discussion revolves around the political issues addressed. This time, the conversation took a turn from politics to latinidad.

“Cruz doesn’t even look Latino,” James exclaimed. Memories still fresh from the February 13th republican debate, the discussion quickly turned heated.

For those that missed the February 13th debate (there are A LOT of debates), Republican candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz (both of whom are sons of Cuban refugees) competed about their immigration reform plans as well as who knows how to speak Spanish better. During the debate, Rubio attacked Cruz’s Spanish fluency, prompting Cruz to hesitantly in Spanish urge Rubio to prove his own fluency. It was very bizarre.

Anyways, the concept of having to ‘prove’ your ethnicity came into the forefront of my mind. What makes a person authentic enough to claim an ethnicity? Is it language? Is it skin color? Is it facial features? What is the cut off point?

In any case, I believe Latinx aren’t Latinx because of their language or physical appearance. Latinidad is not ‘proven’ by one’s ability to speak Spanish, as Rubio insinuated, or by one’s skin tone, as James hinted. Us students of color are what we claim to be because of our shared roots, experiences, and cultural heritage.

There is a multitude of reasons why someone isn’t able to speak the language of their roots. Language is no gauge to see how ‘colored’ you are. Nor is skin color. There are afro-Latinx, white Latinx, and many shades in between. Not being of tan/dark complexion or not being fluent in Spanish, does not making a person less Latinx. One’s appearance and linguistic ability  do not determine ethnicity nor should someone question another for the validity of their roots.

No one should feel the need to ‘prove’ themselves. In my opinion, race and ethnicity is much like gender or sexuality, it is up to the individual to identify themselves with whichever label they feel attached to or no label at all. Being a student of color is a personal experience. If you are Latinx or a student of color, don’t let someone else’s criteria of ‘color’ influence your view of yourself. Be proud of your heritage! Be you!

James’s name has been changed for privacy purposes. Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments about this post or about being a student of color in general, please hit me up at alejandra_gatas_johnson@brown.edu or leave a comment in the box below. 

 

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