There is freedom in unpacking racial complexes and there is a big responsibility when being chosen to carry the weight and grief of our ancestors in order to break chains. Freedom seems like the most natural thing for one to do, however, the colonizers did such a great job at bamboozling our people - that it requires an extensive amount of awareness to take a stand. Something that my parents don’t have - not to mention their ill education of global history, and especially American history. My grandmother never learned hablar Ingles, yet I expect her to understand so much because she married a black Dominican man. I’ve spent what feels like a month since our revolutionary uproar reading, studying, feeling, griefing and having uncomfortable conversations with the people that I love. The world needs a new kind of love. That love starts at home. Georgy Floyd drew conversations that we never imagined. Here’s a Wednesday night tale:
I couldn’t speak to my mother last night. It was 10 pm and I still hadn’t had dinner. I’ve lost a lot of my appetite these days tbh. The sirens in Harlem haven’t stopped. The killings haven’t stopped. The amount of racist comments on social media hasn’t stopped. Lauren Ingraham is still employed while I still figure out my life. That bitch.
But back to my family- Mami offered to make me something to eat, and I declined. I kept myself busy all night to avoid talking to her and having to explain over and over again the pain that I’m in. The pain that we’re in for all the injustices that we have to endure. The pain for all the times someone reduced our humanity for their selfish and manipulative accord. My mother is a black woman. Her father was black. So was her grandfather and so were the De Leon’s. But mami doesn’t see herself like I see her. She doesn’t know her roots like I do. She doesn’t see herself like the world sees here and thus is the case with a lot of Dominicans in denial of their history, their blackness and who lead a life full of racially insensitive behaviors and patterns.
If you’re wondering why I’m beefing with her, let me explain.
A few days after George Floyd’s death, Mami made a comment on her friend's son’s photo.
“El es buenmoso, pero es tan prieto" - he is handsome but he’s so dark.
I’ve had to hear this my entire life - I heard it for the 1st time when I introduced mami to my 1st formal boyfriend, a black Dominican boy.
I waited until the end of the evening to say my peace.
Mami me molesto algo que dijiste hoy de negros. “Porque Yerinzon no puede ser buenmoso y prieto? El puede tener los dos” Why can’t Yerinzon be handsome and dark? He can be both.
Mom stared at me confused by my comment and I stared at her back with the gaze of disappointment. For the first time in my life, I was ready to call my mom a racist. This was probably one of the hardest conversations (with the exception of losing my virginity) that I’ve ever had with mom. For the first time, I told Mami that whenever she said something that was insensitive to the blackness that she was dissing her father and dissing her daughter. I reminded my mom of my strong connection to African drums and that every time that she shamed a black person that she was shaming me for the woman that I am. I reminded Mami of how Black women have shaped my life and how they’ve shown up for me.
What an exhausting week. For a long time, I felt that my mom and my grandmother have seen my inclination to the diaspora and Afro-Latino history as an exotic obsession. It still baffles me that they can’t see beyond the obvious and that they don’t fully get all of my layers. Breaking down all parts of me to my mother in hopes that she shifts how she sees race and herself is the most self-loving and courageous thing I’ve done in a min.
As Latinos, it is a time to defend a new kind of love with our families. We can no longer tolerate racism amongst ourselves. Not at our dinner tables, not when we speak about beauty and the color of who we should date, not when they joke on our dark cousins and uncles, and not when they belittle the roles of African Americans in our country. This narrative of lightening our race has to go and it’s on us US TO DO THE WORK. Teach them about our history, teach them about the effects of racism on ourselves and the generations to come.
Remembering my why. Los dolores de colores. La vida racial en el 2020.
Ghislaine Leon is a Creative Strategist, Writer, and Spiritual Wellnesspreneur. Follow her on IG @@msghislaineleon