My Black Plátano-Eating Ass

in Culture by

I had myself a lovely little Wednesday doing what every loudmouth writer who should be hard at work finds themselves doing from time to time: battling a tiny but noisy gang of Twitter trolls.

It started peacefully enough, with me tweeting on Tuesday about how I didn’t quite understand the division between Latinos and Black people, especially when they share a common aim (empowerment) and face a common enemy (the White Power System).

I was responding to the whole Tyga-American Cholo mess. In July the rapper released a music video for his song “Ay Caramba,” in which he apparently (I haven’t seen it) wore a fat suit, called himself “Gordo,” spoke in a Chicano accent, and walked around eating chips and guac.

Tyga, I should make clear, is not Mexican or any kind of Latino. He’s a Jamaican-Vietnamese guy from Compton.

The video earned Tyga a wave of backlash, with Latinos calling it racist and demanding that it be taken down, which he did.

Then Tyga went on L.A.’s Power 106 radio station to apologize to Mexicans alongside the host of the American Cholo podcast, Gill, who had blasted the rapper on his show.

“If I do a show, 50 percent of the crowd on the West Coast is Mexican,” Tyga said during the interview. “If they’re hurt, I’m hurt.”

Everything might’ve ended there, but then video clips came out showing people on American Cholo saying some ignorant stuff about Black people.

In one clip they’re talking about the push to give reparations to Blacks—you know, for the hundreds of years of free labor they were forced to provide while America grew from a colonial backwater to playing Battleship with the big boys, plus the systematic racism since then that has kept Black people down in more ways than one.

Then one of the cholos says, “That’s where we, the Raza, need to step up, protest … No one is getting reparations until the Native Americans and Mexicans get ours first.”

Now some Blacks and Latinos are at each other throats, mainly in L.A., claiming the other side is the more hateful one.

So I tweeted a call for solidarity between Latinos and Black people and went to bed wondering when my Peace Prize would arrive in the mail.

When I woke up on Wednesday, there was no news from Stockholm but instead a string of venomous comments in my notifications. Apparently when I was swinging my peace pipe around the day before, I inadvertently smacked a hornet’s nest and they all swarmed and were stinging me in my sleep.

These buzzing pains in the ass called themselves “American Descendants of Slavery,” or “ADOS” for short. Oddly enough, a lot of them featured the Star-Spangled Banner in their bios—most of them right after their names!

Imagine that: the descendants of slaves in the United States proudly displaying old mean Master’s emblem for all to see. That’s like a Jew with a swastika tatted on his forehead, or a Mexican stanning for Stephen Miller—both of which have been known to happen, but only goes to show that a lot of people wouldn’t know the Devil if he had his red-hot poker in their mouths.

Now, these ADOS peeps, their whole thing is, according to the ones attacking me, that the Black people in the United States who can trace their lineage back through U.S. slavery are the second most oppressed people in the country, after the American Indians of course, and that any other group complaining about oppression needs to keep quiet—including and especially Latinos.

They also don’t believe in wider Black unity, or what’s called “Pan-Africanism,” as they believe “race is made up,” “only ethnicity is real,” and “Native Black Americans,” also known as “Foundational Black Americans,” are their own ethnic group. I agree with the first two, but I’m not so sure about the last bit.

Black American culture is distinct from all others, but that doesn’t necessarily make Black Americans an ethnic group. And even if it did, that’s no argument against global Black unity.

In the Jewish world, for instance, a Jew is a Jew, period, whether they’re Ashkenazi or Sephardic—a feature which I think makes Jewry stronger. Plus we don’t see a lot of white nationalist groups splitting hairs between the different kinds of white Christians. “If you’re white, you’re alright,” goes their motto, and I think it should be the same with Black people—ALL Black people—especially while those white nationalists keep forming their groups.

When I told them that I was a Black Latino, my attackers weren’t having it, saying I was only a Latino pretending to be Black for whatever benefits it gives me. I guess they thought I was the Rachel Dolezal type.

But how long have they been Black, I thought, and how long have they benefited from it?

They told me I wasn’t Black because I don’t descend from U.S. slavery, that there really are no Black people in Puerto Rico or anywhere in Latin America, only “melanated” people.

“There’s no such thing as Black Latinos,” one said plainly.

I calmly explained the history of Black people in the Americas, how many of the slave ships stopped first in Havana, and how most of the Africans dragged across the ocean were sent to places far south of Florida.

But these ADOS insisted that Black Americans had “nothing in common” with Black Latinos. “We have our own culture,” they said. “Our own lineage.”

Then they brought up the fact of white supremacy within Latin American societies and the Latino community in the United States, which is a fact, and claimed that since Latino culture is racist, I, a Black Latino man, was really just a racist pretending to be Black or a Black man “begging for white acceptance”—they couldn’t decide which one I was, but they were sure I was one of the two.

When I agreed that racism in Latino culture is a real thing—how could I not?—and said that I was fighting white supremacy within Latino culture too, the ADOS said, “That’s not our fight.”

“Not your fight?” I said. “Not your fight?… If you think killing white supremacy wherever it rears its ugly head is not your fight, then you’re out of your damn mind… When I see non-Latino Black people shot down in the streets, as a Black Latino I don’t say, ‘That’s not my fight’—because I know it is.”

No, but these ADOS goons still wouldn’t hear it. They kept calling me and all Latinos “foreigners” and said we should go back to our “backward,” “cesspool” countries. I got the feeling more and more that these were not really ADOS but actually MAGA scum stirring up hate against Black people, especially when they started jumping on the idea that Latinos are “LAZY” for “abandoning” and “running” from our troubled homelands and now trying to “eat off [Black Americans’] plates”—never mind that a lot of the ingredients that end up on those Black plates are picked and carried and washed and packaged and loaded and unloaded by Latino hands. And if a Black person, or any person in the country, goes out to eat or even orders in, there’s at least a Latino or two in the back cooking the meal.

One supposedly Black girl said how America was her “homeland.” And I quote: “Instead of organizing, building movements & doing the MULTIGENERATIONAL work of making your homelands better, you guys are lazy cowards who run here where Black Americans have been doing all of the work.”

Another supposedly Black person—again, I have serious doubts—had Statue of Liberty emojis in his name and told me to “keep your platano eating azz over there and stay out of Black folks business.”

They really should teach irony in schools. Irony 101, right after lunch. It might solve a lot of what plagues this country.

Another person said: “Look at the state of Central and South America, so many and yet its in shambles ans they flee to a new country that was built by folks who didn’t run….they’ll just turn here into the ghetto, look at Florida (Cubans)”—they added the “Cubans” part, not me.

And another: “#BlackAmericans built this country, liberated it, fought in every war, industrialized it, modernized it, culturized it, and, continued to support it monetarily. This is OUR ANCESTRAL LANDS. You’re guest here.”

That ain’t half of it, but you get the picture.

These ADOS were basically like the Citizens’ Councils and the old Daughters of the American Revolution rolled into one, only Black. They were like the Nation of Islam if Minister Farrakhan were Christian and pro-U.S.A.

They were like Black Trumpers, only they hated white people too.

First off, Latinos, for any Black, white, Asian, or even Latino who doesn’t know, have been in what is now the United States since before the Anglos showed up with their human property. The only people who can lay greater claim to these lands, if anyone can lay claim to the earth, are the members of the specific tribe who actually lived in a certain territory when the whites invaded—in my case here in Vegas, the Southern Paiutes. Anyone else telling me to go anywhere can go straight to hell and save me a seat.

Second, I am Black and Latino, and I stand in solidarity with both peoples. My ancestors came from Africa, and not in the same way that all of our ancestors did, but in the way that the ADOS’ ancestors did—by kidnap, pillage, rape, torture, and murder—only mine were shipped to San Juan while the ADOS’ were sent to Charleston or New Orleans.

That I speak Spanish (terribly) and have a Spanish name is completely arbitrary, a bit of trivia, just as their English-speaking and English names are. As the descendants of slaves, neither of us had any choice in where we were sold to, which names we were given, what languages we were taught to speak. Why should Black Americans and Black Latinos be divided just because one side’s ancestors were bought by a Mr. Smith or Jackson while the other’s were bought by a Don López or Álamo?

What we need is solidarity between all the stepped-on people of the world, but immediately here in the United States, and especially between Latinos and Black people, since they are the largest and most influential of the downtrodden. There needs to be solidarity between not only Latinos and Black people, but between those groups and the American Indians, Asians, the LGBT community, and, yeah, poor whites—those that aren’t racist, obviously—cuz they’ve had their teeth kicked in too by the vicious clique running this country.

If you think I’m dreaming, go read about the coalition that formed for one fleeting moment back in Chicago in the late ‘60s. Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and hillbillies—it was a beautiful thing. Genuine. Powerful.

There needs to be cooperation between everyone who is and has historically been kept down by the System—either by the White Power end of it, the Greed end, or both—if only for the sake of forming a true counterweight that’ll give us poor battered fucks a fighting chance. We should start by building solidarity between the Black and Latino people first, though—that would really get the fire started.

Just picture it: both groups coming together to fight for the liberation and empowerment of all peoples.

That’s all I was pushing for, and I got my Black plátano-eating ass dragged across Twitter for it.

It was a lovely little Wednesday.

 

Featured image by Ronald Dueñas/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Hector is the founder and editor of MANO as well as the host of the LATINISH podcast. A Chicagoan living in Las Vegas, he's also the senior editor of Latino Rebels, part of Futuro Media, as well as a former managing editor of Gozamos, an art-activism site based in his home town. He was a columnist at RedEye, a Tribune-owned daily geared toward millennials. His work has been mentioned by The New Yorker, Good Morning America, TIME, the Washington Post, and other outlets, and his writing was featured in 'Ricanstruction, 'a comic book anthology whose proceeds went toward recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. He studied history at the University of Illinois-Chicago where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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