I’ve had some links saved for awhile about black experiences around the world. So now I’ma just put it all in your face in one massive post; interesting parts bolded by me.
What’s behind the confusion? Why is it difficult for people to grasp the concept that one can be both black and Hispanic? I’m sure much of it stems from the idea that all Hispanics are mestizo, or Spanish and Indian. There’s also ignorance about how slave traders brought Africans all over the Americas and not just to the United States. And because many Latin Americans don’t classify citizens by race and black heritage isn’t exactly coveted in the region, some black Latinos may not openly identify as black despite the evidence in their hair texture and skin color. (Cuban Marianne Pearl is a case in point.) Complicating matters is that in film and television, black Hispanics are often cast as African Americans rather than Afro-Latinos, adding to the group’s low-profile.
But it’s not just whites and African Americans who seem baffled by the existence of black Latinos. In Los Angeles, a black Puerto Rican friend of mine reports being given the side-eye by Mexican Americans when she speaks Spanish to her fair-skinned mother. I’ve also seen this play out when I lived in El Paso, Texas, and a Chicano coworker remarked that a black Panamanian woman we knew spoke beautiful Spanish. Well, why wouldn’t she speak the language flawlessly? She grew up in a Spanish-speaking country.
Click the title link above to see anthropologist Bobby Vaughn’s fascinating research on the Afro-Mexican population in various Mexican regions.
Being Black in Spain (Translated from French, so some of it may read a little funny)
Marcia Santacruz is chocolate coloured. Black like her father and her mother. Black as her grandparents. But apparently, in Spain, clothing, education and money determine the level of melanin. They nuanced skin tone. The Afro-Colombian, who came to Madrid to complete a Masters in Public Administration, said: “In the Spanish mind black is synonymous for domestic work, poverty and lawlessness. In their subconsciousness, they can’t believe that there can be a black latina who speaks about Sartre.
For there was a time when the Spaniards (white) rubbed their eyes in seeing them. Donato Ndongo-Bidyogo, writer and minister of the self-declared government of Equatorial Guinea in exile, based in Madrid, arrived in Spain when his country was still a Spanish colony. A province on the African continent, one hundred percent black. In a recent article entitled Una nueva realidad: los afroespañoles (A new reality: afroespagnols), the Equatorial Guinean wrote several anecdotes of his early years in the white territory.
For example: “Older women who, at Christmas 1965, ran, terrified and scared to see me in a city within the Levantine region, laying hands on her head and cried a black, black, My God, a negro! “[…] My classmates had scratched his head and hands with their fingers and were surprised they were not stained black.
Some of you might have noticed that on my profile I list Russian author and poet Alexander Pushkin as one of my interests. Coming from a family that kept me well informed about the African Diaspora, I was fascinated to learn that not only is he considered the father of modern Russian literature, but he just happened to be of African descent. He caught some flack for it, but he was darn proud of it all the same. His writing was unique in that he often wrote in the way that the common Russian people spoke, the vernacular (think Zora Neal Hurston and how she used the real lingo of the folk down South). As a youth, I imagined what it would be like to go to Russia and study his work and visit his old hangouts. The palaces, the villages.
Then I found this book by Yelena Khanga, Soul to Soul: A Black Russian American Family 1865-1992 and it blew my mind, for several reasons. For starters, just look at the title! She’s Black and Russian and American. How? Well, the book went into this in detail, starting in the U.S.A. with her African-American grandfather and Polish-Jewish immigrant grandmother. They married, moved to Russia on invitation, and had a daughter. That daughter later on married an African Muslim political leader who just happened to be studying in Russia and they had a daughter – Yelena Khanga. (If you didn’t follow all that, even more reason to read the book!)
Imagine what it was like for this Black Polish American Jewish woman growing up in Russia? Now read this book and count how many assumptions of yours fall to the wayside. Don’t get me wrong. Just like EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD, she witnessed ignorance and prejudice, but interestingly, much of it was not directed towards her or anything having to do with her family’s African descent. Furthermore, in the course of her Russian upbringing she became a world-class journalist.
The 20-year-old daughter of a Chinese mother and an African-American father who left the country before she was born, Lou was a highly unusual entrant to Shanghai-based Dragon TV’s Go Oriental Angel. Her appearances…have provoked a storm of abuse on the internet, a rare debate on racism in the media, and a bout of self-examination in a country where skin colour is a notoriously sensitive subject.
The China Daily newspaper also published a sterling defence of the young theatre student, written by one of its top columnists. “There are two factors at work here,” wrote Raymond Zhou. “Lou Jing is not a pure-blood Chinese and anyone who marries a foreigner is deemed a ‘traitor’ to his or her race. More relevant, Lou’s father is black.”
Chip Tsao, one of Hong Kong’s leading columnists and cultural commentators, believes that a child of a Chinese woman and a black person hits all the buttons that cause prejudice among Chinese. “It’s an obnoxious novelty,” he said, adding that Chinese prejudice against black people was part of “prejudice against people less well-off than themselves”.
There was, he said, greater acceptance of Europeans because they were viewed as successful, but mixed Chinese/white European couples frequently attracted racist comment.
One leading actress, Jiang Ziyi, who has an Israeli boyfriend, has routinely been accused of betrayal for consorting with a foreigner. A stark reminder of official racism came last year when Ding Hui, of mixed Chinese and African parentage, was barred from representing his country in the national volleyball team.
Who are these people? Mehmet, Ali, Ayşe, Rabia, Arzu, Emine, Hatice and Hüseyin, to name a few. Everything is typically Turkish except for one detail: They are black. Afro-Turks, as they prefer to be called, are the descendents of African citizens of the Ottoman Empire. They have come together under the African Solidarity and Cooperation Association (ASCA) to revitalize one of their oldest traditions — a holiday celebrated by their grandparents: Dana Bayramı, or the Calf Festival.
Mehmet Konaçer enjoys dancing the traditional folklore dances of the Aegean area and he performed a dance for the crowd at this year’s Dana Bayramı. As with every teacher, his students coin nicknames for him. “They first used to call me Clay [after the famous African-American boxer Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali]. But nicknames come and go. As other blacks become famous, the nickname my students choose for me changes,” he says.
Being “different” has, however, also led to discrimination. The society at large holds many misconceptions about Afro-Turks. “Our interviews show that Afro-Turks living in villages do not feel discriminated against. They are not labeled as the ‘other’ or excluded. In a village, everyone has known one another since birth. Cities, on the other hand, are a different matter altogether, though Anatolia is still a land that is able to absorb a variety of cultures,” Kayacan says.
Ayşe Sözer, a young Afro-Turk, says that Turkish society does not have a racist approach, but that sometimes the Afro-Turk community does experience “exaggerated interest” and social discrimination from society. “I am asked many odd questions; for example, some ask if I get whiter by taking baths. Sometimes people stare at me and end up tripping or bumping into a pole. I have learned to not get angry at people, but when I was at the university, my roommate left our dorm room because she said she was afraid to live with someone that is black,” Sözer says.
Sometimes people have a hard time believing that Afro-Turks are Turks. On one occasion, Sözer was shopping in Denizli and the shopkeeper, mistaking her for a tourist speaking in perfect Turkish, tried to complement her by saying she speaks Turkish better than him, a native Turk.
Locals in the Aegean region also have some superstitious beliefs about “black people.” Some believe that if they see a black person and pinch the person next to them, their wishes will come true. Sözer recalled one case in which two ladies pinched each other upon seeing her. She was understandably upset. “I told the ladies that if they really wanted their wishes to come true, I also had to pinch both of them! They accepted and I pinched them very hard,” she says, laughing.
Apart from being the focus of some superstitions, most Afro-Turks say they have never been humiliated or discriminated against by the society. However, overcoming prejudice while looking for someone to marry is not as easy as one would hope. Kayacan notes that sometimes the family does not approve of their son or daughter marrying an Afro-Turk.
Afro-Turks are often called “Arabs” in Turkey. They also refer to themselves as Arabs, at times. This has led to a situation in which “Arab” means “black.” Ege University Professor Ahmet Yürür explains. “For the Turks, Africa was only the northern part of the continent: from Egypt to Morocco. This part was of course under Arab influence. Turks were never really interested in the south of the continent. This is why this community has come to be called ‘Arab,’” he says. (Gem: Wow.)
Interesting stuff. The similarities across the world are amazing, but each region has its own cultural influences that makes it distinct also.