When we begin dating, some of us are told that we have a duty as Latinos called “mejorar la raza,” which means, “to improve the race.” This is sometimes directly told to us around the time we begin dating, but also inscribed in comments about other couples. I remember when a friend’s mother casually commented on her nephew’s choice for a partner, and rhetorically asked, “He’s so handsome, but why is he with that black girl?” Those observations, and countless others, communicate the expectation to make our future generations whiter. Dating can lead to marriage, which can lead to children, so the message we are expected to internalize is that Latinos should literally become as white as possible over time. “Improving the race” can mean dating and marrying whites only (including white Latinos) — and specifically staying away from indigenous, black, Asian, or mixed potential mates; in this hierarchy, white is the most desirable condition, while black is the least.
People want to go their own way. Liberals promote racial animosity by forcing everyone together, who prefer to be apart. That’s the take away from this article.
For some of us who grew up in Latino families in the United States, anti-blackness was firmly instilled in our minds from the moment of birth. Among siblings in the same family, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and sometimes parents themselves can become fixated on a child’s complexion. In Spanish-speaking households, I’ve heard countless phrases such as, “She’s pretty, even if she’s black.” Meanwhile, the white standard of beauty translates into preferences — up to and including increased emotional availability — for white, or whiter children.
Though many of us experience it within our families and in our day-to-day lives, anti-blackness among non-black Latinos often remains unexamined. We’re not necessarily proud of these practices and rarely air them publicly; though when we are called upon to shake these practices, we often dismiss the conversation.
But as Latinos become an increasingly large part of a non-white majority in the United States, we must remain vigilant about anti-blackness in our families, communities and movements, or risk a future of our own making in which black lives are treated as though they do not matter. While George Zimmerman’s vile vigilantism is an aberration, we need to admit that people like him, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio are not total anomalies; we need to admit that they are like some of our own family members who murmur slurs, lock car doors, and cross streets to avoid black people.