It’s Black History Month and it’s time for conversations on whether Latinidad or “Latino-ness” is a crucial part of identity and a building block of the Latino community. The distinctions between culture and race inspired a new wave of Latinos with African heritage to speak out about intersectionality and they are making their voices heard through a variety of platforms. If you’re unfamiliar with the diversity within Latino culture, you may also be unaware that Latinos are highly stereotyped in the media. Some of those stereotypes include the notion that Latinos are only light-skinned or white with Italian features, or that they are confused about their identity and ashamed of their African heritage–an absurd claim.
Despite gray areas, there’s a lot to celebrate. The Directors Guild of America stated in regard to Latino representation in media, “We are often overlooked when it comes to hiring for industry-related jobs,” and although that is true, there are a number of Latinos quickly changing that.
Latinx people who have African Heritage make up the largest group of Latinos on television. Since acknowledging their Black population, Mexico has taken major strides to even out the education and economic gap of these respective populations. Progress was made when Adriano Espaillat became the first formerly undocumented immigrant to become a member of congress.
Latinx people have made several contributions to American society. The landmark case Mendez v. Westminster happened before Brown v. Board of Education. The historical case in 1946 concluded with the judge’s decision that California could not segregate its school system based on national origin or language ability.
Latinos are more likely to start a business, according to a report by the Kauffman Foundation. “The share of native-born entrepreneurs dropped from 86.3 percent in 1996 to 72.9 percent in 2012. But foreign-born entrepreneurs weren’t the only ones seeing a marked increase in entrepreneur shares of the population. The number of new Latino entrepreneurs has also nearly doubled, from 10.5 percent to 19.5 percent since 1996.”
While President Trump wants to waste $5 billion constructing a wall, I think it is important to mention that in 2013, a report from the Huffington Post claimed that “immigrants boosted the housing market by $3.7 trillion.” Considering that 50% of immigrants in the United States (like President Donald J. Trump’s parents were), are persons with Latino backgrounds–more than any other reported group it is safe to say that immigrants help boost institutions within society that are often taken for granted.
The hashtag “#blacklatinxhistory” has been coined this month in an attempt to highlight beauty and pride for Latinos with African ancestry all while pushing the conversation about who is considered “Black” and who isn’t in the United States. Latinos are majorly covered in mainstream media as “illegals”—a term used to imply that they do not belong to the rest of humanity—and as “desperate” or deemed as a destructive aspect to the progressiveness of American society. Contrary to popular belief and the stereotypes in the media that perpetuate these ideas of inferiority and desperation, the Latinx community is a vital element of the economic and political success of American society. A lot of progress is yet to be made in order for inclusion to become a “norm” of sorts for Latinos of all racial backgrounds, religions, and statuses but one thing proves to be true–the resilience from the Latino community is beginning to prove itself to be stronger than any limit set against us. As the humanitarian Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If you can’t y then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” We may be taking small steps of progress now, and we may need to take major steps to broaden representation. Despite it all, Latinx people have a lot to celebrate.