By Ashley Lopez
I am a Latina woman who looks white. Though, I never really noticed this until it was recently pointed out by my Black friend. Like a deer in headlights, I was frozen. I quickly asked the people around me and they all confirmed this. I have been living blindly without even knowing. I have white privilege and I didn’t even think about it. I’ve come to reckon with my white passing privilege as a Latina.
I don’t have to worry about certain things and I have gotten away with things I definitely shouldn’t have: not being followed at the store by security after window shopping for hours, shopping while wearing a backpack, not having my hair discriminated against, shoplifting, etc. I have literally been caught stealing in the past and I was let go. The police weren’t called. The manager wasn’t even notified. The security just… LET ME GO. I didn’t even think about this until now; I have literally abused my privilege. I refuse to live another day abusing this.
It’s time for me to talk about silence.
I was raised in a low-income neighborhood flooded with minorities, including myself. I grew up with all races, cultures, and colors. In addition to being close to all minorities, I have two Black siblings, a Black best friend, and I was raised around Black people. I saw their color, no, I see their color. I know we look different. I know people probably think my siblings aren’t my siblings. Yes, they are my “half” siblings, but nah, they’re my fucking blood. I see the challenges they have to face. I see their struggles. I may not understand what they feel, but I’ll stand with them, always.
My sister has always compared herself to my mother and I: she’s less pretty than us, she doesn’t look like us, she doesn’t blend in well in our family photos, and the list goes on. It pains me to know my sister looks in the mirror everyday knowing that she can’t turn to any other woman in our home that looks like her. There have been times in the past when I’ve brought my sister to my Latinx family and friends and I’ve witnessed a less warm greeting towards her. My sister has also told me countless stories of her being treated differently than me. Love for whiteness pervades my community and our Black brothers and sisters have to pay the price for that.
With all that said, being Latinx is a little fuzzy sometimes because we are considered a minority, but I see racism within my community. To this day, there are quite a few Latinx people who are anti-Black. It’s hard for me to say this because it makes me feel ashamed that my Brown people are causing other Brown people to feel like they’re invaluable. I’m not trying to diss my people, but I gotta speak up about it. We all have to speak up about it. At the end of the day, we are all minorities and we should be in this fight together.
Mi gente, there is also so much discrimination against us. I know how it feels. You know how it feels. We all know how it feels. So why are we burdening another race with something we know stings so badly?
About a week ago, I was having a conversation with a Latina about where her parents want to be buried after they die. Her father doesn’t want to be buried in America because he “is very racist and refuses to be buried where Black people are buried.”
Okay, let’s take a second to process what we just read.
Okay, let’s go.
I mean, WHAT THE FUCK?
She then proceeded to tell me, “No offense.” She told me this because my siblings are Black. What if they weren’t?
Anyways, I didn’t say anything. I stayed silent. Though, inside, I was raging. I was livid. But of course, my sweet face didn’t show it.
I stayed silent because I was repelled. I mean, I didn’t even know what to say. And, sadly, I guess I didn’t want to cause a scene. I literally felt my world slow down. But this isn’t about me. In that moment I got a momentary glimpse of what it may feel like to be Black in America. Never again will I miss a chance to educate someone on racism.
The next day, George Floyd was murdered. My silence had to end.
Whether you’re on social media, watching the news, reading a newspaper, or maybe not keeping up at all, it’s inevitable that you’ve heard about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and sadly the list goes on.
Now, some people—actually a lot of people—are blinded and fail to see that racism is still very much alive. We think that just because buses, water fountains, stores, etc. aren’t segregated anymore we’ve come such a long freaking way. BUT the problem is that people still are not seeing the bigger picture. People still see Black people as someone below them because of their color.
Magazine publications, models, fitness gurus, celebrities, and influences are constantly teaching society to love the skin we’re in and to cherish our body, but how is it fair to live by this when Black people are literally dying because of it. Black people are told to love the skin they are in but are killed when they do so. I am so disgusted and embarrassed to be an American.
Yet, there I was staying silent. Why was I staying silent when I had so much anger? I was noticing all of this. Seeing it… not defending anyone. Not fighting. Just angry in my room. Well, today, I want to break my silence.
I’ve always been a quiet girl, a shy girl, a girl too scared to stand up for what she believes in. I think the reason I stay silent is because I’m scared. As pathetic as it sounds, I’m afraid of the reaction I’ll get from people if I speak up—if I dare say what’s on my mind.
If I don’t use my voice or the small platform I do have to speak up, I’m belittling the color I love. I’m not standing up for what is right. I’m not being authentic. So today, I vow to end my silence.
What I believe in right now is that racism is not going to end; I’ll be dead before it happens. Racism is taught; humans are not born to hate people. We’re not born to discriminate. We’re not born to judge. We need to raise non-Black children to be aware of their responsibility to love Black people so people like my sister can be affirmed of their beauty and right to feel like they belong.
America has a lot of rewriting to do. We run around claiming racism is not real. We run around oppressing Black people, yet we buy tickets to see the best rappers live, we want women with curves and big butts, we want to date someone with soft skin and juicy lips, we eat yummy soul food, we want swag, and so much more. The reality is, we fucking love Black culture. But we don’t love Black skin.
To all Black people, I see our differences and I love them; you will forever have my support.
To my Black sister, I’m sorry for staying silent.
To my Black brother, I’m sorry for staying silent.
To my Black best friend, I’m sorry for staying silent.
To my current and past extended Black family, I’m sorry for staying silent.
To the Black community, I’m sorry for staying silent.
To everyone reading this who is staying silent during this difficult time—I challenge you to break your silence. I challenge you to use your voice. I challenge you to let the world know you’re pissed off. To my fellow Latinx community, I challenge you to speak up about the racism in our people. And lastly, I challenge you to start a chain of action to fuel the end of systemic anti-Black racism.
*Shoutout to my friend, Fatema Elbakoury, who helped me work through my ideas about this difficult topic.
Here are resources to support the Black Lives Matter movement: