Pondering My Black, Biracial and Multiracial Identity Post Hurricane Maria

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2018-05-30 23:29Z by Steven

Pondering My Black, Biracial and Multiracial Identity Post Hurricane Maria

Multiracial Media: Voice of the Multiracial Community
2018-05-27

Sarah Ratliff

Biracial and Multiracial

I have been writing from the Biracial and Multiracial perspective since I co-authored the book, Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide in 2015. Being Biracial is an anthology of essays from either Multiracial people or parents of mixed race kids.

In my essay I wrote about being the product of a Black and Japanese mother and a White (German, Dutch and Irish) father who were married in New York City in 1960.

I wrote about my experiences being “light, bright and clearly half White” while being raised to self-identify as Black, and of course, having to explain for the elevendy millionth time why I self-identified this way. I shared moments of complete vulnerability and isolation because I grew so frustrated trying to explain that being Black isn’t just about complexion but lived experiences as well…

Read the entire article here.

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My whole life people have tried to tell me who I am or who I’m supposed to be. My whole life people have tried to measure my proximity to whiteness, always asking, WHAT ARE YOU?

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-02-11 04:16Z by Steven

I’m Afro-Boricua. I’m biracial—my mother is white and my father is black, both Puerto Rican. Sometimes people don’t know that I’m black, but I’m black. I was raised in a black family, by my father and grandmother, both unapologetically black and unapologetically Boricua. My sister and I look brown, and our brother looks white. Our white grandmother was racist and threw around the n-word even when referring to us, me and my sister, her grandchildren. She made us feel like we were not part of her white family. But my brother, with his blond hair and his blue eyes, she loved to claim.

My whole life people have tried to tell me who I am or who I’m supposed to be. My whole life people have tried to measure my proximity to whiteness, always asking, What are you?

Jaquira Díaz, “You Do Not Belong Here,” KR Online: Kenyon Review, September 2017. https://www.kenyonreview.org/kr-online-issue/resistance-change-survival/selections/jaquira-diaz-656342/.

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You Do Not Belong Here

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2018-01-30 15:56Z by Steven

You Do Not Belong Here

KR Online
Kenyon Review
September 2017

Jaquira Díaz
Gambier, Ohio
June 2017

A few years ago, during a summer in Puerto Rico, I went back to my old neighborhood, El Caserío Padre Rivera. When I was a girl, El Caserío, one of the island’s government housing projects, was a world of men, of violence. A world that at times wasn’t safe for women or girls. There were shootouts in the streets, fourteen-year-old boys carrying guns as they rode their bikes to the candy store just outside the walls. We watched a guy get stabbed right in front of our building once, watched the cops come in and raid places for drugs and guns. Outsiders were not welcome. Outsiders meant trouble.

What you didn’t know unless you lived there, unless you spent time there, was that most people in El Caserío were just trying to raise their families in peace, like anywhere else. The neighbors kept an eye on all the kids, fed them, took them to school, took them trick-or-treating on Halloween. All over the neighborhood, people told stories. El Caserío was where I learned about danger and violence and death, but it was also where I learned about community, where I learned to love stories, to imagine them, to dream. And it’s a place I love fiercely.

That summer, I drove into El Caserío to look at our old apartment, my first elementary school, the basketball courts where my father taught me to shoot hoops. I’d been there less than five minutes when a boy on a bike approached the car, motioned for me to roll down my window.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Just visiting,” I said. “I was born here.”

He kept his hands on the handlebars, looked inside the car for a while, then gave me directions to the nearest exit, even though I hadn’t asked for them. He couldn’t have been more than sixteen.

“I know my way around,” I said. “I used to live here.”

“You do not belong here,” he said, then pedaled away, disappearing around the corner…

Read the entire article here.

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Killing Us Softly With the US Colonial Song: Puerto Ricans Matter

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2018-01-29 18:56Z by Steven

Killing Us Softly With the US Colonial Song: Puerto Ricans Matter

Radiant Roots, Boricua Branches: Musings on My Tri-racial Black and Puerto Rican Ancestry
2017-12-31

Teresa Vega

On Becoming Comfortable with My Rice & Beans & Collard Greens Self

On December 27th, 2013, I wrote one of my first blogposts about what it meant to find my Boricua Branches — my father’s side of my family. I will always say, without an ounce of hesitation, that the best part of taking my DNA tests was finding my Puerto Rican cousins. My father’s absence for 20 years of my life — from the age of 3-years old until 23-years old — resulted in a critical disjuncture in how I saw myself. While I always knew I was half-Puerto Rican, my pre-23 year old self did not know what that meant having been born and raised in Brockton, MA, a suburb of Boston. Brockton was not the diverse community it is today when I was growing up. It was a predominately white community with a small African-American and Cape Verdean population. We were often seen as Black and sometimes as Cape Verdean. Pre-23-year old Teresa was definitely Black culturally-identified. Though I always knew I had a diverse maternal extended family and equally diverse ancestors, having been raised by my maternal grandparents, I grew up within the confines of an African-American community.

I arrived in New York City in the Fall of 1990 to attend graduate school in a city that had one of the largest populations of Puerto Ricans outside of Puerto Rico. With a name like Teresa A. Vega, I had a hard time convincing anyone that I was anything other than a Latina. People assumed that I was either in denial about being a Latina or had some sort of hangup about speaking Spanish. It never occurred to most people that maybe I didn’t grow up with my Puerto Rican father, that maybe Spanish wasn’t my first language, or maybe I was raised in a place that didn’t have a Latino community…

Read the entire article here.

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Some Social Differences on the Basis of Race Among Puerto Ricans

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2017-12-05 02:34Z by Steven

Some Social Differences on the Basis of Race Among Puerto Ricans

The Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro)
Hunter College, City College of New York
Issued December 2016
Centro RB2016-10
12 pages

Carlos Vargas-Ramos, Research Associate

Puerto Ricans are a multiracial people. This is given by the fact that the Puerto Rican population is composed of people from different categories of socially differentiated and defined racial groups, and also because not an insignificant number of Puerto Rican individuals share ancestry derived from multiple racial groups. Yet, the analysis of social difference and inequities among Puerto Ricans on the basis of physical difference is largely avoided, and when it is conducted its findings are often neglected.

This avoidance and neglect among Puerto Ricans tends to exist because the subject of race is generally fraught and uncomfortable, often sidestepped by allusions to color-blindness couched in racial democracy arguments or by claiming that in an extensively miscegenated population not any one person or any one group of people could claim superiority over any other on the basis of physical attributes.1 Moreover, social inequities on the basis of physical differences also tend to be avoided and neglected as a subject of meaningful discussion and engagement for the sake of group or national solidarity.2

The brief analysis that follows seeks to shed light on current socioeconomic conditions among Puerto Ricans and highlights how physical differences denoted by socially defined racial categories may affect those conditions.

One immediate issue to raise is how to categorize racial difference among Puerto Ricans. By and large, the most extensive sources of data available for the analysis of social conditions for Puerto Ricans rely on data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census and other agencies of the United States government, which in turn conform to directives by the Office of Management and Budget to establish racial categories in the United States. Presently, and since the 1970s, these categories have been listed broadly as American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Black, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, and White. The Office of Management and Budget has also made a provision to include an open ended residual category to capture other racial categories or designations that those listed may not (i.e., Some Other Race). Moreover, since 2000, at least for census purposes, the Census Bureau allows for multiple racial designations so that an individual may select more than one racial category with which to identify himself or herself.

The appropriateness and validity of these official governmental categories to describe the Puerto Rican population (and other Hispanics) as well as other population has been challenged.3 But in the absence of as extensive and as reliable sources of data and given the official nature of these categories, and therefore their weightiness in public policy, the analysis will proceed using them…

Read the entire report here.

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Profiles in the Diaspora: Re-thinking Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the Afro-Puerto Rican Father of the Global African Diaspora

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2017-05-11 01:47Z by Steven

Profiles in the Diaspora: Re-thinking Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the Afro-Puerto Rican Father of the Global African Diaspora

Okay Africa: International Edition
2017-05-06

David Pastor


Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

Editor’s Note: In the inaugural edition of our Weekend Reading series, journalist David Pastor reviews new work on the legendary black scholar Arturo Alfonso Schomburg that helps reinstate his Puerto Rican identity.

NEW YORK CITYArturo Schomburg, namesake of the renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black History in Harlem, is said to have identified as an afro-borinqueño, a Puerto Rican of African descent. Yet there has been a delay in acknowledging this ethnic component of his racial identity—his legacy so closely tied to the Harlem Renaissance, black history and culture.

Even during his lifetime, there were misconceptions concerning Arturo Schomburg and his intersectional background, including assertions that he had forgotten his native tongue; lost his culture, his interest in Puerto Rico, etc. Later, conflicting, often simplified views on Schomburg emerged and characterized him almost exclusively as a black scholar whose Puerto Rican identity had seemingly diminished upon his integration into the African-American community…

Read the entire article here.

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The ‘Failed’ Project of Blackness in Contemporary Afro-Puerto Rican Discourse

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2017-01-27 19:50Z by Steven

The ‘Failed’ Project of Blackness in Contemporary Afro-Puerto Rican Discourse

A Contra corriente: A Journal on Social History and Literature in Latin America
Volume 5, Number 3, Spring 2008
pages 243-251

Sonja Stephenson Watson, Director of the Women’s & Gender Studies Program; Associate Professor of Spanish
University of Texas, Arlington

Escritura afropuertorriqueña y modernidad (2007), by Eleuterio Santiago-Díaz, is an insightful critical work on contemporary afropuertorican discourse with an emphasis on the writings of Carmelo Rodríguez Torres. The work commences by situating Puerto Rico in the “Black Atlantic,” that is, the greater African Diaspora. Ironically, Santiago-Díaz begins and ends his study noting that his research on Afro-Puerto Rico and Rodríguez Torres is simultaneously an affirmation and a negation of black identity because it counters official discourses of racial homogeneity during the island’s nation-building period which posited blackness over whiteness. This racial oppression and suppression of blackness stems from early twentieth-century (1930s and 1940s) Puerto Rican national discourse which erased blackness from the national imaginary and contributed to the failed black project of modernity. Thus, Santiago-Díaz argues that afropuertorican discourse is a failed modern project stemming from Antonio de Nebrija’s seminal text Gramática castellana (1492) and the literary whitening that resulted from it. Instead of illustrating the complexity of Afro-Puerto Rican discourse, these contemporary texts illustrate the suppression of Afrocentricity that can be traced to the publication of Gramática. As the title suggests, Santiago-Díaz places the work in modernity and views it from a cultural studies perspective, stemming from the identity politics research of black British cultural critic Paul Gilroy (The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness 1993) and the late Afro-American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois’ work on double consciousness (The Souls of Black Folk 1903), that is, the duality of being both black and (North) American, explicates the problematic of identity and the complexities of it in Puerto Rico, which is rooted in multiple representations of identity (white, mixed-race, mulatto, black, etc.) Finally, he uses performance studies to illustrate that blackness is a performance that is never realized due to a colonial discourse of whiteness…

Read the entire article here.

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“Double Bind / Double Consciousness” in the Poetry of Carmen Colón Pellot and Julia de Burgos

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-01-27 19:28Z by Steven

“Double Bind / Double Consciousness” in the Poetry of Carmen Colón Pellot and Julia de Burgos

Cincinnati Romance Review
Volume 30 (Winter 2011)
pages 69-82

Sonja Stephenson Watson, Director of the Women’s & Gender Studies Program; Associate Professor of Spanish
University of Texas, Arlington

Carmen Colón Pellot and Julia de Burgos constructed a female literary poetics and created a space for the mulata as a writing subject instead of a written object in early twentieth-century Puerto Rican negrista literature. Because of their gender and the societal norms and limitations placed upon blacks, they each found it difficult to reconcile their heritage as mulatas in a white male Hispanic society. They each testify to the “double bind” of black female authors who strive to identify themselves as both women and as blacks. In her seminal article “Feminism and Afro-Hispanism: The Double Bind,” Rosemary Feal notes that the double bind of scholars when reading texts written by Afra-Latin American writers “is to uphold the dignity of all Afro-Latin American characters…while engaging in legitimate feminist practice” (30). Feal also notes that in order to study the intersection of race and gender in works by black Latin American female writers’s texts, we must adhere to the racial, historical, and social specificities in each country. She further explains that, “‘[a]lterity’ in feminist Afro-Hispanic scholarship has as its imperative the formulation of alternate interpretive practices, and it is through analyzing the link of race and gender that we can gain more complete access to that world of difference” (30). The double bind inherent in Afra-Hispanic literature is not only that of scholars but also of the authors themselves who comprise the focus of this study. The double bind of Colón Pellot and de Burgos compels us to return to W.E.B. Du Bois’s seminal essay on double-consciousness, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), where he presented the problem of duality that plagued blacks at the turn of the twentieth century:

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness, an American, a negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. (5)

Although Du Bois’s theory of double-consciousness does not include gender, it incorporates the problematic of race that African Diaspora figures continue to face in the twenty-first century. The double bind/double- consciousness of Colón Pellot and de Burgos is multiple and deals with their multiracial heritage as women of color. The present study examines the intersection of race and gender in both of their writings building upon the theoretical framework of double bind/double-consciousness as espoused by Feal and Du Bois. This analysis also builds on the work of Consuelo López Springfield and Claudette Williams who analyze the themes of gender and race separately in their studies on the single authors…

Read the entire article here.

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Race And Radicalism In Puerto Rico: An Interview With Carlos Alamo-Pastrana

Posted in Articles, History, Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2016-08-19 01:11Z by Steven

Race And Radicalism In Puerto Rico: An Interview With Carlos Alamo-Pastrana

African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)
2016-08-02

Devyn Spence Benson, Assistant Professor of History and African and African American Studies
Louisiana State University

This month I interviewed Dr. Carlos Alamo-Pastrana about his new book, Seams of Empire: Race and Radicalism in Puerto Rico and the United States (University Press of Florida, 2016). Tracing cultural and political exchanges between African Americans, U.S. white liberals, and Puerto Ricans, this timely work highlights how activists and politicians in both spaces understood race, empire, and colonialism in the 20th century. Alamo-Pastrana illuminates the potential for fruitful multiracial alliances by uncovering the archive of a sub-group of Puerto Rican independentistas called the Proyecto Piloto. Led by Puerto Rican doctor Ana Livia Cordero, who had been married to Julian Mayfield, this group identified Puerto Rico as a black nation, worked to provide education and social services in poor barrios, and sought links with U.S. black radicals. Seams of Empire is a must read for scholars of transnational and diaspora history as well as anyone trying to build black and brown alliances in today’s antiracist movements.

Dr. Carlos Alamo-Pastrana is currently Associate Dean of Strategic Planning and Academic Resources at Vassar College where he is also Associate Professor of Sociology and Latin American and Latina/o Studies. His research and teaching interests focus on comparative racial formations, Latino/a Studies, Afro-Latina/o intellectual history, popular culture, and prison studies.

Seams of Empire follows cultural workers and politicians in Puerto Rico and the United States to tell a story about racism, colonialism, and activism. What led you to focus the book on these exchanges?

Alamo-Pastrana: That is such a great question because it really gets at the heart of the book. As someone who studies race in the Americas, I have always found the conversations about race in Puerto Rico a bit limiting. These are in many instances reduced to the realm of popular culture especially music, film, etc. Even more, they are framed in very insular ways that really limit the scope of how we should think about race in broader contexts to include different national, racial, and political movements and groups. This is significant because it helps to produce and circulate some of the troubling forms of racial exceptionalism that I discuss in the book. Even I fell into this trap in some of my earlier research projects on Afro-Puerto Rican folk music.

But, for this book, I felt that I needed to push the analysis beyond the nation-state framework to see the more dynamic ways that people and ideologies travel across different spaces. The book tries to use cultural production and actors in larger global circuits in order to see how race is being (re)configured and used to explain certain political dilemmas…

…In the Introduction, you make a point of saying that you want Puerto Rican Studies scholars to “banish” la gran familia puertorriqueña as an analytical lens for looking at the island (11). What is the grand Puerto Rican family and what dangers (or challenges) does it present to the type of work you do?

Alamo-Pastrana: La gran familia puertorriqueña is one of the foundational state myths that asserts that Puerto Rico is somehow a racially heterogeneous (mestizo), inclusive, and equal nation. It is this, the argument goes, that makes Puerto Rico so much more different than its racist colonizer to the North. Well, you don’t have to look around much in Puerto Rico to see how untrue this is…

Read the entire interview here.

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Seams of Empire: Race and Radicalism in Puerto Rico and the United States

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2016-08-19 00:59Z by Steven

Seams of Empire: Race and Radicalism in Puerto Rico and the United States

University Press of Florida
2016-05-10
232 pages
6×9
Hardcover ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-6256-3

Carlos Alamo-Pastrana, Associate Professor of Sociology and Latin American and Latina/o Studies
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York

Puerto Rico’s colonial relationship with the United States and its history of intermixture of native, African, and Spanish inhabitants has prompted inconsistent narratives about race and power in the colonial territory. Departing from these accounts, early twentieth-century writers, journalists, and activists scrutinized both Puerto Rico’s and the United States’s institutionalized racism and colonialism in an attempt to spur reform, leaving an archive of oft-overlooked political writings.

In Seams of Empire, Carlos Alamo-Pastrana uses racial imbrication as a framework for reading this archive of little-known Puerto Rican, African American, and white American radicals and progressives, both on the island and the continental United States. By addressing the concealed power relations responsible for national, gendered, and class differences, this method of textual analysis reveals key symbolic and material connections between marginalized groups in both national spaces and traces the complexity of race, racism, and conflict on the edges of empire.

Contents

  • List of Figures
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Puerto Rican Blueprint
  • 2. Dispatches from the Colonial Outpost
  • 3. The Living Negro in Latin America
  • 4. The Republic of the Penniless
  • 5. You Are Here to Listen
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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