Latinos tend to praise whiteness and it hurts them, say writers in new anthology

By Nicole Chavez, CNN

Saraciea J. Fennell remembers how normal it felt for her, her siblings and cousins ​​to use bleach cream on their elbows and knees every day growing up. As dark-skinned Latinos, that’s what they were taught to do.

“Once I grew up I realized it was an anti-black practice because I wasn’t allowed to like the skin I’m in,” said Fennell, a Honduran black writer based at New York and publisher of a new collection. of essays and poems entitled “Wild tongues cannot be tamed. “

The anthology, released on Tuesday, explores topics Latinos don’t normally talk about – anti-blackness, colourism, the intersection of Latinidad and Blackness, and many stereotypes, myths and taboos in Latin American cultures.

The Latino community is complex and multifaceted, which is why Fennell was surprised that seven of the 15 pieces in the collection explored colorism and anti-darkness.

“I thought I would probably be one of the only (book) contributors to experience this, but when the essays started to come in, the experiences they (the authors) shared validated everything I have. lived, ”she said. “This is our reality.

Fennell recently spoke with CNN about the book, her journey into her identity, and the stories she says have yet to be told. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Who is this book for?

This book is for teens and adults, people in the Latinx diaspora who desperately want to be seen. It is also for people outside our community to offer (them) a window on our lives, on our culture, a reminder to let them know that we are much more than stereotypes and myths.

What is Anti-Darkness and Colourism doing to the Latinx community?

Anti-blackness and colourism is something that has divided Latinx communities for so long. Although we have more and more open conversations about these pain points in our community, there are those who still tend to put whiteness in the spotlight. We’ve seen media, beauty brands, and book publishers do this, claiming that a character or person is Afro Latinx, but only highlighting those on the brighter spectrum of the color wheel. It’s time for those things to change, for there to be room for darker skin and curly hair and we deserve to be in the spotlight too.

Over the past year, many black Latinos across the country joined the Black Lives Matters protests. This summer, the producers of “In the heights” were called out for not choosing a dark-skinned Afro Latinos in the film’s lead roles. It seems Latinos talk about race more openly than before. What do you think?

Over the past decade people have just been so loud. In the early 2010s, Afro Latino was very prominent and made it possible for many Black Latinxes to identify themselves this way and be seen. It was huge for the media to start using this terminology, but then it started to get ‘altered’ because when you see the actual portrayal, whether it’s the pictures or the people on certain lists, they all have a certain appearance. You tell me that in order to identify myself as Afro Latinx, I have to look like this person: a softer texture of curls if they wear their natural hair and lighter skin.

Older generations of Latinos don’t seem inclined to talk about controversial or sensitive topics, which some even consider family secrets. How do you think the younger generations should approach this?

I have an 11 year old son and a lot of topics about race and gender come up often. He’s that age when he’s in the playground at school and people ask where you come from, what are your family traditions. I think it’s extremely important to talk to young people and have honest conversations. I think the adults, the elders in our community, grew up in a way where it was considered disrespectful to talk about certain things. I can’t even blame them for not wanting to because that’s how they were brought up. But now, with the next generation, we have the opportunity to raise them differently, to raise them to have these thoughtful and honest conversations.

It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, it’s going to be 1000% hard. I want people to know that this is going to be tough and not everyone will be receptive to comments. Sometimes you have to come to terms with the fact that someone who was an older person in your family will never change and you still want to have a relationship with them. If so, then let me put up some barriers to protect myself because protecting you is just as important.

Identity is undeniably at the heart of this anthology and some of the authors make no secret of the fact that at times they might have thought they weren’t Latinx enough. Why do you think this sentiment is shared by so many in the Latinx community?

“I think not feeling Latinx enough has to do with what Western society and ideals deem acceptable when it comes to Latinx experiences. Because we don’t tend to see stories shared publicly by those in the diaspora, it gives the impression that we don’t exist. As if our particular Latinx experience is not normal if we do not fit into the box that society has created for us. This is why this collection is so important. “Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed” shows the diversity of our community and I’m so happy that readers are finally seeing their experiences reflected as there is truly so much on offer in this collection.

Finally, what do you want readers to know about the issues addressed by “Wild Tongues Cannot Be Tamed”?

Wild Tongues touches on so many sore spots in our community – colourism, anti-darkness, homophobia, sanity – I want readers to use this book as a gateway to speaking their truth with family and friends because it is difficult to having these conversations with our loved ones.

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